Tag Archives: splitscreen

What’s Your Weirdest Video Game Ritual?

Do you have any bizarre rituals that you always perform in a video game, no matter what? This week on Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss that question and much more.

First, Kirk, Maddy, and I talk about the great new visual novel AI: The Somnium Files, the wonderfully addictive Fire Emblem, and Remnant: From the Ashes, aka Gears of Dark Souls. Then we get into news (34:07) on Nicalis and Apple Arcade, followed by off-topic talk (57:16) and the continued legend of Gardner Minshew II.


We also talk about this question from listener Annie (and remember, you can send questions to splitscreen@kotaku.com):

Hello Jason, Maddy and Kirk!

I’ve been a longtime fan of the podcast, and I wanted to ask you guys something kind of silly!

I’ll keep this brief, but for context, I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey since I bought it last week (I know, I’m very late to the party). One of my favorite parts of the game is the mercenary/bounty hunter tier system. Since my first mercenary kill, I’ve made it a tradition for myself and my friends that play the game with me to throw the body of every defeated mercenary into the nearest body of natural water as if it were a sign of respect. We also salute the screen and fire a single arrow into the sky. We will do this even if we are in a pretty landlocked territory of the game. There is absolutely no real purpose to doing this, it’s just hilarious to us and we do it solely out of tradition.

So my question is this: do you guys have any weird unscripted video game traditions? (i.e., things that you’ll always do that aren’t required in the game at all?)

Best Regards,


The three of us didn’t have many good answers, other than my habit of singing the Indiana Jones theme song every time I kill someone with a shotgun in Destiny PvP, so we’ve asked our audience to tell us their own stories. We’ve heard some good ones already—a listener who plays Breath of the Wild solely as a pescatarian, one who does push-ups after every Call of Duty loss, and one who sticks their hand out and makes the peace symbol, à la Mario in Super Mario World, every time they finish a video game level.


Surely you also have your own strange habits. What’s your weirdest video game ritual? Share below or hit us up with your best ones.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Some Tips For Avoiding Internet Distractions

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

If you’re reading this, you probably know the feeling: You’re trying to get into a flow state on something productive, but somehow, your mouse gravitates to your bookmarks, and suddenly you’re browsing Twitter, or Tumblr, or another internet addiction of your choice. Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss.

I spent the past four weeks locking myself in my apartment and writing all day, which is why internet distractions have been on my mind. First, we all talk about the games we’ve been playing, like Outer Wilds and Eliza, before getting into Fire Emblem (29:22) and some productivity tips. We close things out with off-topic talk on Saga, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, and Veronica Mars (1:04: 26).

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below:

Jason: I’m writing in Google Drive. I have tabs open with my interviews, research, and all this stuff. Suddenly, just as a matter of habit that I’m sure you guys do all the time, I’m just clicking bookmarks, seeing what else is happening, checking email, checking whatever. I purposefully logged out of Slack and Twitter so I couldn’t actually check those, but I still found myself getting into internet holes where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just check out this YouTube video. OK, I’ll just watch this.’ Suddenly an hour’s gone by, and I haven’t actually done any writing. OK, I’ll write a sentence over here. Better absentmindedly check some tabs, click some other things. And I know there’s all sorts of productivity software, which I’ve never found particularly useful, but I’m curious to hear what you guys and other folks out there use to train your brains to focus on things when you need to be focusing on them.

Maddy: I don’t use any of those apps. I’ve never used them. They don’t work for me—they just frustrate me. Because I still have the muscle memory of clicking on my bookmarks constantly. I think a lot of people have that muscle memory, and it’s almost like you aren’t even intending to click on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever you’re addicted to, you just do it, and then you’re like ‘Why did I click this?’ And that happens to me a lot.

Honestly, I talk about it far too much on this show, but meditating is the only thing that has actually helped me with my attention and having self-control in my life. That’s it. That and exercise—if I’m getting really twitchy and I just keep clicking on stuff, I’m not concentrating, I need to just run around the block a few times or like, not even go for a full run, just go for a little run and then come back.

When I was teaching kids karate and they couldn’t concentrate, I used to make them do ten jumping jacks and then they’d be able to listen to me. It’s just one of those weird things where if you’re being twitchy on the internet and you keep clicking stuff, just get up and do ten jumping jacks and see how you feel. Because it kinda resets you. It works for me. But those apps that turn off Twitter, that just messes me up. Because then I’m trying to go to the websites and they don’t load, and I’m like ‘What am I— oh right, I had this app, ugh.’ It doesn’t make me more concentrated, it just makes me mad at myself more, and then I just fall into the hole of being like ‘God I’m terrible at this, I’m totally distracted,’ and that’s just more wasted time. So yeah, meditating and jumping jacks.

Jason: I think that’s good advice. Both good pieces of advice.

Kirk: I think the logging out thing is good—do more of that. Anything that makes you more mindful, and I think, Maddy, meditation is very good for this. Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re doing. And the minute you can be aware that you’re doing these kind of trained things—and I’ve totally done that too, where you just type into the browser “Twitter” “Gmail” and all the things you check—they’re just habits, you can break them. You just need to decide to break them, and notice when you’re doing them, and be like ‘I am breaking this habit. This is something I’ve consciously decided to do, and I’m doing it.’ Which is a mindful thing to do, because you’re being aware of yourself.

Jason: It’s also tough because you’re addicted to the endorphins you get when you do those things.

Kirk: Of course, it’s hard because those things are very enticing and fun, and worth doing at times. So yeah, you have to have some discipline. I’ll get up and stretch, which is sort of similar to the jumping jacks tip, which is a great tip. I don’t do it enough, but I’ll just do some basic yoga stretches or whatever—really basic stuff—for a couple of minutes. I don’t do this enough, because every time I do, I’m like, I feel 1,000% better and it took about three minutes—why don’t I do this more? Not even anything hard, just a downward dog for two minutes—stretch your legs out a little bit. And then come back to whatever you’re doing. It really helps.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

When Your Frustration At A Game Makes You Even Worse

An unsuspecting Nathan Drake about to get crushed under a truck in Uncharted 3.
Screenshot: YouTube

Video games can be frustrating. Sometimes, that frustration can overpower your ability to play them well. There’s a term for that: In those moments, you’re “tilted.” On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we had Kotaku’s newest staff writer Joshua Rivera join us to discuss the ways that games have tilted us and how we deal with it (or, in some cases, don’t).

First, Kirk and I talk about games we’re playing, with me checking out the new Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Kirk still playing Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. After that, we bring Joshua into the mix (22:27) for some discussion of getting frustrated by games, as well as the fact that three is the perfect squad size. We close with off-topic talk (58:57) about Billions, Good Omens, Veronica Mars, and Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Maddy: The only way I know [to stop tilting] is to take a break from the game, but sometimes I’m like, this is the only few hours I have to play a game, and I’m spending it on a really difficult boss that I really want to be able to beat so that I can advance in this game, or have a good experience later, but I’m just ruining my own time by forcing myself to continue to play. Also, by being in that psychological space, I’m probably performing worse at the game. What are you guys’ tips for getting around that?

Kirk: The break thing, as far as tips go, is probably the best thing. Especially in a single-player situation. I think one reason it tends to rear its head in multiplayer situations is because it’s harder to take a break when you’re playing with a group of people, because there’s this feeling of, “we’re all doing this.”

That thing you said, Maddy, the feeling of, “I’ve only got two hours, and here I am, stuck on this thing,” even that is a form of stakes. There starts to be a feeling of, “Oh man, I only have a set amount of time,” or “I set aside this evening to play this game, and I’ve basically wasted the time. I’ve spent all my time beating my head against the game.”

It’s the same feeling as the real-world tilt you feel when you set aside an evening to play a game and you go to play it and your console needs to download an update, and then the game needs to download an update, and it’s an hour and a half later, and you still haven’t played the stupid game. And you’re like, “Well, there goes this whole weekend! What was I even doing!” It’s that same feeling of anger over wasted time.

Joshua: Also, what you guys are talking about gets at a little bit of perspective. You don’t really encounter it when you’re playing with other people, because everybody’s doing the same thing, and you owe it to the people you’re playing with to make sure that the time you chose to spend with them is as good as it can be. But when you’re playing solo, you’re only in your own head. I live with my partner, and she does not play video games at all. So, one day she’ll be walking by the living room where I’m playing, and I’ll be like, “Rrngggh!” And she’ll look at me like I’m a freaking alien. Because nobody gets that mad at a movie.

Kirk: That’s true. Emily doesn’t like it when I’m playing a specific type of game, actually, like Divinity: Original Sin 2, a turn-based tactics game. A lot of times, I get very stressed out by those games. I really enjoy it as part of my experience, but there’s a lot of, “Oh my god. Oh, shit. Oh, you idiot! I can’t believe I did this! No, you asshole, no!” There’s a lot of that. There will be times where I’m berating myself: “Oh, of course, because I am a giant idiot, I did that.” I’ll say that out loud. And I’m wearing headphones, kind of oblivious, and she’s sitting there listening to me just beat on myself and is like, “Dude, I don’t like it when you’re hard on yourself about that kind of thing.” Which makes me realize I’m externalizing the tilt that I’m feeling toward myself, maybe, in those moments.

Maddy: But are you still having fun doing that, though?

Kirk: Absolutely.

Maddy: I feel like I also have that experience with those kinds of games, where I’m like, “Oh, idiot!” But I don’t even mean it that way. I’m still having a fun experience playing StarCraft or whatever it may be, because the stakes are high, but in a fun way that’s exciting, and maybe that isn’t translatable into what I’m saying or my body language, but it’s a more positive experience than me throwing myself at a boss I can’t defeat for an hour.

Kirk: It’s like what you were saying, Joshua. When your partner walks by and hears you, it’s this very different perspective on the experience that you’re having. That’s also just an interesting perspective to consider: the person outside.

Joshua: Yeah. Shame.

Maddy: Experiencing shame, yes!

Joshua: [Laughs.] Shame is a good coping technique.

Kirk: There’s a fine line, I guess. I’m usually having a good time. But it can tip over into actually being just frustrated. Although usually with that kind of game, turn-based games—those are the games that I save-scum and do all kinds of stuff to get through—it isn’t the same as a God of War boss fight or a Bloodborne boss fight.

I think one thing that really drives me nuts is when I feel like I’m angry at the game as much as I’m angry at myself. Sometimes I tilt at a game. I remember—I think it was Uncharted 3, a lot of cheap deaths in Uncharted 3. It was one of the frustrating things about that game. The enemies a lot of times would laugh at you after they killed you. You would die, and you’d hear your teammate, Elena or whoever, would be like “Nathan! Draaaake!” Because you died. And that instrument, whatever it was, would play and the screen would go black and white. Then you’d hear some guy, some gomer that killed you, who would be like, “Ha ha ha ha ha! Got you!” It was the worst. You’d hear it over and over and over again, as you died. I remember that made me very upset at that game. I guess that’s part of it, right? You can feel mad at the people who make the game: “F you people for making this stupid thing!”

Maddy: But you don’t contact them. You don’t say that. You don’t post that on the internet—

Kirk: [Laughs.] Yes, good point! I am in no way endorsing harassing game developers over their decisions. They make wonderful things, and sometimes games are hard, and that’s totally fine. I mean a more abstracted feeling of frustration. Which is an interesting thing for game developers to consider. They are trying to frustrate us. A game has to place things that we must then overcome, and some of that involves frustration. It’s a fine line, and sometimes even games that I’ve been really mad at, just because I’m having a hard time beating them, it’s wound up being a rewarding, cool experience. It is possible to experience tilt in a safer, positive way. Or is it?

Joshua: I think about this a little bit too: It’s OK to be bad at a game. It’s OK to be so bad at a game that you can’t finish it. Right? I think that’s fine. I will be upset if I only had $60 to spend and I couldn’t get further than an hour into a game. I also remember when I was a kid and only had so much money, I tried to know everything I could about a game before I bought it. So, I generally had a good idea what I could handle and what I couldn’t. If I can’t play a game, if I’m not good enough for it, that’s fine. Maybe in six months, or a year, I will be.

I like to interrogate the notion of, “I deserve to see everything that’s in this game.” I don’t think that’s healthy. I think one of the cool things about games is that you can have your own unique experience and it’s different from everybody else’s who played the game. My experience is one where I was able to do these things, because I was able to put the time into being good enough, or skilled enough, or just attentive enough to see that part of the game. You are someone who’s different, and someone who has different priorities, and different things that you care about seeing, so you go and see those things. I think it’s a less interesting world where we all have the same experience with a medium that is so dynamic.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Nintendo Switch Lite Has Sealed The 3DS’s Coffin

Remember the Nintendo 3DS? Enjoy that while you can, because after the Nintendo Switch Lite comes out, the 3DS will be erased from all of our collective memories. Okay, not really, but the Switch Lite does look nifty. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we talk about playing Switch games while lying in a hammock and also the cool limited edition 3DSes we bought for no reason.

We start out by discussing games we’ve been playing, with Jason still on Dragon Quest Builders 2 (check out his impressions) and Kirk getting the bad ending in Metro Exodus. I was on vacation, so I played Switch games in the wild (Phoenix Wright and West of Loathing). Then we break for some news (33:25); there was the Switch Lite announcement, a situation with the game marketplace G2A trying to pay journalists for positive coverage (with no one biting), and the Wind Waker homage discovered in Breath of the Wild. Finally, we get into off-topic discussion (54:23) of Pose, Stranger Things 3, and Veronica Mars before Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Jason: [The Switch Lite] is clearly designed to fill that gap that the 3DS and 2DS, which are now basically dead, have left in their wake. So this is definitely going to appeal to parents who want to buy their kids something and don’t want to spend $300, or people who want a Switch but can’t afford $300, because it’s a $200 price point. It looks sleek, got some cool color options. Kirk, what did you think of the Switch Lite?

Kirk: I have a couple of questions. First of all, was there a video announcing this?

Maddy: Yeah, there’s the commercial where people are playing by the fireside. It’s a typical Nintendo commercial where groups of diverse, hot teens are playing a Switch together in various permutations.

Kirk: Nice. Did they use the Switch sound effect?

Maddy: They did.

Kirk: That is interesting, because it will not make that sound effect. You will not get to hear that lovely snapping sound effect if you get this handheld, because that is the sound of the Joy-Con controller snapping in. Interesting, they’re going to stick with that sound even though they have removed one of the Switch’s defining gimmicks.

Second question: can we call it the Lite Switch? Because I like that name more than the Switch Lite. And I’m kind of surprised that Nintendo didn’t come up with that.

Jason: [laughs] That wouldn’t make any sense. Can you imagine going to Target and being like, “Hey, can I have a Lite Switch?” “Oh, well, electronics are in the back, and hardware is over there—” “No no no, a Lite Switch!”

Maddy: But, up until now, people have been going to the store and asking for a Switch and getting directed to the riding crops. It’s just been a huge problem this whole time. Nobody knows what a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite would be, and they certainly wouldn’t acclimate to that phrase if asked by a customer.

Jason: Oh, but those are BDSM shops.

Maddy: You’re right, and that’s on the customer for not understanding where the Nintendo Switch is sold. You’re so right.

I don’t know what is with the convention of putting “Lite” after the end of a product name. It’s definitely weird, because that’s not how the English language works, but it’s just something we’ve accepted.

Jason: Well, it’s a Nintendo thing. Nintendo started it with the DS Lite, which was actually their best hardware upgrade ever, because the original DS was kind of chunky and felt kinda off and had some hardware issues. Then the DS Lite came out, and it was perfect: this great clamshell, super sleek, looked kinda like an iPod, was just super Apple-inspired.

Kirk: Yeah, I got the DS Lite. That was the first gaming system I bought since an original Xbox, in a long time. I played many, many games on that thing. I think I still have it somewhere.

Maddy: I think I traded mine in. I needed that tiny amount of money for trading it in, at some point in my life.

Jason: [laughs] $25 at GameStop.

Kirk: What are the other Nintendo Lite consoles? Are there other ones, or is it just the DS Lite?

Jason: Just the DS Lite. There was a Game Boy SP, but that was before they started using Lite.

Maddy: There was the Game Boy Pocket. That would have been the equivalent of the Lite. I had one of those.

Kirk: Pocket, that’s the same idea as Switch Lite. Anyway, I don’t really know what I think of it. It’s not for me, but that’s fine. I already have a Switch. I guess my main feeling is that I’m glad that at least thus far they haven’t announced a more powerful Switch that will be able to run Breath of the Wild 2 and make it look better, because then I’ll start being tempted, and I really don’t want to spend $250 on a new console when I already have a Switch. So it’s kind of nice to just be like, “Oh, cool! This one is not one of the ones that I have to concern myself with.” Which I typically feel about these kinds of Nintendo sub-hardware revisions, and I’m fine with it.

Jason: Yeah, the Pro will be next year, I bet.

Kirk: Yeah. I’m sure it’ll happen. I’m just glad it hasn’t happened yet.

Jason: For sure. You can hold off on that hardware purchase for now. In fact, I bet it gets combined with Breath of the Wild 2, the way this one has launched right before Pokemon.

Kirk: Which is what they did with the 2DS as well.

Maddy: Are you guys sad that the 3DS is basically dead now? Because I’m kind of sad about it. I have such a pretty 3DS. When Metroid II came out—the new one—I got the 3DS that has Samus on it, and it looks so freakin’ cool. What happened was I got that one, traded in my old one, played and loved that game, and then that was it. It’s a Metroid machine. I purchased a Metroid machine, with Metroid herself! With Samus on there. And that’s it, that’s all I did with it. Now it’s just been collecting dust ever since.

Jason: Good old Captain Metroid.

Maddy: Can she crawl, though? That’s what I still can’t figure it out. I don’t know, I’m sad about it.

Kirk: I have the Majora’s Mask 3DS, which is amazing looking.

Jason: Yeah, me too. It’s incredible.

Kirk: It was super hard to get. I got it because Jason, you were so paying attention to when they were available online, and you told me immediately and I ordered it.

Maddy: I had to pre-order mine! I had to sign up to get it.

Kirk: Same, yeah. It was on Best Buy for the five minutes that it would be available. I felt really cool getting it. I think I played that Metroid remake, and I didn’t even finish that, because the Switch was already out by then. I guess it came out a little bit before the Switch, but then the Switch came out, and I was playing Zelda and I just completely left the 3DS behind. I feel that feeling of, “Oh, I have this really neat 3DS,” but also I like playing the Switch so much better than I like playing the 3DS for a variety of reasons that I don’t feel sad.

Jason: That’s the thing. Once you’re used to the big screen —

Kirk: And the buttons, for me. Having a full controller scheme is so much better.

Jason: Yeah. I agree on both counts. And once you’re used to that, it’s hard to go back to the 3DS. I know this because I tried to go back to the 3DS to play a bunch of Persona Q2, and just could not get used to it. I was like, why am I not just playing Switch games right now? So yeah, I’m not going to miss the 3DS.

Maddy: I’ll just have to buy a really pretty Metroid sticker for my Switch and put it on the back and pretend that I have a special Metroid Switch.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Good Luck Stopping Students From Playing Stadia Games In Class

If Google Stadia games work as advertised, it’ll become all too easy for students everywhere to play video games on their school-issue laptops instead of listening to their teachers’ lectures. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we answer questions from listeners, including one from a high school teacher about how much of a pain Stadia will be, on top of all the other typical distractions that students already battle in the classroom.

First up, we talk about the games we’re playing; I’ve finally got the hang of flying in Outer Wilds, Jason is playing Dragon Quest Builders 2 for a future review, and Kirk has fallen in love with fixed beat mode in Cadence of Hyrule. After that, we open up the mailbag (22:32) for discussion of Stadia in schools, our personal processes for reviewing games, and how bizarre the release schedule for Final Fantasy VII Remake will be. Lastly, we get into off-topic talk (1:20:18) about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Veep, and more before Kirk’s funky music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Writes Joe:

Dear Maddy, Jason and Kirk,

I’m a high school teacher with a question about Stadia and corporate responsibility. As a person who loves video games, the idea of being able to take games wherever I go (with an internet connection) sounds wonderful. However, as a teacher, I am terrified. It is already challenging enough to get students to read an article, write a paragraph, or complete any kind of academic task when their rapid dopamine-producing technology is always right there at their fingertips, whether through their personal phones or on iPads or Chromebooks (in an ironic twist) provided by schools—and that’s just from basic mobile gaming, watching Twitch, and social media apps.

But now, they’ll be able to instantly play actual good games, like Apex: Legends or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on their phones? I mean, I’d actually empathize with my students at that point: even as an adult who understands responsibility, there are times I’d far rather be playing video games than working (but thank god that I can’t even make that bad choice because my PS4 with Bloodborne is safely at home). Now, for my students, that all changes.

As teachers, yes, it’s our classroom. Yes, we can try to moderate what students are doing with their time. Yes, we can attempt to ban counterproductive technology. But this is so much easier said than done: teens inevitably find ways around the barriers that teachers and school technicians put in place. What I’m asking is this: does Google have a responsibility to—at the very least—develop tools that empower educators to make sure students don’t make the bad choice of playing games when they shouldn’t be? Surely Google, one of the most powerful companies in the world, can, if it devotes the resources, do something positive and helpful here. Otherwise, I fear that many teens, who can’t see in the long-term, will choose the escapism of video games and suffer destructive personal consequences, than engage in the difficult work of being a student.

Kirk: …So, I was on faculty at a high school. I taught many classroom sessions, I subbed for classes, I ran classrooms. I’m at least familiar enough with this and was in all the faculty meetings where this was constantly talked about.

The school that I taught at, the Urban School of San Francisco, is this super ahead-of-the-curve amazing school in San Francisco. This was in the 2000s. They were one of the first schools to have a one-to-one laptop program. At the time, all the kids had Macbooks, and they could get online. There was basically no restriction…

So, yeah, I do think that it’s Google’s responsibility, and it’s all these companies’ responsibilities to give teachers and give parents tools. But at the same time, I’m sure a lot of parents will also tell you that while it’s nice to have parental restriction on content, it’s also really hard; if a kid really wants to see something or do something, they can probably find a way to do it.

One thing they would do at Urban that was really funny was, Howard — his name was Howard, he was a really brilliant guy who was in charge of technology. He was the czar of all the computers. He had the ability to get and look at anyone’s screen on the network—of the students, not the faculty. He never did this. He was a really busy guy; he was doing all kinds of stuff. But he had the ability to, and as a result, the kids were always scared that they would be playing a game or something during class when they weren’t supposed to be — because this was a thing back then, even. Kids wold play Halo on their Macbooks; they would download freeware copies of games, and then they’d all be playing against one another. And they would be like, “Oh god! Howard’s gonna know!” Which I thought was really clever psychological warfare. Because of course Howard 99.99% of the time was not looking at your screen. But it only took him doing it once to one kid, and like walking into class out of nowhere and just busting them for whatever they were doing.

Maddy: That becomes the urban legend that all the other kids tell each other. “Oh, Howard can find you at any time! He’s always watching!”

Kirk: Also, coincidentally, Urban Legend? The name of the school paper at the Urban School of San Francisco.

Maddy: Great name!

Kirk: So that was one thing that kinda worked… [but] I don’t think that Stadia’s actually going to be — like, Maddy you mentioned social media. Social media is just as much of a distraction.

Maddy: And addictive!

Kirk: There are so many things that can potentially distract a student who is supposed to be paying attention in class. And you go back to when we were students, and it was even stupider. More basic things, like calculator games, or tic-tac-toe on a notebook.

Maddy: Or passing notes, which was our equivalent to social media back then. But still distracting.

Jason: I’m sure kids today are still passing notes, too, by the way.

Maddy: Oh, sure, because they aren’t allowed to take out their phones in class, usually, from what I hear.

Jason: Or they get them taken away.

Kirk: That’s definitely one good restriction: you have to be on your computer, your computer’s on the network. I think there are even more advanced ways now, to block access to certain sites. People’s work does this too. Like, you can’t get on YouTube at work, so you just can’t do it.

Maddy: There’s also the old school thing my math teacher did, which was physically walking around the classroom every time she did a lecture — up and down every row — to make sure nobody was playing games on their calculators. Just literally looking at everyone’s screen over everyone’s shoulder. All 40 students, or however many. I went to a big a public school.

Jason: That’s actually smart. That’s a good way of teaching, also, to not stand in one place. Kirk, I’m curious to hear — do you think that Google has any responsibility? Or do you think it’s a school-by-school, teacher-by-teacher, parent-by-parent responsibility here? And the onus is on them to make sure that their classrooms are behaving?

Kirk: To zoom it out from Google, just because Stadia doesn’t even exist yet. That’s, I think, a concern but all of these companies can be lumped under one umbrella. Just ethically, I do think that they do. I think it would be nice if they did that. But, at the same time, if they’re not creating software for the Department of Education to use, or something like that, then in the end, it’s just not really their responsibility in the same way that it would be if they were actually making teaching tools. This is just software that they’re making. There are a million things that can be misused by students in the classroom, and it is hard to draw a line and say, “Well, you all have a responsibility, in addition to treating your end-user, to make it so that students can’t abuse this in a classroom.” There’s just a practical fact that it’s going to come down to the teachers and the students. That’s where the buck is going to stop.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Ranger Class Is Getting Some Changes In D&D (And Baldur’s Gate 3)

How is Baldur’s Gate 3 going to implement the modern rules of Dungeons & Dragons? Last week in Los Angeles, we sat down with creative director Swen Vincke and D&D head honcho Mike Mearls on a bonus episode of Kotaku Splitscreen to discuss. One thing you can definitely expect: the ranger is getting some changes.

We talked about how the recently-announced Baldur’s Gate 3 deal came together, why Divinity: Original Sin 2 developer Larian Studios wound up with the project, the challenges of converting a tabletop game with infinite possibilities into a limited video game, and some of D&D’s most confusing mechanics (like spell slots). Vincke and Mearls also teased some big changes for the ranger class.

Listen above, or read an excerpt:

Mike Mearls: One of the things that’s been nice is that [Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian and D&D steward Wizards of the Coast] have a very similar design culture. So there was one instance where, as we look at our character classes, we look at feedback we get in the tabletop space. There was one class we were working on at that got a lot of negative feedback, so I shot an email over to Nick [Pechenin, systems designer] about “Hey, we’re looking at making some changes, potentially playtesting some new material for this class in tabletop, just to let you guys know.” And he actually got back to me and said, “Hey for this class, actually that same exact issue has come up, and here’s what we’re looking at doing.” It was almost like we had already shared notes.

Jason: What’s the class?

Mearls: Oh, I dunno.

Jason: You can’t give that whole example and then not say what it is.

Mearls: I dunno, because [turning to Vincke] I don’t want to step on any of your announcements.

Swen Vincke: I’m fine. You can talk about the class.

Mearls: I can say purely from a tabletop space, one of the things we found was that the ranger character class, in tabletop players really felt the first couple of levels, they weren’t really making choices that they felt were having a real impact on gameplay… One of the things we learned is that we had some assumptions about how exploration would play out in the game back when we were developing 5th edition—we thought, “Oh, we’ll give the rangers some of these toys to play with because exploration is part of the game.” And we’ve just found that either a lot of DMs don’t use a lot of the sub-systems that those spoke to, or they weren’t really coming up on a level of play at the table that was actually impactful to the narrative.

The ranger, for instance: Oh, I’m gonna pick desert as my favored terrain. We can’t get lost in the desert. Which sounds great—I wouldn’t want to get lost in the desert. But when you’re playing a tabletop role-playing game, it basically means, “OK, you’ve crossed the desert, you’re done.” It’s not really giving the ranger a chance to shine. So we’re looking at maybe play-testing this summer some new options that complement what’s there without overriding it. One of the hard things about working in tabletop is you can’t patch a physical book—unless you’re willing to break into everyone’s house and paste in new things.

Jason: Which you should try to do.

Mearls: Yeah, I mean Amazon’s got drones. That won’t end poorly, right? So yeah, we’re looking at ways, how can we kind of bridge that gap—how can 2019 Mike work within the constraints of 2014 Mike’s world and take those five years and apply them to a game without disrupting everyone’s campaigns?

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

How One Large Game Studio Avoids Crunch

Iron Galaxy CEO Adam Boyes (left), C3PO Dave Lang (middle), and COO Chelsea Blasko (right)
Photo: Iron Galaxy

How does the Chicago-based studio Iron Galaxy maintain a healthy work-life balance for all of its employees? On Kotaku Splitscreen, we talk to founder and Giant Bomb jokeman Dave Lang about his leadership philosophies and how Iron Galaxy avoids crunch.

Last week in Los Angeles, I sat down with Lang to talk about founding Iron Galaxy to make video games with his friends, the sacrifices they have to make in order to ensure their 140-person team doesn’t work any overtime, and accepting that they might never be every gamer’s favorite game company.

Listen above, or read an excerpt here:

Dave Lang: When I started IG, the only goal was to work with my friends for the next 30 years. I don’t care what we do. There’s not this game in my head that needs to get out. Only thing I give a shit about is that I get to work with my best friends until I retire. And everything in the company is optimized towards that goal.

Jason: That’s cool. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is that poking around the Chicago game dev scene, you guys have a reputation for not crunching, for treating your workers like human beings. Who would’ve thought that’d be a strange thing? Is that because of your experiences at Midway?

Lang: I was trying to think of the best way to answer. I have kind of a weird relationship with crunch personally. I had this big Twitter thread where I enumerated a bunch of bad crunch experiences in my life. If you’ve done this job long enough, you’ve missed a wedding. You’ve missed a kid’s birthday. You’ve made a personal sacrifice.

Jason: Hopefully you haven’t missed your own wedding.

Lang: Not my own, thank goodness. I did cancel my first honeymoon, though.

Jason: Wow.

Lang: So that thread is a lot about: ‘Wow, this part sucked.’ But personally I don’t hate crunch. I’m not a staunch anti-crunch advocate. I’ve worked on games where you crunch crazy and I had a fun time doing it, because I’m there with my friends, and we’re doing things like that. I’m not one of these people who believes after 40 hours you start making more mistakes, and it’s ineffective.

If game team B is working 60 hours a week, and we’re working 40 hours a week, they’re going to have a better game than we will. That’s just a fact. The difference is I don’t give a shit. One of my leadership philosophies is: don’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. And at this point in my life, I don’t want to work. I want to work less than 40 hours a week if I can. I want to spend time with my kids. And when I’m not spending time with my kids, I want to jump into Discord with my friends, drink wine, and shoot people in the face online. That’s what I want to do. I want to travel.

And because I don’t want to do that, it feels really crappy to ask other people to do it, and I just don’t run the company that way.

Jason: So by your own logic aren’t you sacrificing the quality of the stuff you guys work on?

Lang: We’ll just get more time or whatever. There’s other ways to skin the cat. That was more to illustrate: I don’t believe working less gets better results, like some people do. That was more illustrating that point. But sometimes, I think when people work with us, they know our policy generally, but they do it anyway because they know— We’re often in a situation where, ‘Hey port game X to platform Y for us,’ and we’re getting 30 bids or whatever it is. I know we’ll be in the top three most expensive and longest, I just know we will. That means we tend to work with people who value quality over money, and people who have planned their [platforms] far enough in advance where they can let us take longer to do it. We still get there, it just costs the publisher more money, but they know it’s going to be good, it’s not going to be like a carrier landing.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Outer Worlds Is An RPG About Controlling The Narrative

If you fall into the category of people who believe that 2010’s Fallout: New Vegas was the best game in the series, then The Outer Worlds might be for you. Last week at E3, I spoke to the game’s co-director, Leonard Boyarsky, for a bonus episode of Kotaku Splitscreen digging deep into this cyberpunky role-playing game.

In a behind-closed-doors session at a booth belonging to Private Division, the Take Two-owned publishing label behind The Outer Worlds, a few developers from Obsidian Entertainment gathered to show off the game. Playing through a 20-minute demo, they shot and bartered their way through a mission on a failed colony planet called Monarch. It looked great, combining sci-fi gunplay and abilities (plasma rifles! slow time!) with the massive dialogue trees and branching paths that Obsidian fans expect. The demo showed off a variety of different ways to approach each chunk of the mission, and it looked weird, quirky, and fun.

Then I spoke to Boyarsky about developing The Outer Worlds, player choice, gunplay, the scope of the game, and much more. Listen above, or read an excerpt here:

Jason Schreier: Obviously this is a game about player choice, but it’s also a game that explores some very relevant political topics: corporations, dystopia, capitalism. Is there something you’re trying to say with this game? Is there a message you’re trying to send?

Boyarsky: Ironically, when we first started this, it didn’t seem quite as prescient as it does now, cause we started it in April of 2016. It’s become a little bit more pointed than we had hoped… Even more than this being about capitalism or corporations, it’s really about people controlling narrative and stories. And if people control the story you tell yourself, then they kind of control you.

We always love making a game where the player comes from outside, and we’ve done that again here—you’re coming into this world where all these people have been indoctrinated into this way of thinking, and even the people who are rebelling against it have been brought up in that system, so the ways they think about rebelling against the system are also created by the system. So the player comes in and looks around and says, “This is insanity.” That’s really where we were at, and it seems a lot more prescient and pointed than we may have originally wanted it to be. It obviously talks a lot about corporations and how they are, so that’s not an accident, but we’re all about exploring philosophical themes while having a fun, great game experience.

We don’t ever want it to get too heavy. We don’t ever want it to feel like we’re lecturing people or that we are trying to make a very specific point. We tried really hard to make sure that no matter what character it is in the game, they feel like they’re very realistic and they have realistic motivations. When you talk to the people on the board, they have a very realistic, or at least understandable, outlook. You might not agree with it at all, but it makes sense why they think that way.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

CD Projekt Red Boss Again Promises That Cyberpunk Devs Won’t Have To Crunch

Following an impressive showcase from Cyberpunk 2077 this week at E3 in Los Angeles, CD Projekt Red boss Marcin Iwiński joined Kotaku Splitscreen to talk about crunch, recent controversy over transgender issues, and whether GOG is in trouble.

A few weeks ago, CD Projekt Red had reached out to talk about their “non-mandatory” crunch policies on Cyberpunk, promising that they wanted to avoid the brutal periods of overtime that staff had to face at the end of development on The Witcher 3. This week, they wanted to follow up. So a couple of days after watching Cyberpunk’s impressive new hourlong demo, in which the company showed off the different ways in which one mission can be tackled, I met with Iwiński for a 25-minute interview about many different topics. He again said some interesting things about crunch, and I again said that we’d be keeping an eye out to hold him to these promises.

Here’s a brief excerpt from our conversation:

Jason: If I’m a designer at CD Projekt Red and I say you know what I have kids, I have a family, I’m going to work from 10am to 6pm every day, and that’s it. Even until the very end. Am I going to be okay with that?

Iwiński: Yes. Yes.

Jason: No matter what.

Iwiński: Yes.

Jason: So you can commit to that?

Iwiński: We’ve committed to that already.

Jason: That’s good to hear, because oftentimes it feels like there’s these social pressures and subtle pressures—

Iwiński: We can never be 200% sure that there won’t be some pressure, but it’s actually our management’s work to make sure people are OK with that, and I think I’d like people to tell other people within the company that that’s OK, because that’s when we are successful when introducing it. But so far so good.

Jason: I was actually glad to see that you guys announced the game for April 2020, because I had heard from some people, ‘Oh, we’re going for 2019, it’s unrealistic, what are we going to have to do to ourselves?’ Is that one of the reasons you guys delayed it?

Iwiński: (laughs) You’re digging way too deep, Jason.

Jason: (laughs) That’s my job.

Iwiński: The production plans are discussed with people, and of course we had to set a certain date, because as you know, we could develop every single game we’ve been developing endlessly because there’s always something you can tweak, make it better. So a set date is important. But it is lots of planning and we take into account a lot of variables, first and foremost the production capabilities, the time we think is needed, the stage at which we are, but also the market environment. We are trying to hit a certain good window. And I think it’s a good window. And it aligns with our production plans.

Jason: Is it fair to say that you guys wanted to hit that target to make sure people didn’t have to kill themselves to make this?

Iwiński: (laughs) It’s a direct result of our production planning and we’re trying to make it realistic, and not make it a ginormous burden on the team. Why we’ve been making this public commitment is because we really care about the people that are making this game. It’s not me coding personally or painting something, it’s the super-talented folks that decided to join us, and I want to make sure they feel taken care of and respected.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Personality Has Become A Vital Esports Skill

Alex “Golden Boy” Mendez hosts the sold-out Overwatch League Grand Finals at the Barclays Center in New York.
Photo: Carlton Beener (Overwatch League)

Esports commentator and host Alex “Golden Boy” Mendez started out hosting Call of Duty tournaments in hotel ballrooms in 2011 and covering esports for websites like Kotaku. Now, he hosts esports events in stadiums for thousands, as well as esports matches for TV broadcasts. On this bonus episode of Kotaku Splitscreen, I interviewed Mendez on the E3 show floor about how much esports has changed and whether streamers and influencers are about to steal all the esports industry’s lunch money.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below:

Maddy: I agree with you that franchising, at least with Overwatch League, is going way better than I thought it was going to go. But I feel like the counterpoint to that is stuff like the rise of Fortnite and influencers as opposed to esports, and the idea of people identifying very strongly with a specific streamer or person that they like, as opposed to a team. I think that that is going to play out in an interesting way in the next few years.

Alex: I would agree. I think that Fortnite’s an interesting beast because we have a lot of players that have come up — guys like Poach, or Vivid, or 72Hrs, or Ayden — and these are pros that have created a brand. But they’re nowhere near as big as Tfue, who is also a pro, but he’s also very much now a brand. Ninja, a brand. Nickmercs, a brand. And people do want to see them compete.

I think Fortnite’s structure and allowing anyone to be able to compete allows for that kind of freedom of expression with the fans. But when we get to the Fortnite World Cup in New York City, that’s going to be interesting, because if you look at the people who’ve qualified? Very few big names. Tfue qualified in solos. He’s probably the only big name. You have some other names that are known amongst the Fortnite community, but for the most part, it is just pros. Kids. Fourteen, fifteen years old.

Maddy: Do you think that’s because it’s not an invitational format and it is that qualification format, so it’s resulted in some randoms?

Alex: Obviously the cream will rise to the top, the best players will rise to the top. And one of these kids is going to walk away with four million dollars.

Maddy: Which is crazy!

Alex: Which is insane. But will that kid walk away with four million dollars and all the fame? Maybe. But I still think that Ninja and those guys are gonna be pulling in all of that.

Maddy: They’re going to be pulling in the consistent income. I’ve been curious to see if more Overwatch League kids are going to spiral off and be like, “I’d rather go the influencer route,” because as they individually get famous, they might decide that that’s a more consistent way to make a living in esports.

Alex: Yeah. It is. It’s also weird in comparison to traditional sports.

Maddy: Yes! Like, that’s even an option in esports, that you could be like, “I’m just gonna stream.”

Alex: Exactly. We cannot measure ourselves to traditional sports, because in traditional sports, a guy does not just go stream and become a personality. Like, sure, it’s starting to happen more and more now, but it is not—that was not an option. Whereas, Dafran played one season [of Overwatch League] and was like, “You know what? I’d rather stream.”

Maddy: “I could make some more money if I leave.”

Alex: And then that’s what he did. And now he’s more successful than ever.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com