Tag Archives: e3

E3 Expo Leaks The Personal Information Of Over 2,000 Journalists

Photo: E3 2019

A spreadsheet containing the contact information and personal addresses of over 2,000 games journalists, editors, and other content creators was recently found to have been published and publicly accessible on the website of the E3 Expo.

The Entertainment Software Association, the organization that runs E3, has since removed the link to the file, as well as the file itself, but the information has continued to be disseminated online in various gaming forums. While many of the individuals listed in the documents provided their work addresses and phone numbers when they registered for E3, many others, especially freelance content creators, seem to have used their home addresses and personal cell phones, which have now been publicized. This leak makes it possible for bad actors to misuse this information to harass journalists. Two people who say their private information appeared in the leak have informed Kotaku that they have already received crank phone calls since the list was publicized.

The existence of this document was first publicized in a YouTube video that journalist Sophia Narwitz posted to her personal channel on Friday night. (Narwitz has not yet responded to Kotaku’s request for more details about the discovery of this document.) In her video, Narwitz described how the file could be accessed: “On the public E3 website was a web page that carried a link simply titled ‘Registered Media List.’ Upon clicking the link, a spreadsheet was downloaded that included the names, addresses, phone numbers, and publications of over 2,000 members of the press who attended E3 this past year.”

Again, the E3 website has since been updated to remove this link, but cached versions of the site do indeed show that a link titled “Registered Media List” used to appear on a “Helpful Links” page. For some time yesterday, even after this page was removed, clicking on the link in the easily-accessible Google cached version of the page would download the spreadsheet from the E3 website’s servers.

“Before even considering making this story public, I contacted the ESA via phone within 30 minutes of having this information,” Narwitz continued in her video. “Worried that might not be enough, I also shot off an email not too long after. On top of that, I reached out to a number of journalists to make them aware of this.”

One reporter who asked to remain anonymous told Kotaku that he had been one of the people Narwitz contacted before publishing her YouTube video. That reporter says that Narwitz told him she had first learned of the document’s existence because someone had emailed her anonymously to say that they had discovered it and downloaded the information. After receiving this email, Narwitz purportedly then confirmed the file’s existence herself. The reporter who says Narwitz contacted him told Kotaku that he had cautioned Narwitz against publicizing any information about this spreadsheet until after it had been removed by the ESA. That reporter then contacted an ESA representative himself. After that, the direct link to the file was removed from the website. Unfortunately, the file itself was still accessible to anyone who knew the link or could find the Google cached version of the page.

After the page containing the link to the file was removed, Narwitz published her YouTube video about the leaks, seemingly believing that the file was no longer accessible. Soon after that, users noted on social media that although the link to the file had been removed, the spreadsheet file itself was still accessible. The anonymous reporter told Kotaku that he then contacted the ESA a second time and, at that point, the ESA deleted the file from its website. However, Narwitz’s video had already unwittingly publicized the existence and continued availability of the file, the contents of which continue to be shared online.

The ESA provided Kotaku with a statement about the leak. “ESA was made aware of a website vulnerability that led to the contact list of registered journalists attending E3 being made public,” it wrote. “Once notified, we immediately took steps to protect that data and shut down the site, which is no longer available. We regret this occurrence and have put measures in place to ensure it will not occur again.”

The ESA representative declined to respond to Kotaku’s other questions about why the file was not properly password-protected, how long the file had been available to the public, and whether this was the way that journalists’ personal data had been treated by the organization in past years.

Source: Kotaku.com

Let’s See How Much Fun We Can Squeeze Out Of The Last Half Hour Of E3

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Yes, E3 2019 ended three weeks ago. However, in my nightmares, I’m still there, slamming energy drinks and binge-sitting in every gamer chair my eyes can see. As long as my neck still hurts from the flight back, I cannot refrain from scraping the bottom of the E3 barrel. Watch me try and fail to die as E3 2019’s lights go out one by one in this short horror film: “E3: GAME OVER (or, ‘A Big Boy Encounters A Barrel Bottom’).”

This video serves as a sequel of sorts to last year’s “The Weirdest Things We Saw At E3 2018.” Paul Tamayo edited that video in my stead, because both producer Matthew Reyes and I were out of our respective offices. Even a year later, he often regales me with anecdotes about how joyful he found the editing process of that video.

This year, encouraged by Paul’s tales of joy, I attempted to experience the joy myself—both while editing and in the shooting of the footage. Literary critics will later say that “joy” is, in fact, what this video is all about: it’s about trying to rekindle the childish joy I felt when attending my first E3 nineteen years ago. In metaphor with so many other elements of life, my “character” in this “film” endeavors to rekindle this childish joy perhaps when it’s already too late: with just 30 minutes remaining on the last day of E3 2019.

Does my fictionalized self manage to rekindle the childish joy? I’d probably be lying if I said yes, though please watch the video, and chug that thumbs-up icon on our YouTube channel like it was a Sugar Free Red Bull.

By the way! You could subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you like videos like this.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

And what! I made a playlist of all my E3 2019 videos, as well. You should watch them. Thanks.

Source: Kotaku.com

Two Weeks After Suspending Dr. Disrespect For Livestreaming In Bathroom, Twitch Restores His Channel

Guy “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm
Photo: Dr. Disrespect (YouTube)

Last night, Twitch reinstated Guy “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm’s gargantuan Twitch channel. This follows its removal after an incident at E3 involving a camera, a public bathroom and a 14-day channel suspension.

Dr. Disrespect, whose whole schtick is bald-faced irreverence, was attending California’s E3 convention when, on the show’s first day, he and his cameraperson live-streamed Dr. Disrespect entering a bathroom. Tens of thousands of viewers watched him walk past bathroom-using attendees and go into a stall—all of which was apparently a violation of Twitch community guidelines. Twitch suspended him as a result and, on top of that, E3 revoked his badge.

Dr. Disrespect didn’t seem to be taking his ban very seriously, as evidenced by his posting an E3 recap video described as, “Mishaps lead to Recaps,” poking fun at Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ new figurines (“Where do I find these? Next to My Little Pony or Barbie?”), and posting emotes of himself in a bathroom stall. Yesterday, Twitch reinstated his channel and, predictably, his fans are pumped. Dr. Disrespect has remained offline, but his chat is full of excited viewers anticipating his next stream.

Twitch declined to comment and Dr. Disrespect did not immediately respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.

Said one fan this morning in the Twitch chat, “All these others channels shaking in their boots over Doc’s return. The face of Twitch is back…Twitch is lucky.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Xbox Boss On Microsoft’s Struggles With Game Quality And Efforts To Improve It

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Whatever the strengths of the Xbox platform, it’s long lagged behind Nintendo and Sony in terms of homegrown, exclusive video games. There have been highlights in its history and even some stellar games of late, such as last year’s Forza Horizon 4, but the Xbox One era has been rough. There have been prominent cancellations, disappointing sequels and games that under-delivered given how long fans were waiting for them.

In recent years there have been hints of a coming turnaround. While Nintendo and Sony have turned out Game Of The Year contenders such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and God of War, Microsoft has slowed its development cycle for Halo games (and possibly Forza as well), and it has nurtured unusual exclusives like the zombie strategy adventure State of Day 2 and multiplayer-centric pirate game Sea Of Thieves with lengthy, game-improving post-release support. It’s also been building and buying game studios, announcing five such additions last E3, two more in the fall and adding longtime indie Double Fine to the mix this month.

With all this in mind, I spent some time at E3 last week asking Xbox boss Phil Spencer about the quality of the platform’s games. What follows is the final part of my E3 interview with Spencer, in which we approach the topic from a few angles and discuss the conditions for the people making those games as well. You can read the two previous parts of the interview here and here.

(The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Stephen Totilo, Kotaku: This is the first year without a new Forza that I can recall. Why?

Phil Spencer, Xbox: One of the nice things I loved about [the E3 2019 Xbox briefing]—at least they would be more in my head than they would be in public—was the things that we didn’t show. I think about of the 14 first-party games, 12 are shipping in the next year. We were really able to focus on what’s coming now, which I think is awesome. And then I think about the studios: where was Initiative? Where was [Forza Motorsport studio] Turn 10? Where was Playground’s second team?

It was nice—and this hasn’t always been the case with our first-party line-up—where we’ve had the ability to not show everything all the time. In the case of Forza, I want the team, just like we did 343 [Industries]. We gave them time—we did, what, four Halos in four years?—giving them an opportunity to really think and have a creative impact when they launch. Turn 10 is similar. I want to give them time to think through their plans. I love what they do with Motorsport, but you’ve got to be able to listen to your studios when they need time and they want to focus on more things. And as you have more content, you’re able to do that.

Crackdown 3

Totilo: In 2007, when you were head of the games portfolio, a younger Phil Spencer told a younger Stephen Totilo, about the games from first-party that “It is very important that we pick games that matter. We’re going to focus on fewer games and make sure those games are stars when they come out.” For a long time I really did look to first part of Microsoft and saw a consistent high level of quality and, honestly, I feel like it diminished a little bit some time in the last several years. I look at the first-party operations of all the platforms and I see a lot of Game of the Year contenders from both Nintendo and Sony and I would say, bluntly, looking at recent years from you guys, Forza Horizon stands out, but not so much Crackdown, not so much Halo 5—which I think many people thought the campaign was weaker than others. Gears 4 was solid, but it wasn’t outright ‘the best Gears ever.’

So, you have good taste in games, you play a lot of games, I don’t know if you see it quite the way I see it, but do you see that there has been a challenge in terms of high-quality game creation with you guys and, if so, have you figured out the remedy to get past that and make those stars again?

Spencer: I think quality of first party is very important, so I’m totally with you there. We did reach a time in our first party where the number of games and studios that we actually had and were investing in put a lot of pressure on everything that we were doing. And it became more difficult to manage a portfolio when you kind of needed everything at any point to hit the date that it had picked three years ahead of time at the very high level of quality.

The support that we’re getting now and we’ve had over the last couple of years has allowed us to invest in our first party, adding eight new studios and really create room for us to focus on quality. I feel good about what Rod [Fergusson]’s done [at Gears studio The Coalition], what Bonnie [Ross] has done [at Halo studio 343 Industries], what Alan [Hartman] has done with Turn 10, and what Helen [Chiang]’s been doing with Minecraft.

Totilo: You’re speaking to what you’re privy to with where they’re going with games I haven’t played yet…

Spencer: Yes, even in the past, Rod building a studio with the Coalition and Bonnie spending the time bringing Master Chief Collection to PC. It’s not about PRing you about whether all the studios are great or not. I think what I see now with Matt Booty running first party and the number of studios that we have and the number of games in development is: I don’t feel that I need to announce things at a wrong time in order to win some rating system somewhere. I feel like I can give teams the time they need in order to get the right creative positions in place so they’re building the game that they want to build. And when things require more time, we can afford to make sure that we’re giving things the right amount of time.

The other thing that I would add as [Xbox subscription service] Game Pass continues to grow, it’s been an interesting way to watch our whole dynamic of, ‘What does it mean to engage customers with that game?’ Sea of Thieves is a good example. At launch, and I read all the same feedback everybody else did, was: ‘Where’s the other half of the game?’ But I would also say it’s a game where what it is today wouldn’t be what it is if we had just waited another year and kept it to ourselves. It is a game that was literally created with the feedback of the community, and how you manage that through the traditional lens of how people think about what a game launch means is interesting for all of us.

Sea of Thieves

Totilo: There’s been a lot of talk and we’ve done a lot of reporting about labor in video games and what game developers go through to make a good game. What are your expectations of the people that work under you and are making games in terms of the extent to which they should or shouldn’t crunch, what is a fair thing to ask of your employees… do you have guidelines?

Spencer: Yeah. Literally yesterday was my 31st anniversary at Microsoft, when I first walked in as an intern. The reason I say that is we want to create an environment where people can have careers, which means they feel fulfilled and rewarded with the work that they do, that there’s career progression. But the sustainability of the work-life balance is critical, and I would use that word, because I don’t know if there’s one equation: Okay, you clock in at this time and you clock out at that time? But when you think about the number of hours that people work, when you think about a sustainable career where I say, ‘I can see myself doing this for 20 years,’ we spend a lot of time polling the culture we have inside of the organization. Because it’s not just how many hours do I work. It’s, ‘Do I feel like I work in an environment where I can show up as my true self? Where I can do my best work?’ All of those things are critical.

We’re a very verbal group. We communicate a ton with ourselves, sometimes that communication goes out and people wonder what’s going on. But I love the fact that we have the communication with ourselves about what does it mean to work there and to work in our environment? And so with Matt and all the studio heads we’re very focused on creating a sustainable environment, so that people can feel like they put an investment in the company. What they get back, they feel like they get a good return on that, and that we create a sustainable workload that they can carry for years and years.

Totilo: Do you think it would be beneficial if game developers unionized?

Spencer: You know, I’ve been asked this and I always answer and I feel kind of silly in the way I answer, but honestly I have no—I’m not any kind of expert on a union. I’ve been at Microsoft since I was 20 years old. So I don’t know. I don’t hear that inside. Just being honest. When I’m with my teams that…

Totilo: You don’t hear the desire?

Spencer: No. The things I get are, ‘Hey I want to make sure I can do my best work here. I want to make sure I have the right tools. I want to make sure I have the right environment to work. I want to make sure I have more space.’ Like these are the things that we work through. And I see it. You guys report on it. Other people report on it.

Totilo: Yeah, you don’t want the Kotaku story about one of your studios, right?

Spencer: Well..

Totilo: We don’t have one planned.

Spencer: I’d rather have the conversation internally, because I think it’s an easy way to do it. And I think we have the environment that we could. And it’s not a conversation that I hear inside of our halls. And as I said, I don’t claim to be an expert of what it means to either work in a union… so if you ask me, ‘Do I think it would make things better or not?’ I honestly don’t know.

I feel like the things that we focus on that make us a great place to work—we do a monthly Q&A where I stand up in front of the whole organization and people can ask anything—those open forums of communication seem really critical to us building the right culture for our teams internally. We’re always listening about what we can do to make our teams more productive.

[A public relations rep indicates we have time for one more question]

Totilo: Do you want to tell people anything exciting about Fable?

Spencer: [laughs] I love that Fable came to [Xbox One backwards compatibility]. I want to make sure that when we talk about things to come, whether it’s Fable or not, that the team feels very solid about what they are doing. I will harken back to … I can go through my battle scars. Marvel MMO. Anybody remember us announcing a Marvel MMO? We didn’t even have a team that was signed that would do the Marvel MMO.

Totilo: Whoops.

Spencer: Codename Kingdoms, which eventually… [laughs]

Xbox PR rep: We don’t have to go through the list.

Spencer: [laughs] I’m honest. Running a studio organization and making sure we’re talking about games at the right time, when we know what we’re trying to build—I’m not making any comment specifically about Fable; it’s about anything in the portfolio—that we know what we’re trying to build, that we have a good sightline on the quality that we’re shooting for and some idea of when it would come out.

I know I get called out about being too conservative and holding too much back. But the thing I love about our show [at E3] was 60 games and the first party games—I could tell you when those all were shipping, and I can play those games, most of them here, and can put my hands on them and make promises. And yes, Halo is one of those games, but Halo is somewhat spiritual in its association with Xbox and the fact that they’re coming out at the same time [as the new Xbox Scarlett] is at least special for me to highlight. And I love that people are interested in franchises that we’ve had in the past.

Source: Kotaku.com

Phil Spencer On Xbox’s Unusual Strategy, Working With Sony, And More

Xbox chief Phil Spencer has heard from the skeptics. They think that what he’s doing with Xbox means that Microsoft is giving up on consoles, or even going third party. That’s all wrong, he told me during an extensive interview in Los Angeles last week, where we discussed his vision for Xbox, the recently announced potential gaming deal between Sony and Microsoft, and whether he’d ever want to put Gears of War on the PlayStation 4.

(The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Stephen Totilo, Kotaku: I want to talk first just on a platform level. I would describe what you and your team are doing these days as “refreshingly radical” in terms of how you’re running a platform. You’ve really broken down a lot of walls and done a lot of things that, in the past, would have been thought of as things a platform holder wouldn’t do. As a thought experiment, I thought that if PlayStation was doing what you guys were doing, last year, God of War would have come out day and date on PS4 and PC.

Phil Spencer, Xbox: Right.

Totilo: I wouldn’t have necessarily had to pay $60 for it. I could have gotten it as part of a subscription that got me a lot of games. And at some point in the future I might be playing it without even needing a PlayStation by just having it streamed to me.

Spencer: Yeah.

Totilo: I’m curious how far you see this vision extend, because I know some people wonder: “Does Xbox even need to have a box?” long-term. Does it need to have all its games all on one device anymore? Where does this go eventually?

Spencer: We use this tagline both internally and externally: Play the games you want, with the people you want and we say on the devices [you want], which you can think about as “anywhere.” And we are driven by that. We actually think two billion gamers on the planet, the size of the business that gaming is today, that for us the industry continues to grow when we reduce friction to people coming in.

The scenario that always just drives me crazy is, I’m a parent, you’re a parent, we live in the same neighborhood, we have kids, you go into Best Buy and you happen to buy an Xbox. I go into Best Buy and happen to come out with a PlayStation. Our kids want to play Minecraft together, and they can’t. And I think overall, as a gaming industry, how does that grow gaming? It’s changing, it’s not just us. We’ve made great inroads with Nintendo. But this started when we were going to ship our first-party games on Xbox and PC at the same time, a few years ago.

There’s always the core that kind of comes back [and says]: “You’re reducing the need to buy an Xbox.” I actually find that in reality people play on a console because they enjoy playing on a television on the couch with a controller in their hands, and it’s an experiential thing more than it is trying to sell an individual device. To shorten it: We focus on the player; we don’t focus on the device.

Totilo: But you can make enough money doing what you’re doing? This is a business.

Spencer: This is easy. The business is selling software and services. The business is not how many consoles you sell. The consoles are not where the profit in this side of the business is made, which is where the whole: ‘Who’s selling more consoles’ at any one time as the kind of root good of who is doing well in the business is just not true. You have other companies entering gaming who don’t even have a console as part of their equation. It’s all about how many games are people playing. And how much people are spending playing those games and how often they play.

Totilo: So if you had your way, would you be selling Gears on the PS4 this September?

Spencer: I think the experience we bring to the family room with Xbox and focusing on things like compatibility and focusing on things like cross-play is actually important to where we see gaming growing, which is why we are focused on consoles and spending a ton of money and resources investing in Scarlett. The same thing on PC.

So, today, people are saying: “Are you going third party?” Whatever that means. But the idea that we are a platform company continues to be true, and we think about how that platform infrastructure could grow. And we think having the world’s most powerful console, having a great Xbox in the home, is a critical component to that.

Totilo: Yeah, but you value having Cuphead and Minecraft be able to break those traditional boundaries and wind up on the Switch…

Spencer: With Xbox Live so that everybody is playing together….

Totilo: So, to go back to that, would you value at some point having a Gears or a Halo on a PlayStation or a Switch?

Spencer: The games themselves are critically important to players and people playing. But ensuring that you have a connected ecosystem with the players, where people’s save game and their state and their friends list and their entitlements move seamlessly from every ecosystem—from every device—that they want to play on is critical. There aren’t other systems where we can go do that today.

Today on the Switch, what we’re able to do is we have Xbox Live on the Switch so we can keep those communities connected. And we have, as you pointed out, a certain number of franchises that have shipped over there. But in the end we think us having a native platform in the home for years is going to be critical for to continue to push our vision of where the gaming platform should be.

Totilo: So where would you draw the line between which games you’d value seeing on other platforms? And which you would not?

Spencer: The vast majority of what we do is going to be on Windows, it’s going to be on Xbox and it’s going to be on xCloud. And the nice thing about xCloud is that it is an Xbox in the cloud and so we don’t actually have to go build another version of the game. That is a distinct focus for [Xbox games chief] Matt Booty and the team. We value the relationships we have with the other companies that are out there. We think that we learn from them, we think we can help gaming grow all up with cross-play, cross-buy, cross-progression, all these things that we focus on. We think we’d be incredibly limited in pushing that vision if we weren’t strong on console and growingly strong on PC.

Totilo: In terms of partnerships and surprising things, the announcement abount a month ago that there’s a partnership between Sony and Microsoft that is gaming-related startled a lot of people and confused some people. Can you talk about what that deal is, where it comes from, and what it means if I think of the world in terms of Xboxes and PlayStations?

Spencer: We should start, just so we’re clear, that it’s a memorandum of understanding. It’s the beginning of the kind of conversation. Sony and Azure looking at the future of cloud gaming. We look at what you’re going to need in order to be a future gaming platform—content, community, and cloud are things that we focus on—and there are only a couple of companies on the planet that really have a global cloud that can reach gamers everywhere. Today, it would be us and Amazon in terms of the scale. Google’s building their cloud.

So I think when you’re another gaming company and you’re looking for who you’re going to partner with, you could either go and invest tens of billions of dollars in trying to catch up, or you can figure out who your partners are. And the nice thing for us is—you can focus on Sony, you can focus on a lot of companies—we have this thing called Microsoft Game Stack. We announced it at GDC: it’s DirectX, it’s Windows Studio, it’s Azure. Even [Google’s Phil] Harrison when he was on stage announcing Stadia was showing Havok, was showing Digital Studio, was showing things that we build—we’re going to have platform components, as Microsoft and as our gaming org that competitors use. We do think about the strength that we get as our platform grows and having great partnerships with gaming companies helping us grow that platform strength is important to us.

Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)

Totilo: You could have blocked that memorandum? You could have said: “We shouldn’t work with these people. We’re competing with these people?” Would that not have been an option or a thing worth doing?

Spencer: It’s just kind of counter to the strategy and what we are as a company. But I’ll say this: I actually think gaming is a better place because of the other brands that are there. In the last 20 years, the number of gamers on the planet has tripled. Gaming’s a $150-billion-a-year business, and it’s growing double digits. I don’t see us succeeding as necessarily requiring others to not succeed.

I’ve said this publicly before: I think the role that those other gaming companies play in gaming is critical. We’re a big publisher on those platforms. We have great relationships with them. So [instead of] blocking them so that it somehow kind of minimizes their impact on the future growth of gaming, I’d rather find ways of working with partners to help grow gaming. I just think it’s better, because it’s not a fixed market. It’s a market that’s growing. There are customers all over the planet that we haven’t reached that love to play video games.

We’ll have more from my chat with Spencer soon, as we discuss online toxicity, first-party game quality and more.

Source: Kotaku.com

Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines’s Weird Dancing Is Back For The Sequel

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

There’s a lot to love in Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, but the team brought something special back for the fans: dancing.

One of the first locations you become really aware of in Bloodlines 2, which is coming to Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC in 2020, is the local club, Atrium. It has a lot in common with a goth club I used to visit in Chicago, which was called Neo and apparently used to be a regular hangout for the Wachowskis while they were working on The Matrix. Even though Neo has closed (RIP), I can see the same bones of it in Atrium, with its purple lighting and intense dancing.

In the demo that I saw last week at E3, there was plenty of blood sucking, demonic powers, and vampire faction in-fights. Personally though, I find that you can really judge a piece of vampire fiction based on what the clubs look like. Buffy The Vampire Slayer had The Bronze, which was both a hangout for the gang and a vampire feeding ground, and is considered a classic piece of vampire fiction. The Twilight series didn’t have any clubs at all, and is routinely mocked for being corny and bad. If Bloodlines 2 didn’t have a club, I was pretty sure I could write it off, but the game’s developers clearly think clubs are as central to the vampire mythos as I do.

“Clubs are like supermarkets for vampires,” Cara Ellison said. (She’s a writer on the game, as well as a former Kotaku contributor and a friend of mine that I hadn’t realized would be in town for the Bloodlines 2 demo.) “You go there to look at the selection.”

There’s one other special thing about this club that fans of the first Bloodlines game may recognize. The wild, arm-flinging dancing from the first game has returned, with the developers carefully studying the original dance from the 2004 game.

“Night clubs are kind of core to the experience of being a vampire,” said Rachel Leiker, the lead user interface and experience designer on Bloodlines 2. “One of the things that people enjoyed from the first game is dancing, so of course we were going to have it in our game as well.”

“We actually took that directly from the first game and one of our animators studied it very intensely,” she said. “He actually did the motion capture for it in our game. He’s very dedicated. They did motion capture for a bunch of dances, and it was like a big party in the mocap room.”

From what I’ve seen of Bloodlines 2, it expertly captures the seedy feel of vampire movies like Queen of the Damned and or The Hunger, complete with plenty of leather pants and club dancing. You’ll get to do some murders too, using your vampire powers to traverse Seattle and feed from mortals. But for the Bloodlines diehards out there, rest assured that you’ll be able to hit the club both to dance and to grab a quick bite.

Source: Kotaku.com

In Planet Zoo, You Can Only Get Good By Learning Facts About Animals

Screenshot: Frontier
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Planet Zoo is the latest simulator from Frontier Developments, the creators of Roller Coaster Tycoon and the recent Planet Coaster. In this one, you’re building a zoo and making sure all the animals are well cared for, which comes with unexpected challengers for players used to making theme parks.

Modern zoos have a strong focus on conservation, the developers of Planet Zoo told me during a gameplay demo at E3 last week, and Planet Zoo will reflect that. They were showing me a habitat for giraffes while I was asking about the research that Frontier has been doing for the game.

“Their tongues are 45 centimeters long and they’re fully prehensile,” one of the representatives from Frontier said, referring to the giraffe currently feeding in the habitat. I was agog. The developers at Frontier, also the creator of 2013’s Zoo Tycoon, have been visiting zoos as well as working with a researcher from Cambridge to compile their information about the animals in Planet Zoo. Along the way, they’ve picked up a bevy of fun facts. During my demo, I also learned that wildebeests used to be considered pests in the 19th century when they almost went extinct, and that Planet Zoo dedicates a lot of attention to its animals, which makes sense given that a large part of running a zoo is caring for the animals there.

“We’ve gone to zoos and talked to the keepers and said, ‘Right, what makes the animal happy? What kind of enrichment do you provide them?,” the Frontier representative said. “How do we make sure the habitat is as close to how they naturally live as possible?”

In modern zoos, those kinds of things are the focus for keepers, and so it is in Planet Zoo. In order to keep the guests happy, the animals have to be happy as well, and all of them have different requirements to stay happy. Some, like giraffes, are pack animals, while others, like saltwater crocodiles, are more territorial. Some need a certain kind of terrain, like dirt or grass, while other need water in their enclosure so they can swim. You’ll be able to control everything, down to the temperature and humidity levels in the habitats for reptiles, to make sure your animals don’t get sick and are in a good mood.

Several times throughout the demo, the reps from Frontier assured me that the player would never be rewarded for treating animals poorly. Looking at the details in the demo, you can tell how deeply the developers at Frontier care for their virtual facsimiles of chimpanzees, crocodiles, cheetahs, and giraffes. In particular, they wanted to make sure that I saw the fur on the fuzzier creatures up close, especially on the chimpanzees. They looked soft enough to touch.

Screenshot: Frontier

“The eye shader is also a piece of art,” one of the reps said, showing me the soulful eye of a chimp during a moment when they weren’t swinging through trees.

The chimpanzee habitat was also a good place to see how detail-oriented Planet Zoo allows the player to be. On top of handling the minutiae of making sure your chimps are in a habitat that suits their social and environment needs, you also have the ability to build them structures to climb, piece by piece.

The chimps climbed on the tops of a narrow wooden pole, which rested atop other wooden beams that were all individual assets. They then leapt from this player-built structure into a tree, just as they would at a real zoo.

“Fun fact about chimpanzees: they get drunk,” the Frontier rep said, snapping me out of my reverie. “They find alcohol trees—like, fermented fruit trees—and they will eat the fermented fruit and get drunk. They will remember where the alcohol is and go back to that tree.”

Planet Zoo gives you the ability to make a dream zoo, plank by plank. It is an opportunity to learn a lot about what zookeepers do, and what animals need to survive. Although you won’t be seeing drunk chimps in the game itself, keeping these real-world facts in mind while you play might give you a greater appreciation for the work that’s done in zoos. While wildebeests almost went extinct in the 19th century, it was because of zoos that the species was able to survive, the Frontier rep said.

“They were hunted nearly to extinction,” she said, “and they’re only back because zoos took them in, bred them, and released them back into the wild.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Shark Role-Playing Game Maneater Is Like Grand Theft Auto, Of All Things

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

“Picture Grand Theft Auto, but as a shark,” game designer Bill Munk said near the end of a demonstration of Maneater at E3 in Los Angeles last week.

Well, not quite. There are no cars to jack. There are no radio stations. Although, the designers have considered letting the shark get drunk, if it eats a drunk person. “We don’t have that in the game yet, but I want to,” Munk said.

Maneater, currently announced for a PC release some time before E3 2020, does have some GTA stylings. It has a wanted system that replaces cops with shark hunters and it’s an outrageous project that flirts with going too far.

In the game’s E3 demo, played by a Maneater rep, the shark relentlessly attacked swimmers, flopped onto the beach to eat sunbathers and eventually drew the attraction of hunters through an intensifying wanted system that definitely evoked GTA. The more mayhem the player-shark causes, the more aggressively the hunters chase you down. Lay low and they eventually go away. During the demo, there was no laying low, just a lot of shark aggression. As a result, hunters would drive their motorboats to the shark’s location, shoot into the water or drop depth charges, all the while the person controlling the demo charged the boats, serrated people with the shark’s jaws and, through the chaos, gradually approached the point of leveling up.

At its most basic, Maneater is an action role-playing game about swimming around as a bull shark near a fictional gulf coast, chomping down on wildlife and people in various areas, like bayous, resorts, a nuclear waste site and the deep ocean. In these regions, players can attack and explore, discovering new fish to eat, new enemies, hidden caches of an empowering mutation agent and, of course, plenty of people to eat. A day-night cycle changes who and what will appear in a given area. There are more people swimming during the daytime, for example.

Direct feed of Maneater’s E3 demo, via YouTuber MathChief.

Gameplay depth is always a concern with games in which you play as a sea life. Can there really be that many interesting things to do? It’s hard to tell from an E3 demo, but the shark can do more than just swim and chew. It can jump out of the water, barrel roll, flop around a little on land, bit, bash, and even grab things in its mouth and then spit them out as projectile weapons. A swordfish held in its jaws can be shot out of its mouth like a shot from a sniper rifle, a log like a spinning helicopter blade.

Maneater is by no means grounded in science, as the shark exhibits extraordinary abilities and can level up, from baby to teen to adult to elder to mega throughout the game. Eaten prey provides protein and fat, which helps the shark grow. Players can fill meters in each region to indicate how many hidden locations they’ve found or how much they’ve terrified the local population. Elite enemies include an alligator, a barracuda and eventually a massive harpoon-pierced white sperm whale. Upgrades include the ability to stay on land longer and the addition of mutations that might add external bone to the shark’s mouth (for better ramming) or metal teeth (for better biting).

Maneater first turned heads when it debuted in trailer form at last year’s E3. Back then, according to Munk, it was being made by about a half dozen people working with Alex Quick, the person who created the original shooter mod Killing Floor, which later became a fully developed game overseen by Munk. A year ago, Maneater was merely being published by Munk’s company, Tripwire Interactive, but now, Tripwire and Munk are leading development with some 40 people and creating that rare game these days that’s neither an indie nor a mega-sized potential blockbuster made by hundreds of people.

The game’s developers have decided to wrap the game into the context of a fictionalized reality TV show called “Maneaters vs. Sharkhunters.” The show’s announcer, voiced by comedian Chris Parnell, talked throughout the game’s demo, narrating the action. It’s a clever touch that adds some personality to a game featuring a character that can’t talk, though the tone will make or break the game for many. At its gentlest, it’s sarcastic, as Parnell’s announcer voice followed a shark attack with: “Someone’s special someone won’t be coming home tonight.” After a few more people got chewed: “Sharks help balance food webs by keeping human populations healthy and in proper proportion to their ecosystem.”

The announcer’s antics seemed like they could get repetitive, but also, the other catch with his inclusion in the game was that it made the demo tonally confusing. Maneater is no interactive nature documentary, but Tripwire does seem to be using the narrator to add meta-commentary onto the action. At times, the narrator seemed like a way to excuse, or at least jokingly acknowledge, the game’s indulgence in violent shark stereotypes. ”The bull shark is one of the ocean’s most feared predators, an insatiable beast intent on devouring everything in sight,” the announcer says. He later leavens that with some commentary about how shark attacks on humans are actually “an aberration caused by the fish mistaking a human for a seal, as humans and seals are virtually indistinguishable.”

The people showing the demo reminded us that reality TV announcers sensationalize. Or is this announcer also here to tone things down? Or to mock any desire for that? In another instance, when a hunter named Two-Ton Trish showed up, the announcer is used to perhaps mock the game’s own crass presentation of the character: “Trish would really prefer a person-first nickname that doesn’t define her by her weight.”

The developers of Maneater don’t seem to expect their game to be taken seriously. Look at the trailer and you’ll see they’re presenting it as a black comedy, one that presents the shark as an animal on a revenge quest against the hunter Scaly Pete, who disfigured the playable shark when it was a baby.

“I’m hoping that people can see this and see that it’s silly fun and not actually reality,” Munk said, when another reporter and I asked about how the game depicted sharks. Movies such as Jaws have instilled the image of the shark as a people-killing predator as, well, a maneater, though sharks are far more often the victims of people than the other way around. “We definitely don’t want to spread a stigma like, ‘Oh, you know, kill sharks, hunt sharks,’” Munk said. “I think that’s as far as we’ve kind of thought about it.” He also noted: “I’m super scared of sharks… I know they don’t normally attack humans.”

The Maneater team is focusing on making an outrageous shark game, one in which you’re eating people for points and leveling up so you can go fight an alligator hiding out in an underwater pipe. The game’s tone is going to be off-putting for some people but appealing for others. Even more pertinent will be how well it plays in its final form, and specifically, whether there are enough moves that a fantastical bull shark can do to keep the action interesting after the first several hundred bites.

Source: Kotaku.com

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Developers Promise Better Bosses And More Puzzles

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Preventing one of the biggest shortcomings of the second Luigi’s Mansion from making it into the third is a high priority, the game’s top producers from Nintendo told Kotaku during an E3 interview in Los Angeles last week.

Both Yoshihito Ikebata and his boss, Kensuke Tanabe, said that they’ve worked with Vancouver-based Next Level Games to fill the upcoming Switch sequel Luigi’s Mansion 3 with more distinct ghost bosses than there were in 2013 Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

“More than anything we really wanted to put those unique bosses in the second one and we couldn’t,” Ikebata said via a translator, “so that’s why we’ve put so many of them in the third one.”

Nintendo’s extended live presentation of Luigi’s Mansion 3 included an unusual boss battle about 22 minutes in that goes far beyond the kind of encounters featured in Dark Moon.

“To be completely honest, when I was playing Dark Moon, I told Ikebata-san that if it were me, I would remake a lot of the bosses,” added Tanabe, who did not work on the 3DS game and had deferred oversight to Nintendo’s legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto. “I really wanted a more exciting kind of boss battle when looking to create the new game. In creating this game, one of the first things I requested of NLG is to really bring the excitement when you’re fighting the boss battles.”

There was only one boss—an armored ghost knight on horseback—shown in the game’s playable demo, and another was shown in a live presentation, but such is the nature of E3 that we mostly discuss potential and intention.

Dark Moon was largely excellent, as it let players use Luigi to explore several mansions full of hidden treasures and color-coded ghosts, which the Mario brother could stun with a flashlight and then trap with a vacuum cleaner in a motion similar to a person reeling in a struggling fish.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 moves the action from mansions to a towering hotel, which Luigi can explore a floor at a time. He can move up and down the building’s floors, avoiding traps, tracking ghosts, searching for treasure, and figuring out how it all fits together. Floors have distinct themes. The main one in the E3 demo included castle walls and other medieval touches. Another shown in a live presentation was based on TV and movie production.

“We originally wanted to create was a gameplay system that really plays with the way the rooms are structured and laid out,” Tanabe said, in a point he elaborated on for Nintendo’s in-house News Channel, where he added, “With a hotel, it’s easy to envision how rooms are structured: they are lined up above, below, and beside each other. For instance, if you are in room 102, you would immediately know that room 202 was directly above you.” That, he said, might help a player track a drip of water on the ceiling of one room to the room above it.

The new Luigi’s Mansion has been in development for a while, with early design taking place on the Wii U and development starting in earnest following the completion of Next Level’s multiplayer-centric 2016 3DS game Metroid Prime Federation Force. At E3, Tanabe and Ikebata were heavily pushing two of Luigi’s new moves in the game: a vacuum-powered hop in the air called “burst” and “slam,” the ability to slap a vacuum-tethered ghost around the room and into other ghosts like snapping a wet towel. The slam move was working on the Wii U and seems to be core to making ghost-catching in the game more exciting and satisfying.

Ikebata highlighted the inclusion of Gooigi as a major component of the game. Introduced in last year’s 3DS remake of the original 2001 GameCube Luigi’s Mansion, Gooigi is a Luigi made of green goo who Switch players can generate and control to help solve puzzles. Gooigi can do many of Luigi’s moves and can access dangerous areas Luigi can’t (and can also be controlled by a second player). “With the addition of Gooigi in this game there’s a lot of things you can do with the puzzle solving and things like that,” Ikebata said. “There’s a lot of twists and surprises, so I hope you can see and enjoy that as well.”

Other things learned from our interview:

  • The Luigi’s Mansion games are considered to all be one adventure on a timeline. Take that, Zelda!
  • Multiplayer mode, which takes place on floors of a skyscraper and streamlines ideas from Dark Moon, can be played by one to eight players, locally or online, across four systems (at max, four people play as Luigis with four others as Gooigis).
  • Luigi isn’t that scared. “I thought Luigi must be easily frightened,” Tanabe said when reflecting on his first impressions of Luigi in this series. “When I spoke to the folks who are in charge of the character [intellectual property] they said, ‘He’s not that terrified. He’s a little bit terrified.’”
  • Unlike Dark Moon, LM3 is not mission-based. Players can explore the game world freely once they gain access to a given floor of the hotel.

And speaking of the hotel, here’s a fun exchange from the interview:

Totilo: Why isn’t it called Luigi’s Hotel?

Tanabe: Because we want to say it’s the third edition.

Totilo: But there’s no mansion in the game, right? Or maybe there is and you don’t want to tell.

Tanabe: Even in the future if the setting changes we’re still going to continue to call it Luigi’s Mansion.

Totilo: Wasn’t there actually a game called Hotel Mario? Why am I thinking of that? What was that?

Tanabe: We do not know. We do know, like, “Marriott.”

Totilo: No, Rich [one of the PR guys in the room] knows. Rich is laughing. He knows that there’s a Hotel Mario. It might not have been a Nintendo-made game.

[Tanabe laughs.]

There was indeed a Hotel Mario. Released in the ’90s, it wasn’t made by Nintendo and isn’t considered to be very good. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is likely to be much, much better.

Source: Kotaku.com

Telling Lies Is An Eerie Virtual Invasion of Privacy

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Telling Lies is an upcoming narrative-driven game that’s the successor to Her Story from creator Sam Barlow. Much like its predecessor, you’ll dig through hours of footage to piece together the mystery of why these four characters’ video conversations have been recorded by the NSA.

Check out the video above to see what I thought of the hands-on demo I got at E3 with Barlow and an interesting peek into how the scenes were made. Telling Lies is coming to Windows and Mac later this year.

Source: Kotaku.com