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Nintendo celebrates the launch of Super Mario Odyssey in style with a party in New York

Nintendo celebrates the launch of Super Mario Odyssey in style with a party in New York

Super Mario Odyssey, one of Mario’s biggest adventures yet, is now available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch system. The cap-tivating game follows Mario on a globe-trotting journey through numerous and varied kingdoms with his new hat companion, Cappy.

In this massive sandbox-style game in the spirit of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Mario uses incredible new hat-based abilities like cap throw, cap jump and capture, which define his new adventure and provide a fresh take on the classic Super Mario formula. Using Cappy, Mario can take control of a lot of things, including objects and enemies. Discovering what can be captured and experiencing the surprising results of capturing something is all part of the fun. The game is full of exotic places to explore, hidden secrets to uncover and memorable moments to behold.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mario has been traveling across the country to celebrate the launch of the Super Mario Odyssey game. This real-life odyssey culminated in a powered-up party on the streets of New Donk City … er … New York City on Oct. 26, the night before launch. The celebration in Rockefeller Plaza featured an elaborate dance number set to the tune of the “Jump Up, Super Star!” song from the game. Other memorable moments during the event were visits from the Mario costumed character and actor and singer Jordan Fisher, the chance to play Super Mario Odyssey, fans purchasing the game at midnight at the Nintendo NY store and even an appearance from Nintendo of America President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime.

Super Mario Odyssey is the must-have video game for this holiday season, and this event was the perfect way to kick off Mario’s latest adventure,” said Reggie Fils-Aime. “Video game fans of all kinds will want to dive into this latest Mario adventure as soon as possible.”

Leading up to the big event, Mario started his cross-country odyssey in Los Angeles and took his new decked-out trailer on a nationwide tour. He visited Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia to meet with fans, as well as some scenic locations inspired by the various kingdoms from the game to take memorable photos. (The travelogue of Mario’s adventure can be found on Nintendo of America’s Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr accounts, or by searching for the hashtag #SuperMarioOdyssey.)

Super Mario Odyssey is now available exclusively for Nintendo Switch at a suggested retail price of $59.99. Three game-themed amiibo of Mario, Bowser and Peach in wedding-themed outfits are also available as a set at a suggested retail price of $34.99, or individually at a suggested retail price of $12.99 each. A bundle that comes with the Nintendo Switch system, a download code for the game, Mario-themed red Joy-Con controllers and a special carrying case is also available at a suggested retail price of $379.99. For more information about the Super Mario Odyssey, visit https://supermario.nintendo.com/.

Remember that Nintendo Switch features parental controls that let adults manage the content their children can access. For more information about other features, visit http://www.nintendo.com/switch/.

Game Rated:

Cartoon Violence
Comic Mischief

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Don’t Miss: 7 classic arcade games that can still teach developers lessons today

Many of us have fond memories of the arcade games of our youth. For a lot of us, dropping quarters into favorites like Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Frogger was a formative experience, the basis for a life-long passion for video games.

The industry has grown leaps and bounds in the decades since arcade games dominated it, and those coin-op classics may seem quaint or simplistic in retrospect. But look past their age, and you’ll find games with tight controls, layered mechanics that are easy to grasp but difficult to master, inspired uses of music, and efficient storytelling.

There’s a lot that arcade games can teach developers today. With that in mind, we reached out to some industry luminaries and asked them to name some of their favorites that offer a masterclass in game design fundamentals.

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The 1982 arcade game published by Gottlieb, is a pop culture icon thanks to its memorable visuals, uncomplicated mechanics, and unintelligible profanity. It’s played on a single game board consisting of 28 cubes shaped into a pyramid. Using a single, four-way joystick, you start at the top and work to change the color of each cube by hopping between them. A handful of enemies are introduced gradually into the game to impede your progress. Predicting the enemy’s movements, and making use of escape routes, is necessary to successfully change all of the cubes and progress to the next stage.

“It’s beautiful in its simplicity and how its difficulty ramps with that ruleset,” said Chris Johnston, senior producer at Adult Swim Games. “And, of course, it perfectly imitates player frustration in death with Q*Bert’s trademark ‘@!#?@!’”

Takeaway: One simple concept, polished to perfection, can provide a fun and addictive experience.

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Richard Rouse, creator of the upcoming adventure game The Church in the Darkness, says everyone can learn something from Centipede and its interconnected “gameplay ecology.”

In Atari’s classic shoot-’em-up, every creature in the game interacts in some way with the mushrooms that randomly litter the screen. The centipede bounces off of them. The more mushrooms it hits, the faster it descends toward the player. Shooting the centipede creates more mushrooms. Spiders occasionally eat mushrooms they come into contact with, while fleas leave additional mushrooms in their path. Finally, scorpions poison mushrooms they touch, allowing the centipede to dive-bomb the player.

“This interplay of enemy types with the environment is perfectly balanced, with each element enhancing and changing how the other elements behave,” Rouse said, ”and once the player understands these interactions they can become a much better player.”

Takeaway: Centipede uses the synergy between its enemies and environment to add depth and strategy to its lightning-quick gameplay. 

Capcom’s 1993 side-scroller is a great early example of branching narrative, according to Mike Lee, design director on Smash+Grab at United Front Games. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing games and set in the Mystara campaign setting, it featured four common fantasy class archetypes (cleric, fighter, dwarf, and elf) fighting against iconic D&D monsters. Some of the game’s bosses included a regenerating troll, a beholder, an archlich and, of course, a dragon. Over the course of Tower of Doom’s story, the players made choices on how they wanted to progress. They could choose between Door A or Door B, for example, or they could choose to take a shortcut through the woods rather than following the path.

“Each choice has different story aspects and experiences that make you want to explore the whole storyline, which require you to play the game more than once,” Lee said. 

Takeaway: A branching narrative is a good way to give players agency and increase replay value.

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Contra, the 1987 run-and-gun action game from Konami, is a prime example of how power-ups can be used to fundamentally change how a player moves and attacks. 

The player begins the game with a rifle and unlimited ammunition. There are four other weapons in the game available as power-ups. There’s a machine gun, a laser gun, a fireball gun whose bullets form a corkscrew pattern, and a spread gun that sprays bullets in five directions. If the player sticks with the default rifle, however, they get two additional power-ups: a rapid fire upgrade and an invincibility barrier.

Although it can be tempting to pick up any of these power-ups when they appear, not every gun is ideal in every situation. “If you take the spread gun but need to focus fire on a single point, the game is much harder, as you need to be really good at dodging or evading while you fire at an end boss for what can feel like forever,” explains United Front Games’ Lee. “If you take the laser [which does narrow, single point damage] and the boss sends out large groups of low health enemies, you can quickly be overwhelmed.”

Takeaway: Contra’s power-ups are integral to its gameplay. They force players to strategize by choosing the right weapon for the right scenario.

“Good storytelling is efficient storytelling,” said Supergiant Games’ Greg Kasavin, and the 1987 beat-’em-up Double Dragon is a masterclass in what he calls “narrative punctuality.”

In the game’s opening moments, members of the Black Warriors gang kidnap Marian, the love interest of martial artist Billy Lee. Seconds later, he and his twin brother, Jimmy, are punching and kicking their way through the gang’s turf to get her back. This brief sequence sets up the game’s entire story without uttering a single line of dialogue.

“Some classic arcade games established conflict, characters, and atmosphere in mere seconds, using no words,” Kasavin said. “While this may have been due to a combination of factors, including technical limitations and the format’s requirement for quick play sessions, contemporary game developers still can go through the exercise of considering how to set up context for their games as quickly and richly as possible.”

Takeaway: When creating your game’s narrative, get to the point as quickly as possible.

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Classic arcade games can create an almost trance-like experience for the player through both their gameplay and presentation, according to Supergiant Games’ Kasavin.

One example of this is Gyruss, a shoot-’em-up released by Konami in 1983. The player, represented by a starship, moves in a wide circle around the screen and fires at enemy ships. Enemies move in swirling patterns and can fire back at the player’s ship or destroy it by contacting it. Once all enemies are destroyed, the player moves on to the next level. The game’s scrolling starfield begins at the center of the screen and spreads outward, creating the illusion of flying through space.

Although Gyruss plays similarly to other arcade games like Galaga, Gyruss is notable for its use of music. It uses a fast-paced electronic version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor that continuously plays in the background as you progress through each intergalactic level.

“While it’s common for games to have music that changes from level to level, in Gyruss the music just plays on and on, and the stages transition seamlessly from one to the next,” said Kasavin. “Without the customary gaps, fade-outs, or pauses in the experience, the game’s intensity ratchets up and the player becomes that much more focused. The game feels purer for it.”

Takeaway: Like a shark, Gyruss is always moving forward, using its constantly-playing music and constantly-moving background to create one seamless experience.

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Like Gyruss, Sega’s 1985 rail shooter Space Harrier uses a quasi-3D background and constant movement to create a sense of flow. One of the earliest third-person shooters, it’s set in a surreal sci-fi/fantasy world filled with dragons, cyclopean mammoths, and flying robots. The protagonist flies around the screen and uses a laser cannon to blow up enemies and clear each stage.

“Stages transition seamlessly from one to the next, providing you with only brief moments to catch your breath. It feels like one continuous action-packed journey,” said Kasavin.

The original concept for Space Harrier, however, was very different from what eventually made its way to the arcades. It was supposed to feature a player-controlled fighter jet in a realistic military setting, but the idea was rejected due to hardware limitations. That’s when Sega developer Yu Suzuki stepped in to give the game its psychedelic sci-fi twist. It’s now considered to be one of Suzuki’s best works.

Takeaway: If an idea isn’t working, don’t be afraid to throw it out and try something utterly crazy.

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Konami is working on a live-action Contra movie and TV show

Konami has announced that its classic 1987 run-and-gun Contra is being adapted as both a live-action movie and TV drama.

Expanding into film is one way game companies have been working to broaden the appeal of their properties throughout the years, and Konami’s latest project is no exception. According to a press release, Konami says the project itself represents ways it is striving to use its library of IP in “multifaceted ways” for more than just game development.

The live-action renditions themselves are happening through a partnership with the Chinese video-production company Starlight Film, though both are set to see a worldwide release.

At this point, not much else has been revealed about the project but Konami says more details will be announced at a later date.

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Valve’s big Steam Curator overhaul aims to streamline key distribution

The Steam Curator overhaul first discussed at Unite Europe earlier this year has taken form as the Curator Connect program being launched into closed beta today.

The new program itself comes with a number of changes to the existing curator system across the board, but what game developers might be most interested in is how Curator Connect endeavors to make curators more accessible.

For one, Curator Connect gives devs the ability to search for curators by name, operating system, language, or curator-specified tags. Developers are then given details on each matching curator, including their follower counts and linked social media accounts to verify their identity.

But one of the most beneficial changes introduced through the system is the newfound ability for devs to send game copies to a list of selected curators directly through Steam itself rather than the traditional method of sending keys out via email.

In addition to cutting out some of the legwork, the curation overhaul adds some extra security for developers that might be wary about illegitimate review key requests and Steam keys falling into the hands of key resellers. 

Right now, Valve is opening the program up to a few dozen curators to pull in some early feedback ahead of the full Curator Connect launch at an undetermined day a few weeks from now. More details on the coming changes can be found over on Valve’s blog

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Fire Emblem Warriors is here! Celebrate with a mission and new rewards

Fire Emblem Warriors is here! Celebrate with a mission and new rewards

The Fire Emblem™ Warriors game is now avaialble for the Nintendo Switch and New Nintendo 3DS family of systems!

My Nintendo™ members can get ready by earning 100 Platinum Points by finding the hidden Gleamstones on the official game website.

Plus, members can redeem points for these new Fire Emblem Warriors wallpapers and more rewards for Nintendo smart-device apps. on my.nintendo.com.

Not yet a member of My Nintendo? It’s free to create an account and start earning points. Visit my.nintendo.com to learn more. Additional terms apply.

Game Rated:

Suggestive Themes
Violence

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Get a job: Blizzard Entertainment is hiring a UI 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: Irvine, California

Good user interface is elegant and intuitive; great user interface is a portal into adventure. It enables a player to be wholly engrossed in gameplay and immersed in story. The World of Warcraft user interface team is looking for a UI engineer with the talent to create good UI but with the creativity and passion to make great UI.

So what do we look for in our UI engineers? You must be able to identify and solve challenges within an existing yet constantly evolving code base (the world of Azeroth is no small thing).  We’re also highly collaborative so we need engineers who are comfortable working closely with designers to develop a shared vision and then work to see it through to completion. Being World of Warcraft, it’s also helpful if you’re familiar with our gameplay (or other MMO’s) or perhaps have dabbled in making your own UI mods.

We view user interface design as an art form, and we feel Blizzard is a special place to ply your craft. Here you’ll be in a creative environment designed to encourage your best work, to foster learning and growing as a team focused on translating dreams into reality. We’re on a quest to iterate and shape our UI into the best it’s ever been; until the complex becomes instinctive, and player tools evolve into a natural extension of the gaming experience. So join us – if you understand our excitement and passion for what we do and where we want to take UI, we want to hear from you!  
Responsibilities

  • Work closely with designers and other engineers to establish a shared vision for compelling UI features.
  • Implement functional and elegant UI features from approved concept images and paper designs.
  • Develop back-end functionality to support front-end features.
  • Constantly observe and learn latest programming techniques.

Requirements

  • Fluent in C / C++
  • Fluent in high-level scripting languages such as Lua, Perl, or PHP
  • A minimum of 2 years’ programming experience
  • Able to work with non-programming team members
  • Passion for World of Warcraft

Pluses

  • Experience with developing UI modifications for World of Warcraft
  • Degree in computer science or related field

Blizzard Entertainment is a global company committed to growing our employees along with the business. We offer generous benefits and perks with an eye on providing true work / life balance. We’ve worked hard to foster an intensely collaborative and creative environment, a diverse and inclusive employee culture, and training and opportunity for professional growth. Our people are everything. Our core values are real, and our mission has never changed. We are dedicated to creating the most epic entertainment experiences…ever. Join us!

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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Battlegrounds’ beloved butt-protecting frying pan was an accidental addition

Game developers know better than anyone that some of the most memorable or rewarding parts of a project can come about by complete accident. Turns out, that was exactly the case for the arguably most iconic weapon in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: the bulletproof frying pan.

In a chat with Eurogamer, PUBG creator Brendan Greene shed some light on the origins of the impervious pan. He says that the object itself was meant as a reference to the Japanese movie Battle Royale, but only realized after putting the item in the game that the film featured a pot lid and not a cast iron pan.

Later on, he and lead programmer Marek Krasowski decided to see if they could give the pan the ability to swat grenades out of the air. Greene told Eurogamer they knew it was a feature few players would ever see, but that someone would no doubt get to see the grenade deflect in action and love it. 

After successfully giving the pan collision properties, Greene and Krasowski called it a day, only to wake up the next morning and find out that the grenade swatting pan had somehow snuck into the game’s latest patch. But as an even bigger surprise, the pan itself was bulletproof even while holstered and would protect a player’s keister from gunfire while strapped to their belt. 

“We didn’t realize it would protect against bullets, you know, that kind of stuff,” Greene tells Eurogamer in the video above. “I’ve seen people bat the frying pan and a bullet hits it that was going for their head, and they bat this bullet out of the air. The feeling’s amazing. Stuff like that is truly emergent; something that you can never really plan for.”

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Opinion: The game industry must face up to its gambling problem

Chickens have a way of coming home to roost in the tech industry–and gaming hasn’t been immune to the lawless, “that’s tomorrow’s problem” mentality that leads to one ballooning crisis of irresponsibility after another. Instead of getting out in front of a predictable problem and putting guardrails around it, the industry tends to let things explode before admitting anything is even remotely wrong.

This was on my mind as I saw the latest debates about microtransactions and gambling swirl around. It’s all been discussed by popular gaming YouTubers like Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit, as well as gaming journalists, the ESRB weighed in (with predictable cowardice), and it’s even been brought to the attention of the British government

That last bit should worry the industry. Its failure to self-regulate, to develop wide ranging ethical standards for the practice, will lead inevitably to the imposition of regulations from without. Gaming studios have, for the moment, been glorying in the grey area created by technological novelty, after all. Most people still don’t know or care what a “lootbox” is, much less regard its contents as in any way valuable.

The law agrees, for now. A recent Eurogamer article by Wesley Yin-Poole on gambling-esque microtransactions in FIFA 18 made clear at the start that:

The law says loot boxes are not gambling because the items obtained from them cannot be exchanged for real-life money. Here’s the blurb, from the Gambling Commission:

“Where prizes are successfully restricted for use solely within the game, such in-game features would not be licensable gambling.”

But reality will catch up to us. These in-game practices are, after all, in line with the letter of the law, but not their spirit. And even the former is getting a bit dodgy, as Yin-Poole notes, because a cottage industry has grown up around buying FUT Coins, FIFA 18’s currency. The coins can be acquired by using the in-game auction house to, say, rid yourself of a card/player you don’t like. 

This underground economy is hardly limited to FIFA 18. A recent scandal that was here and gone involved Counterstrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and two gaming YouTubers–Trevor Martin and Thomas Cassell–failing to disclose that they were the owners of CSGOLotto, which they promoted to their often young viewers. It is explicitly advertised as a gambling site. 

As Engadget explained:

The site run by the pair, CSGO Lotto, allowed players to bet gun “skins” from the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that alter the look, but not the function, of weapons. Such skins can essentially be used as gambling chips, since they can exchanged at Valve’s Steam Marketplace for real cash, with Valve taking a 15 percent cut.

So, yes, the line between real currency and in-game items is already quite blurry. From a psychological standpoint, so far as dopamine hits and addictions are concerned, there is no material difference between this sort of behavior and going to a casino. I can’t credit Marin and Cassell with much in the way of honesty, but at least on CSGOLotto they make no bones about what’s happening. The only irony is that its name invokes legal, regulated gambling.

“Even if there were safeguards preventing the exchange of real money, or at least tightly regulating it, it doesn’t address the fundamental issue.”

But I would go a step further and say that even if there were safeguards preventing the exchange of real money, or at least tightly regulating it, it doesn’t address the fundamental issue. When you open a lootbox in, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

You can buy boxes in bulk (like, say, a wad of scratch cards) to increase your odds of getting the thing you want. You commit actual money to this. You feel the frisson of chance gnawing at you. When you get The Thing, be it a swishy lightsaber, a speeder, an exotic pet, or a rare outfit, you feel like you’ve won something tangible. It tickles you so much that you forgot you spent sixty dollars to get it.

The old standby excuse, “you don’t need any of this,” isn’t enough. This is a widespread practice for a reason. It generates money because it works. Simply saying “you don’t have to” is as much a non-sequitur here as it is at a casino. It misses the point. You’re deliberately enticing people, then they get on the treadmill, and it’s damned hard to get off. You’re spending money on a probabilistically uncertain outcome, specifically a reward that you value enough to spend on. It’s as real as winning a hundred bucks through your state, provincial, or national lottery.

While it’s far more ethical to show players what they’re buying and guarantee it to them upon purchase, there’s still questions to be asked about the unlimited spending potential inherent to these sorts of microtransactions as well. I recently wrote about Star Trek Online and found its microtransaction system to be intriguing, but also a bit eyewatering.

A pack of nine starships–one for each of the three factions and three specializations–can go for 90 to 120 dollars. There’s no cap on how much you can buy, no limit to what you can convince yourself you need. Twenty dollars for a replica of the Galaxy-class interior, four dollars for an exotic Tribble, 25 for a Tier 5 ship or 30 for Tier 6 (buy three at once and save twenty dollars! A ninety dollar value, yours for sixty! I could almost hear the Billy Mays voice).

As Jim Sterling recently observed while discussing the 60 USD price point of AAA games, that money now constitutes the cost of admission rather than the purchase of a complete experience. There is a “tall tail” of buying potential available to players now, where 60 dollars becomes 120 or 250 or 500 or even 1,000 over months of play because of everything being put in front of you in an online bazaar. 


Japan’s game developers faced government regulation of in-game gambling after they refused to self-regulate. In 2012, the Consumer Affairs Agency outlawed virtual games of chance. Devs had to remove “complete gacha” systems from their games.

It may not be gambling per se, by even the most futurist of definitions, but it should raise serious ethical questions about what studios are trying to make players do, if this isn’t just a bit of shady hucksterism. Even if what players are buying has no value outside of the game, and exists only as 1s and 0s.

***

We come back to the bugbear of every ethical discussion about the virtual world, then. “It’s not real, so we don’t need rules.” It was a lie when it was about online harassment, and it’s a lie when discussing whether or not these microtransactions are a form of gambling. The terms of socializing are indeed different from that of the physical world, but it involves things that are real enough to the participants. The consequences of words and deeds in virtual worlds have always been real. This is no different.

At the end of his Eurogamer article, Yin-Poole notes that his nephew horrified his family by spending £300 on FIFA coins. He’s 11. A top comment on his article went one better:

I’m a primary school teacher. The incident with your nephew is not an outlier at all. I know of at least a half dozen incidents of similar scale over the past couple of years in our school. One went to €900 and had a very detrimental effect to the family involved.

The world’s governments aren’t tabling legislation yet. But we’re already at a crisis point. This is real. Maybe players don’t, technically, have to buy anything; but the industry needs to do something.
 

Katherine Cross is a Ph.D student in sociology who researches anti-social behavior online, and a gaming critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications.