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Video: The highs and lows of Hitman’s episodic release

In this 2016 GDC Europe talk, Io Interactive’s Hannes Seifert shares the highs and lows of transforming Hitman into an episodic release title.

Siefert will share the risks and challenges pushing their art form forward, the required change of mind, the tremendous excitement and involvement of players, as well as the conservatism of self-proclaimed keepers of the status quo.

It was an insightful talk that’s definitely still worth watching, so developers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to do so now that it’s freely available on the official GDC YouTube channel!

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its accompanying YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC or VRDC already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent company Informa

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Cloud Imperium Games spent $4M a month in 2017 developing Star Citizen

Cloud Imperium Games, the studio behind Star Citizen and Squadron 42, released an eight-page accounting document a few weeks ago which shows how the company has spent its funds since 2012.

According to the document, CIG has spent $193.3 million since 2012, with $14.23 million left in reserve. About $48.8 million of that was spent in 2017, putting the company’s most recently reported monthly spending at about an average of $4 million. 

Revenue sources were split into three main categories, including Kickstarter pledges, subscriptions, and “other” income from partnerships with hardware and software vendors. Based on the graph provided, it doesn’t seem like the company has been able to keep steady since 2014, after its initial explosion in revenue upon launch at the end of 2012 and into 2013.

This is pretty interesting, as Star Citizen is still in development but has already brought about $200 million in revenue for the company. Apparently, only one percent of that was due to traditional crowdfunding.

The document goes on to point out that CIG has been spending more than it’s bringing in through its revenue streams over the past 3 years. The company says that $826,000 went to general and administrative (including accounting and legal services), with the rest going into game development costs.

The $46 million raised from a private investment last month will reportedly be going toward marketing and distribution efforts for Squadron 42, as well as development costs for Star Citizen.

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Weekly Jobs Roundup: Wargaming, Digital Extremes, and more are hiring now!

Whether you’re just starting out, looking for something new, or just seeing what’s out there, the Gamasutra Job Board is the place where game developers move ahead in their careers.

Gamasutra’s Job Board is the most diverse, most active, and most established board of its kind in the video game industry, serving companies of all sizes, from indie to triple-A.

Here are just some of the many, many positions being advertised right now. If you’re a recruiter looking for talent, you can also post jobs here.

Location: Broadway, New South Wales, Australia

Wargaming Sydney is seeking a passionate Lead Game Designer to join our professional team and deliver fresh experiences for players. Our projects offer development challenges across a wide spectrum, presenting unique opportunities for developers from all backgrounds.

Being a Lead Game Designer at Wargaming Sydney means more than designing games. We have to understand the experience we want to create for players, and then design the game features or changes required to bring this experience into reality. From prototyping new concepts to balancing gameplay, designing systems or crafting groundbreaking mechanics, your work will have the potential to inspire gamers and designers for years to come. Comprehensive design sensibilities, problem-solving, agile execution, and considered communication are our tools of the trade as we strive to bring new experiences to our audience.

Location: Los Angeles, California

As a Magnopus Experience Engineer, you’ll work on cutting-edge experiences which connect people to each other and the world around us in order to feel touched, inspired, educated, and entertained. We’re looking for people who love to apply new technology to solve “impossible” problems, building bridges between the real world and the digital world. The position is full time and is using the latest technology from Oculus Quest to Magic Leap to custom modified Vive Pro headsets running on custom built PCs and anywhere in between.

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Imangi Studios is looking for a talented individual to fill multiple open Game Artist positions (environment, character, 3D generalist, 2D/concept).  This position will be responsible for developing visual assets for the Temple Run brand.  Depending on your specialization, you will conceptualize and create environments, characters, concepts, animations, and/or VFX for Imangi Studios’ mobile games.  The ideal candidate will have a strong portfolio and experience in the mobile games space.

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

Digital Extremes is looking for an Environment Artist with at least one year of industry experience to utilize traditional art training and knowledge of 3D art, design and computer graphics software to build efficient, high quality 3D models using next-generation techniques, such as normal mapping and advanced shaders, translate 2D concepts into 3D reality including modeling, texturing, UV-mapping, etc. though the supervision of the Art Director and Lead Artist, and work closely with the Art Director and Lead Artist to understand the creative direction as well as ensure the successful execution of the game’s visual design as a part of its Canada-based team.

Location: Redwood City, California

The Gameplay Camera Designer, working under the Lead Cinematic Designer and/or the Game Director, will be responsible for designing, implementing, and fine-tune the game design cameras and related gameplay in levels and cinematics to ensure a smooth and seamless player experience through a rich and epic narrative experience. A successful Camera Designer will be able to collaborate with Artists and Designers to create tools and camera solutions to create a dynamic and living world. 

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GDC 2019 offers a full day of cutting-edge machine learning talks!

The field of machine learning has advanced tremendously in the past few years, and canny game makers are constantly finding new and interesting ways of applying machine learning techniques to build better games.

At the 2019 Game Developers Conference in March and you’ll have the chance to dig in and spend a full day learning from some of the best and brightest in the game industry at the brand new GDC 2019 Machine Learning Tutorial!

This is just one of many great Bootcamps and Tutorials scheduled during the first two days of GDC (Monday and Tuesday, March 18th and 19th this year), albeit one that offers an up-to-the-minute, laser-focused look at the art and business of making and running games that make smart use of machine learning techniques.

For example, in “Beating Wallhacks Using Deep Learning With Limited Resources” Nexon Korea machine learning engineer Junsik Hwang will show you how Nexon Korea has developed a real-time automated wallhack detection system using Convolutional Neural Networks with a small dataset and a single GPU.

By using Class Activation Maps, the network finds suspicious areas within a screenshot that improves the credibility of the model’s performance and makes debugging datasets much more efficient. Model Interpretability plays a crucial role in incorporating deep learning with the existing abuser control policies. As a result, the system now detects abusers in real-time and reduces manual inspection labor significantly!

And in “Simple Head Pose Estimation for Dialogue Wheels“, Remedy lead character technical artist Antti Herva will show you a machine learning project aimed at helping animators liven up dialogue wheel interactions for an upcoming Remedy game project..

Make time to catch this talk if you want an introduction on performance capture, selecting image features and machine learning models, annotating data, training a neural network and finally evaluating the results in-game!

Plus, Electronic Arts’ Fabio Zinno will be presenting a Machine Learning Tutorial talk on “From Motion Matching to Motion Synthesis, and All the Hurdles In Between” that will give you an expert overview of state-of-the-art ML techniques (Phase-Functioned Neural Networks and Mode-Adaptive Neural Networks) that use neural networks to synthesize motion from examples. Zinno aims to explicitly call out important architecture and implementation details, and spark a discussion on how this technology can be used in a modern game development pipeline.

And you won’t want to miss “Smart Bots for Better Games: Reinforcement Learning in Production“, a presentation from Ubisoft data scientist Olivier Delalleau about various reinforcement learning algorithms and how they may help game studios create better games, more efficiently.

Besides AI development, the ability to train bots to play games during production opens up promising opportunities for automated testing and design assistance. But applying reinforcement learning to modern games brings up many challenges, illustrated through several examples, with a focus on recent experiments within Ubisoft games. Whether you want to directly learn from pixels to minimize the integration burden, or entirely rewrite your engine to make it more “reinforcement learning-friendly”, this presentation is packed with practical tips to help you reach your goal without (too many) tears.

For more details on these and all other announced talks head over to the online GDC 2019 Session Scheduler, where you can plan out your week at the show.

Bring your team to GDC! Register a group of 10 or more and save 10 percent on conference passes. Learn more here.​

For more details on GDC 2019 visit the show’s official website, or subscribe to regular updates via FacebookTwitter, or RSS.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent company Informa

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The Weekender: Get Sheeped Edition

It’s bee a varied, albeit low-key week this week. We decided to check in with Fortnite, as we haven’t talked about it in a while, and we’ve updated our guide to staying competitive on mobile. We also updated a few of our guides, as well as review some games we missed out on.

We’re on track with reviews of newer titles now though, with several already in the pipeline for the day of release.

Meanwhile, in mobile gaming…

Out Now

Sheeping Around (iOS Universal) – Full review coming soon!

This one caught our eye – a multiplayer strategy card game (with deck-building, no less) where one person is the Thief and one person is the Shepard – you’re both fighting for ‘control’ over three Sheep. You must play cards that allow for various abilities, such as luring, trapping and so forth. We haven’t had a chance to take for a spin ourselves, but I’ve already got someone working on a review.

Two other games caught our eye, but we won’t write them up fully as we haven’t played them either and there’s no plans for review right now. Bit ballers (iOS) looks like a Kairosoft game about basketball, except not made by Kairosoft, and Lootbox RPG (iOS) is a cheap and cheerful dungeon crawler devoid of any kind of online functionality – buy once, play forever. Or at least, until you get bored. Maybe we will review this one after all.

Also, we mustn’t forget the global launch of NetEase’s UNO. I mean, I was super excited to give this a try myself but then I read TouchArcade’s write up and… yeah. No.

New Pre-Orders

The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (iOS Universal & Android)

Team17 did a pretty good job when they brought sandbox/simulation game The Escapists to mobile back in 2017. Now they’re looking to do the same again with The Escapists 2. It’s due out on January 31st, but you can pre-order now on both the app store (for $6.99) and Google Play via pre-registration. We’ll try and have our review ready as soon as we can.

Sales

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem like there’s anything really worth mentioning this week, although if you spot something do let us know in the comments. If you want a peak behind the curtain, we actually get a lot of our sales info (on iOS at least) from this website, if you want to have a look for yourself. Just make sure you’ve set it to ‘Games’, and then ‘Last 72 (or 24) Hours.

That’s all for this week, enjoy your weekends!

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Blog: The elegance of first-time user experience in The Lab

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The Elegance of First-Time User Experience in Valve’s The Lab

Even almost three years post-release, Valve’s The Lab is still my go-to way of introducing people to virtual reality. Why? It’s polished, and funny, and fun, and there’s a ton of very different content to muck around in. But what makes it such an ideal gateway drug for room-scale VR is the total elegance of its first-time user experience.

In the last year, VR games have, by and large, improved a lot at getting players fluent at their own controls and mechanics. Beat Saber is the phenomenon it is in part because it’s so easy to pick up the controllers and get cube-chopping. Google has shown continued improvement in Tilt Brush and Google Earth by expanding their tutorials to slowly introduce players to their full functionalities. With Creed: Rise to Glory, Survios has finally developed an experience as accessible as it is innovative. This trend is great. But I can think of no game that introduces a new player into the full grammar of room-scale VR as quickly and invisibly as 2016’s The Lab.

So how does Valve do it? Let’s take it step-by-step:

 

You’ve Loaded the Game. Now What?

When the The Lab finishes loading, you find yourself in a drab, barren environment. A pair of slightly animated figures. A single wall. A spotlight. A few props. A menu. Subtle ambient sound. This isn’t exciting! This isn’t Half-Life VR! What gives?

Actually, the simplicity of this scene is of great benefit to new users. Just having an HMD covering your eyes can be overwhelming for some new users, but most anyone who hasn’t experienced VR is going to find the realistic parallax a lot to take in. Simple magic is still magic.

So the lack of overwhelming stimulus is a comfort, especially considering how many first-time demos take place in public. Trying to negotiate a bunch of flashing lights and moving parts while still aware that there are people you can’t see looking at you… well, grandpa might find that a little intimidating! This simplicity here ensures that a new user isn’t going to have to worry they’re totally screwing up in front of friends and strangers.

But it’s also very functional. That all the detail of the room is consolidated in one direction means there is no confusion about where you should be looking…

…or what needs doing. But those buttons? They’re too far away to reach without physically walking forward. After a few abortive attempts and just pointing at them, players figure out they need to walk forward. So they walk forward, and just like that room-scale tracking is understood.

Physically walking around a virtual space is not something that anyone was fluent in before room-scale VR. First-timers I’ve put in Beat Saber have about a 50% chance of needing to be told they can take a step. Most everybody I’ve started in Google Earth doesn’t move their body until they decide to lean down to look at a city.

The functionality of the menu ensures that you understand your controllers as ways of interacting directly with the world. There’s no feedback until you physically touch the menu, at which point the controller vibrates and the relevant controller button glows. Soon you’ll learn that the controller has all sorts of abstract functionality too–teleportation, level selection, game-specific functions–but the concept of controllers as hands is introduced first.

 

Okay, You’ve Touched “Play Intro.” Now What?

After selecting “Play Intro,” the iconic little dudes demonstrate what you’re going to be doing: one of them picks up something and sticks his face in it. The motion blur suggests he’s been sucked into the globe. His friend rejoices, affirming this was the correct action to take. The sequence is basically a real-time three-panel comic.

Compare this approach to, say, the level of abstraction that text-based instructions for this would require: “Grab the mysterious orb. Try, then, to eat it. Instead, get sucked into the world it contains.” Not as clear, right? Text-based or verbal instructions would also need to be localized into dozens of languages.

The goal action is then repeated by the other little dude to reinforce the lesson. Then both controllers start vibrating to call your attention to the blinking button that’ll allow you to get over there.

Pressing the “Navigate” button gives you a lot of feedback: valid teleport locations are reinforced with color, a playspace box, an animated arc, an end-point icon, and a small cylinder appearing above the valid-teleport end-point icon.

I’ve seen a lot of new users get disoriented by teleportation, but not ever in this room. It’s always very clear where you are, and also clear that there’s no rush for you to do anything (no music, no larger story, no big moving parts, etc.). 

The level orbs are, to me, one of the most beautiful designs in VR. The cubemap textures contrast starkly with the more cartoony Lab-world, and the perspective-shift within the orb invites curiosity, a curiosity which encourages bringing it closer for a better look–the very action you’re supposed to take to trigger its function. 

This is elegant design. Exactly what you most want to do is exactly what you’re supposed to do.

 

So You’ve Been Transported to a Whole New World! Now What?

When the orb-world loads, you find yourself among photo-real mountains bathing in sunlight, accompanied by the dopiest/cutest robo-dog this side of Aibo. The message here: there are surprises in VR. Good surprises.

You’re then is reminded of the teleport buttons by haptic feedback, tooltips, and blinking, but as you look down to re-read the instructions, right in your line of sight are some sticks and a dog. So maybe you put two and two together…

But if you want to play fetch right this very minute, you’ll have to ignore the instructions. It’s a little subversive to do so, but it also reinforces The Lab’s goal to get you playing the way you want to play. The agency is yours.

And the world will respond. Shake the stick and the dog, like a dog will, runs over to play.

Two minutes ago a first-time user was probably feeling a little out of their depth getting strapped in to the headset, getting cut off from the world by headphones, and feeling the unfamiliar controllers in their hands.

Now they’re playing fetch on some scenic vista with a very eager companion, blissfully unaware that they’ve just gained proficiency in most everything they need to navigate immersive virtual worlds.

Takeaways For Designers

Two deeper VR design philosophies glimpsed in these first minutes are worth a closer look. 

1. An Abundance of Feedback

The Lab never tells you anything once. It repeats what it’s explaining as it’s already repeating it. Most every action you take produces multiple forms of feedback–visual, audio, haptic–and sometimes, as we saw with the teleport, multiple reinforcements of that feedback. 

This is a smart practice not because players are stupid, but because the experience of VR is so personal. I’ve put hundreds of people in VR for the first time and the #1 culprit for discomfort in VR is not simulator sickness but the fear that they are doing something incorrectly. It doesn’t help matters that there are so many different learning styles, and so many different ways we relate to our own bodies. The more information a VR experience gives, and the more ways that information is represented, the quicker a player can move from feeling like a student to being a full participant.

2. Interchangeability

Most people have a “dominant” hand, but, for the most part, the functionality of our actual human hands is consistent. I can grab my coffee with my left or right hand (or both!) and perform the desired action with it without too much of a problem. This mirroring of functionality might not be right for every VR experience, but it’s a good starting-point for designing interaction.

For one, it’s immersive. I don’t have to further map and metaphorize the controllers, and their most fundamental use–physically interacting with the environment–is the same as my hands. That’s also the first use that any player learns in The Lab.

Secondly, it’s accessible. For players who have use of only one hand, only one mini-game, Longbow, is unplayable. Designing this way also avoids the awkward “I can’t see my hands but I need to switch controllers” moment that new users often have difficulty with.

Third–and the subject of a future post about how expertly this is done in The Lab–designing this way means a lot of the UI has to be diegetic. This means that even when you’re spending time navigating menus, you’re interacting with the world of the experience, rather than just a window or screen.

Thanks for nerding out with me!

If there’s interest, I’d love to spend some more time investigating how the rest of The Lab does VR so well, whether in a more linear experience-by-experience fashion or looking more deeply into the underlying design philosophies. Please share with any designers or developers you know who might be interested, and let me know if you’d like to hear about anything in particular!

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Netflix claims Fortnite is now a bigger competitor than HBO

Streaming mogul Netflix claims Fortnite is now a bigger competitor than other media companies like Game of Thrones and True Detective producer HBO.

In a recent earnings report, Netflix said it earns around 10 percent of television screen time in the United States, though it averages less than that on mobile screens. 

Curiously, the company then talked up its ability to earn consumer screen time away from a “very broad set of competitors,” before adding that it also competes with (and loses to) Fortnite more than HBO. 

It’s a notable comparison that highlights not only how incredulously popular Epic’s last-man-standing shooter has become, but also how its impact is now being felt by some of the biggest names outside of the games industry. 

Indeed, it’s easy to see why Netflix considers Fortnite a main rival. The free-to-play title is available on almost every platform imaginable, from consoles and PCs to smartphones, and hit 8.3 million concurrent players before Christmas. 

Last time we checked, Fortnite had over 200 million registered users, and Epic continues to keep the game relevant by introducing new skins, weapons, and locations with the start of each new ‘season.’

Get into the game–literally–with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Get into the game–literally–with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Travis touches down… again! But this time, he finds himself sucked into the legendary gaming console, the Death Drive Mark II. Become Travis and hack-and-slash your way through various game genres, enemies, and bosses. Represent your favorite indie games by rocking their swag in-game, and keep an eye out for other in-game collaborations. Hit the road in an all new adventure with gaming’s most hardcore otaku assassin. Beam Katana in hand, Travis Strikes Again!

Features

Chain exhilarating attacks and unleash an arsenal of skills to squash hordes of bugs.

Engage in tactical battles with the diabolical bosses that lurk within each game.

Prove the urban legend—collect all the mythical Death Balls to make one wish.

Pass a Joy-Con™ controller to a friend for local co-op, and partner up with the one and only Badman.

Hit the road in an adventure mode full of irreverent humor and hilarious hijinks.

If you would like to purchase the game, please visit https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/travis-strikes-again-no-more-heroes-switch.


Blood
Drug Reference
Partial Nudity
Strong Language
Violence