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Blizzard is making StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty free-to-play

Today Blizzard Entertainment announced that it will be making its real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty freely available to download and play on November 14th 

This has the potential to rejuvenate the StarCraft II community, especially those who still play the game’s multiplayer component, as anyone who downloads Wings of Liberty as a free game will have full access to up-to-date versions of StarCraft II ranked multiplayer and its co-op mode.

It may also help juice sales for Blizzard, since StarCraft II spans three core installments (Wings of LibertyHeart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void) and last year’s Nova Covert Ops mission packs. While Wings of Liberty will go free on the 14th, players will still have to pay to access the other installments. 

However, people who already own Wings of Liberty will be able to download Heart of the Swarm for free for a limited time (between November 8th and December 8th, specifically), and all StarCraft II owners will get a smattering of cosmetic DLC come the 14th.

StarCraft II will be joining its predecessor amid the ranks of games Blizzard offers for free, including the F2P digital card game Hearthstone, which has proven incredibly successful since its debut in 2014.

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Video: A game dev’s guide to staying satisfied and mentally healthy

Game development is not an easy road. Rates of burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns are high.

That’s why, at GDC 2017, psychiatric care professional Dr. Jennifer Hazel and Framed game dev Joshua Boggs  explored the issue and offered some tips on how to remain well while working in games.

It was a good talk that spoke to the specific traps that the games industry can lure people into, such as crunch, competition and social isolation. The pair talked about how making a game can make you feel terrible, and shared techniques you can use that may help you come out of it afterwards a better person.

Plus, they provided evidence-based, clinically relevant tips about how to be mindful of your own mental health and what you can do if things get tough. If you missed it at GDC this year, don’t miss your chance to now watch their talk for free 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 UBM Americas

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Get a job: Infinity Ward is hiring an experienced AI Engineer

The Gamasutra Job Board is the most diverse, active and established board of its kind for the video game industry!

Here is just one of the many, many positions being advertised right now.

Location: Woodland Hills, California

Infinity Ward is currently seeking a Senior AI Engineer in the Woodland Hills, CA area.  The ideal candidate will have five or more years of experience in a similar role.  This is an opportunity to work on cutting edge AI in the world’s premiere FPS franchise.  We’re looking for someone who comes to the table with new ideas, but has the pragmatism required to ship a video game.

Responsibilities:

  • Work with the AI engineering team to craft best-in-class AI technology for our next AAA title
  • Work closely with the design and content teams to bring new AI characters and behaviors to life
  • Contribute ideas for new AI architectures and technologies
  • Design, plan, and implement performant and optimized AI systems

Requirements:

  • 5+ years of experience in games, military simulation, or real-time AI
  • 1+ shipped titles working as an AI Engineer
  • Have architected (or significantly extended) an AI decision framework
  • Strong design sensibilities and outstanding communication skills
  • Excellent debugging and performance analysis skills
  • A love for competitive FPS play
  • Strong 3D math and algebra skills as they relate to game programming
  • Strong knowledge of C++ programming and practices

Pluses:

  • Use of analytics to guide behavior
  • Networking
  • Single-player AI systems
  • Working in and extending an established code base
  • Experience with animation technology – blend trees, IK, motion matching
  • Experience with C#
  • Previous experience with scripting languages such as Lua, Python

Interested? Apply 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.

Looking for a new job? Get started here. Are you a recruiter looking for talent? Post jobs here.

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Don’t Miss: How Overwatch conveys character through first-person animations

Here’s a fun challenge: How do you convey unique character traits and quirks in a game primarily played from a first-person perspective?

That’s exactly what Blizzard had to figure out while designing its character-packed multiplayer shooter Overwatch. At GDC 2017’s Animation Bootcamp, Blizzard’s own Matthew Boehm took the stage to explain how the Overwatch team ulled it off — and what other devs can learn from the experience.

It was a fun talk that dug into the artistic and technical challenges of expressing personality in first-person animation while staying true to the designer’s intent for gameplay. How would a gunslinger like Overwatch‘s McCree reload a revolver, for example — and how can you do it in 45 frames?

Boehm’s talk was interesting to developers of all stripes, and if you missed it the first time around you can now watch entirely for free over on the official GDC YouTube channel!

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its new 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, GDC Europe, and GDC Next 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 UBM Americas

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Blizzard has its own classic World of Warcraft server in the works

Alongside the announcement of a new World of Warcraft expansion at Blizzcon today, Blizzard Entertainment revealed that it will be launching its own classic World of Warcraft server at some point in the future.

A ‘vanilla’ version of World of Warcraft is something that longtime players of the game have been requesting for years. A classic server would offer those players a way to experience the game as it was in 2004, before expansions and updates permanently altered both the landscape and content of the game itself.

There have been numerous fan attempts to create such a server in the past, many of which have been met with threats of legal action from Blizzard since such running such a project requires, among other things, unauthorized use of Blizzard’s IP and reverse-engineered source code.

One of the more infamous attempts at doing so was the private vanilla server Nostalrius, which shut down in 2016 after Blizzard threatened to take them to court over copyright infringement. At the time, Nostalrius representatives said that over 150,000 actively played on the unofficial classic server.

The latest effort to do so was the fan-project Elysium (which was born out of that shuttered Nostalrius fan server), but that project itself shut down in mid-October following its own internal management complications.

Other online games like RuneScape have already taken to maintaining an official classic server for nostalgic fans. In that case, RuneScape developer Jagex says that maintaining both classic and modern versions of the game is something that helps it meet the desires of its community.

Blizzard has not announced when the server will go live, saying only that it is currently in development.

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The two-man team building Disc Jam as an eSports platform

Games designed as an ongoing service have become the new frontier of development – the proverbial “golden ticket” to drawing long-term success from a single product. The eSports model in particular has gained huge popularity among creators and players in recent years, as titles like League of Legends, Counter-Strike and many more continue to grow their player bases. One of the great things about this model is that it isn’t limited to the AAA market; Rocket League and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are both proof of that. But all of these games had to start with one crucial thing: a solidly designed foundation.

As the first title to come out of fledgling studio High Horse Entertainment, Disc Jam sets itself up with a simple but fun framework and big plans for the future. Conceived as a modern take on the competitive flying disc game in the vein of Windjammers, Disc Jam has players frantically sprinting, sliding and throwing in high-powered, score-based frisbee. But after launching to some success as a PlayStation Plus freebie, the growth of its player base slowed.

That might sound like a death knell for an eSports-focused game – but Disc Jam’s most recent update has added dedicated servers, skill-based matchmaking, crossplay between PC and PS4 and more. We talked with Tim Rapp and Jay Mattis (the two-man team at High Horse) about building a game with eSports in mind, sustaining that model with content, and how they plan to grow their audience further.

“As much as I would like to say we had a marketing strategy targeting a key demographic, it really just came down to Jay and I playing a ton of old Pong-likes and saying to each other: ‘Why aren’t there more simple, PvP-first games like these?’ “

Disc Jam takes a lot of clear inspiration from other games, and the arcade classic Windjammers was the primary influence. While Windjammers never got a sequel, it did maintain a dedicated cult following. Rapp says this was an underserved market that they wanted to appeal to with Disc Jam – despite not having an orchestrated marketing strategy.

“The word ‘underserved’ strikes a chord with me because it’s exactly how I feel as a PvP guy who loves arcade games.” he said. “As much as I would like to say we had a marketing strategy targeting a key demographic, it really just came down to Jay and I playing a ton of old Pong-likes and saying to each other: ‘Why aren’t there more simple, PvP-first games like these?’”

As experienced fans of the genre, they set out to create one of their own using Unreal Engine 4.

“The struggle, of course, is modernizing the experience so that it resonates with today’s gamers while hopefully capturing the excitement of those fast-paced coin-ops that make present-day sports games feel sluggish,” Rapp said.

“Rocket League’s success was encouraging, but not because it’s a self-published indie title. It’s because it’s an online PvP experience.”

Disc Jam was in development before Rocket League came out, but Rapp and Mattis still cite it as an example of how commercially viable a small game with an eSports model could be. “Rocket League went on to conquer the world despite very little pre-launch coverage.” Rapp said. “It was encouraging and even a little validating, but not because it’s a self-published indie title. It’s because it’s an online PvP experience first and foremost.”

This, according to Rapp and Mattis, helped give Disc Jam a better sense of identity: using core competitive gameplay to illustrate why simple teamwork and victory are fun, without the need to grind for levels or items that alter gameplay for some players but not others. “I think a lot of games today still wrestle with that identity crisis.” Rapp said.

Disc Jam may be a simple game at its core, but that doesn’t mean High Horse isn’t planning to build on its foundation. Many eSports-focused titles in recent history, like Overwatch and Street Fighter V, survive and thrive by adding refinements, balances and content over time. This is crucial for Disc Jam as well. “Being a team of two, we always knew that building games-as-a-service would be the best model for developing our IP and technology.” Mattis said. “It enables us to be flexible and shift priorities to better serve our players.”

One of the appealing things about sustainable games is looking forward to their content updates. This is how games like Disc Jam achieve longevity, but it also means that these games are never truly “finished.” Rapp says he doesn’t have a problem with that.

“Very early in my career (I think it was my first game, in fact), my lead told me ‘no game has ever shipped completely finished.’ I remember being disappointed to hear that, but over a decade later, I’ve come to embrace that simple truth.” Rapp said. “With Disc Jam, we have a pretty clear vision of what the game looks like 3, 6, and 12 months from now. We’re focused on new characters, maps, game modes, and more custom content… so that players can expect to see a steady stream of content updates while we continue rolling out new features.”

Disc Jam originally launched as one of the free monthly games available to PlayStation Plus subscribers. Rapp told us about the idea behind temporarily offering their new game for free, and the methods they’re using to gain players and concurrency.

“Player count is the lifeblood of any online game, and we knew that launching into Plus or Games With Gold would solve that problem and put the game in front of people without spending money we didn’t have on a massive marketing campaign,” he said. “Every business decision we made was guided by our main objective: build the largest player base we can. Launching into a subscription service was the best possible scenario given the project’s humble beginnings.”

Mattis also spoke about some of their plans to expand Disc Jam’s influence:

“We’re just starting to get going with some of the promotions we have lined up. We had a Steam free weekend which was amazing because Amazon sponsored the server costs and we saw our concurrency jump in a huge way,” he said. “But going forward, we have a bit of a ‘kitchen sink’ mentality. We’ve been making games for over a decade but this is our first time marketing one, so we have a lot of different strategies to try.”

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Gigantic developer Motiga has been shut down

Gigantic developer Motiga has been shuttered according to reports from multiple employees. 

As reported by Destructoid, the studio was apparently closed by Gigantic publisher Perfect World, which quietly acquired the company in May last year. 

Various Motiga staffers broke the news on social media, but studio CEO and co-founder Chris Chung confirmed the story with a candid statement, though he later admitted he might not have “all the facts.” 

“All of Motiga was acquired by Perfect World last year. Perfect World decided to announce the arrangement as partnership by the directions from corporate for the reason we were not privy to,” he commented.

“Yes, [the closure] was the corporate decision. It was a budgetary decision at the highest level. Perfect World as a public company has a profitability goal and they decided to cut parts of the company that were not profitable. 

“In short, Gigantic was not making enough revenue. Unfortunately, Motiga is not the only Perfect World studio being impacted by the decision.”

Although it’s not exactly clear what went on behind closed doors, it might not come as a huge surprise. Motiga has flirted with layoffs and cutbacks for the best part of two years, often making headlines for those exact reasons

It meant Gigantic had a rocky road to release, and had to be rescued by Perfect World after funds ran dry. While the game finally launched earlier this year, it’s now unclear what the future holds for the free-to-play MOBA.

Update: Gamasutra has received confirmation from Perfect World that significant layoffs have occurred at Motiga, reducing the staff to only a “core team of developers” to support Gigantic. Additionally, the publisher has revealed that it has closed Runic Games’ Seattle office. The full statement can be found below:

“Following the news that Motiga has reduced the staff of its studio, Perfect World Entertainment can confirm that as the publisher of Gigantic, the game will continue to be available on our platforms. A core team of developers remains at Motiga, who will work with us to support the game and its players, including moving full steam ahead with the upcoming November update and future content. We cannot thank everyone enough for their contributions in making Gigantic the outstanding experience it is today.
 
Perfect World Entertainment recently closed the Seattle office of Runic Games as part of the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service. We’re grateful to the team for all of their hard work bringing incredible experiences like TorchlightTorchlight 2 and Hob to life. Runic Games will remain a part of Perfect World Entertainment’s portfolio of studios, and its games will continue to be available to players, as we stay committed to supporting and growing Runic Games’ beloved franchises.
 
The staff reduction at Motiga and the closure of Runic Games Seattle were unrelated. Perfect World Entertainment stands committed to delivering the best massively multiplayer online gameplay experiences to our players.”

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Perfect World shuts down Runic Games studio

Publisher Perfect World has announced the closure of the Seattle-based development studio for Runic Games, something made public the same day it was revealed that it hit Gigantic developer Motiga with severe layoffs.

In a statement received by Gamasutra, Perfect World says that the decision came as a result of “the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service.” Runic’s latest game, the single-player action adventure game Hob, released just over a month ago. Before that release, Runic made a name for itself through the 2009 action RPG Torchlight and its followup Torchlight 2.

The company says that Runic Games will continue to exist as a part of Perfect World, but it is worth noting that the Seattle office that it shut down Runic’s sole location. 

As always, if you or someone you know has been affected by layoffs or a studio closure, you can email Gamasutra to share your story confidentially.

The full statement can be found below: 

“Following the news that Motiga has reduced the staff of its studio, Perfect World Entertainment can confirm that as the publisher of Gigantic, the game will continue to be available on our platforms. A core team of developers remains at Motiga, who will work with us to support the game and its players, including moving full steam ahead with the upcoming November update and future content. We cannot thank everyone enough for their contributions in making Gigantic the outstanding experience it is today.
 
Perfect World Entertainment recently closed the Seattle office of Runic Games as part of the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service. We’re grateful to the team for all of their hard work bringing incredible experiences like Torchlight, Torchlight 2 and Hob to life. Runic Games will remain a part of Perfect World Entertainment’s portfolio of studios, and its games will continue to be available to players, as we stay committed to supporting and growing Runic Games’ beloved franchises.
 
The staff reduction at Motiga and the closure of Runic Games Seattle were unrelated. Perfect World Entertainment stands committed to delivering the best massively multiplayer online gameplay experiences to our players.”

Update: Runic Games has released its own statement through its website, confirming that today marks the last day for the studio and, it seems, for its staff as well.

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Now Available on Steam – Call of Duty: WWII

Call of Duty®: WWII is Now Available on Steam!

Call of Duty® returns to its roots with Call of Duty®: WWII – a breathtaking experience that redefines World War II for a new gaming generation. Land in Normandy on D-Day and battle across Europe through iconic locations in history’s most monumental war. Experience classic Call of Duty combat, the bonds of camaraderie, and the unforgiving nature of war against a global power throwing the world into tyranny.

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Don’t Miss: Forging the creative vision behind For Honor

It’s been barely two years since Ubisoft first announced its fantastical stab-’em-up For Honor in 2015, but the story of how the project got the green light stretches back much longer than that.

At GDC 2017, creative director Jason VandenBerghe took the stage to deliver a passionate presentation about the creative processes that propelled For Honor into production and guided everyone on the team to collaboratively produce a game that is, in his estimation, true to that original vision.

It was a fun talk, in part because of VandenBerghe’s fiery speaking style but mostly because he offered fellow devs a guided tour from the games original conception straight through to its big reveal. In the process he also shared techniques that his team applied to maintain a cohesive vision across all the phases of development.

If you missed out on seeing this talk earlier this year, don’t miss your chance to now watch it for free over on the official GDC YouTube channel!

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its new 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, GDC Europe, and GDC Next 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 UBM Americas