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Tiled 1.3 Released

Tiled, the open source map editor, the open source map editor just released version 1.3, the first major release in almost a year.  Details of the 1.3 release from the release notes:

Scripted Extensions

The biggest change in this release is the introduction of the scripting API, which allows you to extend the functionality of Tiled with JavaScript. Scripts can implement custom actions, custom editing tools and add support for additional map or tileset formats.

Almost everything that can be modified through the UI can be changed through a script as well. Scripts can also connect to certain events to automate actions, for example on loading or saving an asset. Any changes made by scripts automatically create appropriate undo commands, which can be grouped together using the Asset.macro function.

Scripts can be grouped in folders to make it easier to share them with others, for example by cloning a git repository into the extensions folder. Tiled automatically reloads the scripts when it detects a change to any loaded script file.

Issues View

A new “Issues” view was added, where reported warnings and errors are displayed persistently and can be searched. Many of the issues reported here can also be double-clicked to jump to the relevant location for fixing the issue. The error and warning counts are displayed on the status bar to make sure they don’t go unnoticed.

While Tiled may encounter many issues of itself, for example when AutoMapping or exporting to certain formats, issues can also be reported through the scripting API. This could be used to add sanity checks to make sure your map won’t trigger an error in your game.

Configurable Keyboard Shortcuts

The keyboard shortcuts of most actions can now be changed from the new Keyboard tab in the Preferences. Shortcut schemes can be imported and exported and potential conflicts are marked in red.

New Update Notifications

Tiled now features a native up-to-date check, which displays an unobtrusive notification in the status bar whenever it detects that a newer version is available. This replaces the previously used 3rd-party solutions Sparkle and WinSparkle. For those who don’t want it, it can be turned off in the Preferences, in which case you can still manually check for a new version by opening the “About Tiled” dialog.

The new system does not automatically download & install the new package. For automatic updates, I recommend installing Tiled through the itch.io app.

Be sure to check the full release notes for an in-depth change log.  You can learn more about this release in the video below.  Additionally we have done a complete tutorial series that will get you up and running with Tiled.

Art GameDev News Design


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Dota 2 Update – November 15th, 2019

* Fixed an issue that allowed players to have more available reports than intended. This also had the unintended side effect of some people getting low priority more easily than intended. We have adjusted some players low priority penalties and behavior scores.
* Removed “Intentional Feeding” and “Ability Abuse” report types
* Added “Disruptive Gameplay” report type – for reporting players who ability abuse, intentional feed, go AFK, or similar.
* Added “Cheating or MMR Abuse” report type – for reporting players who are manipulating matchmaking, scripting, hacking or similar.
* Fixed issue that was preventing people from reporting players they had avoided and vice versa
* Added Communication reports to Conduct Summary UI
* Users are now required to choose only one report category when submitting a report
* Enemy Communication reports will no longer be accepted for enemies who did not communicate via all chat
* Ally Communication reports will no longer be accepted if the ally did not use any form of communication during the game.
* Enemies can now be reported for “Cheating or MMR Abuse”. This report will be used in our existing boosting and cheating detection algorithms.
* Updated behavior score adjustments for each report type

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Project xCloud preview sees 50 more games, hits Windows 10 in 2020

Project xCloud is bolstering its library ahead of its eventual launch by increasing its current preview library of 4 games to more than 50 titles, while also detailing how the service will evolve moving into 2020.

Games like Borderlands, Hellblade, Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, and many others are joining Gears 5, Halo 5 Guardians, Sea of Thieves, and Killer Instinct as titles playable for those in the xCloud Preview.

Looking into 2020, the Project xCloud Preview is slated to launch for players in Canada, India, Japan, and Western Europe and Xbox plans to bring Project xCloud to a number of other platforms next year as well.

Windows 10 is, understandably, the first one mentioned and only one explicitly confirmed right now, but Xbox says that its “collaborating with a broad set of partners” to bring the service to other devices down the line.

Support for the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 wireless controller, along with support for Razer gamepads, is slated for 2020 as well and Xbox plans to bring other features, like the ability to stream games from their own personal Xbox consoles, to the service that same year.

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Video: Inside Far Cry Primal’s character pipeline and customization tech

In this 2017 GDC talk, Ubisoft’s Julien Lalleve and Kieran O’Sullivan describe how they moved from their 3DS Max-based pipeline, to a cross-software pipeline using Python and ShaderFX to create the character pipeline for Far Cry Primal.

The pair also revealed how they built Wolfskin, a deep character customization system that works across the pipeline in the modeling software and the game engine. By splitting up data efficiently and removing complex setup from the daily workflow, they show how they greatly increased productivity, integration and iteration time.

It’s a fascinating talk rich in technical details, one you can now watch completely free via 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

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Unity And Oculus Team Up on VR Course–John Carmack Leaves Oculus

Two completely unrelated stories (beyond the Oculus commonality) in one today.  First, Unity and Oculus have teamed up to launch an 11 part, 20+ hour course on all aspects of creating a VR game using the Unity game engine with the Oculus Rift SDK and hardware.

Details from the Unity blog:

We’ve partnered with Oculus, to launch an extensive intermediate level course guiding you through all aspects of building a virtual reality (VR) game. As the VR industry continues to grow and mature, developers are asking more questions about making the switch to VR, and developers who already work in VR want to improve their skills. That’s why we teamed up with the experts at Oculus to build this comprehensive VR course, “Design, Develop, and Deploy for VR.

In more than 20 hours of hands-on course content, you’ll learn about programming, user experience (UX) considerations for VR, optimization, launching your game and more. Twelve experts from Oculus and Unity give you in-depth lessons to help you build your own vertical slice (think, level of a game) of an escape room game. Plus, after you complete the course, you can submit your vertical slice for feedback from Oculus.

Even though this course is centered around creating a game, the principles and learnings apply to almost any type of VR content, whether you’re building practical business applications or immersive experiences as art or entertainment. You’ll find this course useful even if your interests go beyond making a game. 

The course is hosted on the Unity Learn platform.  You can learn more about Unity learn here.

In additional Oculus news, John Carmack (of id fame) has announced he is stepping down as CIO of Oculus.  His announcement came via Facebook post, excerpt below:

Starting this week, I’m moving to a “Consulting CTO” position with Oculus.

I will still have a voice in the development work, but it will only be consuming a modest slice of my time.

As for what I am going to be doing with the rest of my time: When I think back over everything I have done across games, aerospace, and VR, I have always felt that I had at least a vague “line of sight” to the solutions, even if they were unconventional or unproven. I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn’t in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old.

I’m going to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Thankfully John is leaving Facebook before working on artificial intelligence!  You can learn more about both announcements in the video below.

GameDev News


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Net game sales up 117% at THQ Nordic parent Embracer Group

Embracer Group, the entity previously known as THQ Nordic AB and parent of the publisher THQ Nordic, saw net sales for its game group (which includes THQ Nordic, Deep Silver, and Coffee Stain) jump 117 percent to SEK 816 million (~$84.2 million) for the quarter ending September 30.

The Group cites the strong release of the THQ Nordic-published racing game Wreckfest as one of the driving forces behind that sizeable jump, alongside continued performance from past releases.

As a whole, Embracer Group’s consolated net sales fell 1 percent year-over-year to SEK 1.26 billion (~$130 million). Operational earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) increased to SEK 241 million (~$24.9 million), a 133 percent growth from the same period last year.

Alongside Wreckfest’s success, Embracer Group credits its increase in profitability to the Metro franchise’s back catalog success, an increased share of digital sales, and an increased share of sales from its own IP.   

Embracer Group has a total of 86 games in its development pipelines, including two triple-A titles due out next fiscal year and 49 games that have yet to be announced. As part of that, the group notes its development spending is up 47 percent this quarter to SEK 343 million (~$35.4 million).

Continuing the trend it started as THQ Nordic AB, Embracer Group acquired five game companies this quarter including Milestone, Remnant: From the Ashes dev Gunfire Games, Goodbye Kansas Game Invest, Game Outlet Europe, and KSM. However, the group notes in its reporting that its success doesn’t hinge on new acquisitions. Instead, it says such deals serve to accelerate Embracer’s growth.

“Our acquisition strategy is to add publishers, studios and IP’s to accelerate our growth and achieve further diversification, provided we find the right companies that share our values and ambitions, and of course that the terms are reasonable,” explains CEO and founder Lars Wingefors. “We acquire businesses to make them more valuable by enabling them to achieve their best work through developing more and better games, growing faster, becoming more profitable and generating more cash flow.”

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Don’t Miss: The Binding of Isaac postmortem

How did a game destined for failure become a cult smash? In an article originally written for Game Developer magazine, Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy) discusses how he added religion to The Legend of Zelda, mixed it with a roguelike, and came out with a surprise hit.

On paper, there is simply no reason for a game like The Binding of Isaac to have become as huge as it has. It makes no sense — and this is coming from the person who believed in it the most. I knew Isaac was special, but if you asked me to bet on whether Isaac would sell over one million copies in less than a year, I would have bet against it.

You see, The Binding of Isaac was made to clash against mainstream games — it was designed to be a niche hit at best. I had hoped it would gain some minor cult status in small circles, kind of like a midnight movie from the 1970s. From any mainstream marketing perspective, I designed Isaac to fail — and that was my goal from the start.

When I started working on The Binding of Isaac, I was still haunted by the end of Super Meat Boy‘s development, and the hoops we had to jump through to get there. I wouldn’t say Super Meat Boy was “selling out,” but it was the closest I was going to come to it when it came to playing by the rules to make sure that we could sell the game that consumed two years of our lives (and all of our money).

After SMB, I no longer had those worries — I could afford to take a bigger risk and fail, if I felt like failing. I wanted to make something risky and exciting now that the financial aspects of that risk were gone. And I wanted to really push my limits to get back to where I had come from — a place where there were no boundaries, where I could create anything without worrying about making a profit.

The Binding of Isaac started in a weeklong game jam. Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy co-developer) was taking a vacation, so I decided to do the game jam with Florian Himsl, who programmed a few of my previous Flash games (Triachnid, Coil, and Cunt). Florian is the kind of guy who is up for anything; he wasn’t worried about his reputation, and was basically down with whatever I wanted to do in terms of content. This was good, because I had two clear goals when I started designing Isaac: I wanted to make a roguelike game using the Legend of Zelda dungeon structure, and I wanted to make a game about my relationship with religion.

Both goals were challenging but very fun to design, and after seven days we had something that was turning into a game. It seemed too good to pass up, so we continued working on it in Flash (using ActionScript 2). At this point in the process, I wasn’t thinking about how we were going to sell this game (or if we were going to be able to sell the game at all!); it was just a challenge we both wanted to finish.

We finished The Binding of Isaac after about three months of part-time development. We released it on Steam, and it was selling okay; for the first few weeks, the game was averaging about 100-200 copies a day, eventually stabilizing at about 150 a day after a few months. By this point, the game had already exceeded my expectations, but five months after release something very odd happened. Our daily average started to climb. 200 copies per day turned into 500 copies, then 1,000 copies, and by the seven-month mark Isaac was averaging sales of more than 1,500 copies a day and climbing. I couldn’t explain it — we hadn’t put the game on sale or anything, so I was clueless as to why sales were continuing to grow.

Then I checked out YouTube, and I noticed that fans of the game were uploading Let’s Play videos constantly — over 100 videos every day, each getting tons of traffic. Isaac had found its fanbase, and that base was growing larger and larger. Not bad for a game that was meant to fail!

1. Roguelike Design

The roguelike formula is an amazing design plan that isn’t used much, mostly because its traditional designs rely on alienatingly complicated user interfaces. Once you crack the roguelike formula, however, it becomes an increasingly beautiful, deep, and everlasting design that allows you to generate a seemingly dynamic experience for players, so that each time they play your game they’re getting a totally new adventure.

I wanted to combine the roguelike formula with some kind of real-time experience, like Spelunky, but I also wanted to experiment more with the traditional role-playing game aspect of roguelike games Crawl and Diablo. Fortunately, using the basic Legend of Zelda dungeon structure as the game’s skeleton made it easy to rework almost all the elements of a traditional roguelike formula (procedurally generated dungeons, permadeath, and so on) into a real-time dungeon crawler format. Almost every aspect of the game seemed to fall perfectly into place with little effort.

Let’s start by looking at the Legend of Zelda dungeon and resource structure — it’s simple, and really solid. Keys, bombs, coins, and hearts are dropped in various rooms in the dungeon, and the player needs to collect and use these resources to progress through each level. In Isaac, these elements were randomly distributed and not required to progress, but I included them to add structure to the experience.

I also pulled a lot from Zelda’s “leveling structure,” where each dungeon would yield an item as well as a container heart to level up the character and give the player a sense of growth; in Isaac, each level contains at least one item, and the player can get one stat-raising item by beating the boss. These items are random, but still designed in a way that made it so your character would have some kind of physical growth as you progress through the game.

I approached the roguelike design from many different directions with Isaac, but at its core, what made Isaac different than most roguelike games (well, aside from its visuals) was how I dealt with the difficulty curve. Instead of using traditional difficulty settings, I simply made the game adjust to players as they played, adding increasingly difficult content to the game as they progressed. This made Isaac feel longer, richer, and gave it the appearance of a story that writes itself. Using this design also allowed me to reward the player for playing and playing well, with more items that would help aid in their adventures and keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.

Once the player finally overcomes Mom, they usually assume the game is over, but instead get a new final chapter, six new bosses, a new final boss, and new items that shuffle into the mix. When the player beats the final chapter, they unlock new playable characters and items, and when they beat the chapter with each new character, they’ll unlock even more content that makes the game even deeper still.

With Isaac, my goal was to create “magic.” I wanted players to feel like the game was endless and alive, that the game had a mind of its own and was writing itself as they played. I remember the original Zelda having this feeling of magic and mystery. You weren’t sure what things did until you experimented with them, and you had to brainstorm with your friends and put all your findings together in order to progress. I felt like since I was referencing Zelda so much in Isaac’s core design, I should also complement it with the feeling of mystery I felt it had back in the day.

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Video: How Techland built Dying Light’s remarkable parkour system

In this 2018 GDC session, Techland’s Bartosz Kulon shares the colorful story of how movement, running, and climbing was implemented in Dying Light.

Kulon peppered his talk with practical examples of problems he encountered and how Techland wound up solving them. It was a great introduction to the art of creating a first-person game with parkour-like movement, as well as an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the design of Dying Light.

If you didn’t have a chance to catch it live, good news: Kulon’s GDC 2018 talk is now free to watch over 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

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Tencent’s online game revenue surpasses $4 billion in Q3

Tencent’s online game revenue is up 11 percent year-over-year for the quarter ending [September 30], coming in at RMB 28.6 billion or just over $4 billion for the three-month period.

The Chinese company shared performance for its video game dealings alongside other departments in its latest financial report, noting that smartphone games, as well as advertising and commercial payment services, helped drive a 21 percent year-over-year increase in revenue for the company as a whole.

Zeroing in on Tencent’s game business, mobile games like Honour of Kings, PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, and the China-only PUBG-like Peacekeeper Elite were called out as games with a strong showing this quarter.

Riot Games’ Teamfight Tactics was also called out for “establishing global leadership in the emerging auto chess genre” alongside those notable mobile games, though as a whole PC game revenue decreased on both a yearly and quarterly basis despite gains made by League of Legends in China.

Smartphone games alone saw a 25 percent increase in revenue, coming in at RMB 24.3 billion (~$3.5 billion) for the quarter, driven by “robust performance of key domestic titles and increasing contributions from overseas.” As mentioned before, revenue from PC client games decreased 7 percent year-on-year (and 2 percent from Q2) to RMB 11.5 billion (~$1.6 billion). However, Tencent attributes the bulk of this drop to high revenue last year driven by an in-game anniversary event.

Tencent as a whole reported revenue of RMB 97.2 billion (~$13.8 billion), up 21 percent year-over-year, and non-IFRS operating profit of RMB 28.5 billion (~$4 billion), up 27 percent year-over-year.