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Microsoft is Buying MINECRAFT!!!!

Sep 15 2014 02:49 PM | ENZO in Articles

The companies have brokered a massive deal for $2.5 billion.
It didn't take long for rumors to become fact. Microsofthas closed a deal to purchase Mojang, which means Minecraftis moving under the Microsoft umbrella. Expected to close before the end of the year, the deal is worth $2.5 billion.

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Minecraft creator Markus Persson, however, will not be staying along for the ride. He's leaving Mojang for personal reasons.
"As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments," said Persson in a blog post. "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately. Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them. I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you."
Microsoft already confirmed existing versions of Minecraft will continue to be developed and supported. That means Minecraft isn't disappearing from Android, PlayStation, or iOS. It's unclear what Microsoft's longterm plans are for Minecraft, but it's status quo for the time being.
Xboxhead Phil Spencer released a video talking about his relationship with Persson and Mojang alongside the deal's announcement.
The company says Minecraft under Microsoft will soon benefit from "richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the Minecraft community." No timetable has been given for any of this, however.
Microsoft also expects its deal to pay off almost immediately. It anticipates the deal will break-even by the end of fiscal year 2015, which ends on June 30, 2015. That's not very far off.
It'll probably be a while before we learn what Persson is up to next.
"It’s not about the money," he said. "It’s about my sanity."

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A Game About Greiving

Sep 13 2014 05:47 PM | ENZO in Articles

"He worked really hard, he loved his job. On Sundays we would go to the park to feed the ducks. He loved ducks. They always made him smile. It was our place to be together."
When someone close is no longer in your life, it's impossible to know what might trigger the next wave. It might be the sight of a restaurant where you had dinner, it might be throwing away a t-shirt they left behind, it might be hearing a song. Fragments of Him tries to capture these quietly paralyzing moments.
Posted ImageWhen you click on the towel, it disappears. The clearing of objects and possessions after a loss is a very real, very emotional process we hardly give much thought.
In Fragments of Him, players slowly navigate environments plucked from the real-world: an apartment, a restaurant, a park. Some objects can be clicked on, and these objects trigger short narration. It becomes clear this narrator is recovering from a severe psychological trauma, one that's slowly revealed to be the loss of a longtime partner to a fatal car crash.
Fragments of Him started as a game jam project, and you can still play that version on Kongregate. The surprising response to the game jam version encouraged the team to work on an expanded version, set for release this winter sometime. This game jam was part of the internationally-focused Ludum Dare, and the theme was minimalism. Given the Ludum Dare only allows for 72 hours to develop a game, there's something humorous about a theme that's backed by a tiny development time.
"[I] woke up at four-o'clock in the morning, saw the theme for the jam, and it was minimalism," said game and narrative designer Mata Haggis. "[I] went to sleep, woke up a few hours later, and thought 'what kind of person would live in a minimalist house? Why would you have minimalist decoration in your house?'"
Haggis pitched Fragments of Him to a couple of students he'd taught at the My Academy for Digital Entertainment in the Netherlands. These days, he juggles game design and teaching. In a previous life, Haggis worked on big-budget games as a designer, including Burnout Paradise and Aliens vs. Predator. His students are part of SassyBot, a four-person team that's been collaborating on several games.
In constructing a reason for someone to remove a person's possessions, Haggis kept coming back to the end of a relationship.
"That idea of intense pain driving these actions was something that really spoke to me," he said.
The relationship that forms the narrative backbone of Fragments of Him is between two men. One of them dies. While such a relationship remains somewhat unique to games, the story hardly makes a fuss about it.
"I think it emphasizes the universality of these feelings to have that slight difference to a large group of the [playing] audience," said Haggis. "That was really the origin of all that."
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In the last few years, developers have tried to explore ways for games to express new kinds of stories. It's a trend anchored by games like Papers, Please, Journey, and Gone Home, and the approach for each was different. Games have become particularly good at expressing particular kinds of stories, and we often see them repeated over and over again. New stories demand new kinds of gameplay experiences.
"You think of an emotion you want to convey, you think of an experience you want to go through," said Haggis. "Then, you have to try and work out 'what actions would this person want to do in that space?"
Fragments of Him tries to explore the largely invisible process of grieving. In one way or another, we all experience this. When an emotional upheaval occurs, the shock is enormous. Eventually, that wears off, and the business of getting back to your daily life, a life without that person, begins anew.
As someone who's received emotional body blows the last few years, I can tell you it's the hardest part. I wear my father's wedding ring. What I'd figured would be my greatest honor is also a curse. It's a constant reminder. When the people leave us, objects, and the memories we imbue to them, are what remain.
Many games tell stories after the events have occurred. Fragments of Him is near-present, but does not indulge in shocking the viewer with a spectacularly destructive and fatal car crash. Instead, it's focused on the seemingly mundane. But anyone who's picked up the pieces after the loss of someone will tell you the same story: the mundane moments are the ones that, oddly, become the most tragic and heartbreaking.
"At some point in our life, everybody is going to experience the emotion of grief," said Haggis. "If we’re lucky, most of us experience this through a breakup. That’s some sense of grief that we have in a relationship breakup. It’s that taste of what comes when we lose someone really, really important to us forever. One of those things you get with these kinds of moments, this grief, is not necessarily your pain at that exact time which is the problem, it’s the pain that continues always. That sense of a lost future together."
Your actions in Fragments of Him remain simple throughout. Clickable objects are highlighted in yellow, and they eventually fill a meter that triggers the next scene. It's undoubtedly a clunky interface, one made more frustrating when you can't find the one bookshelf that's needed to move forward, but it works.

"At some point in our life, everybody is going to experience the emotion of grief. That sense of a lost future together."

SassyBot and Haggis knew the team was onto something when it had to start bringing tissue boxes to events where they were showing off Fragments of Him in person. It's also where they discovered how different objects would trigger different reactions from people. Though Fragments of Him tells a very specific story, it's one explicitly designed with universal appeal in how it's told.
"One of the parts from the prototype that always seems to get people is when they step into the bathroom, and they take away a towel, and they leave one towel there," said Haggis. "There’s no audio cue for this, there’s nothing recognizing you’ve taken this step, just that tiny moment of going 'oh, that person’s not coming back.' [...] I remember very clearly doing that after a breakup of a relationship once. I think I was coping pretty well until that point. It was such a tiny thing to do. [But then I felt] the enormity of what happened, all those hopes that I had, how things had changed."
The upcoming version of Fragments of Him will, again, focus on loss, but from the perspective of many, exploring how a single life can impact so many others when it's suddenly and unexpectedly extinguished.
"I’m not writing this to be over-the-top dramatic, he said. "I’m not intending this to be this massive tearjerkers. I’m writing this to be a good, honest story about emotions that I’ve felt, that I believe other people feel."
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Batman: Arkham Knight's New Date

Sep 08 2014 02:05 PM | ENZO in Articles

Batman: Arkham Knight's New Date Is June 2

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Rocksteady is being given plenty of time to prepare its farewell.
Batman: Arkham Knightwas supposed to be released this fall, but it's actually coming on June 2, 2015.
That's it. Go on with your day.

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"New" 3DS With Updated CPU

Aug 30 2014 10:14 AM | ENZO in Articles

This October, Nintendo will ship an updated 3DS in Japan called "New 3DS." This tweaked 3DS includes a tiny analog stick on the right, built-in NFC, two additional shoulder buttons, and an improved CPU.
The updated 3DS isn't expected to arrive over here until sometime next year, but the new CPU is already creating some wrinkles. For example, Nintendo announced a port of Xenoblade Chronicles to the 3DS, but it's only for this new 3DS, as it takes advantage of the CPU. It won't run on the 3DS you own right now.
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F*** the Destination, It's About the Journey

Aug 26 2014 04:06 PM | ENZO in Articles

Editor's Note: The following is a lightly edited transcript of a story Iron GalaxyCEO Dave Langtold at a recent recording of The Nerdologue's Your Stories show. The episode was partially curated by yours truly. In Your Stories, folks are asked to share anecdotes from their personal lives based on a theme.
This time, the theme was "fingers crossed." The show was split into two parts, which you can listen to on The Nerdologue's website. At the very end of part two, you can hear me explain what the terrible movie Evil Bong III: The Wrath of Bong has to do with proposing to my wife. Anyone in Chicago can attend future Your Stories shows, and I hope to be curating another one in the near future! And with that, let's head to the Lang Zone...
In my extensive preparations for tonight's talk, which began this morning at 10:00 a.m., I was thinking a lot about hoping for the best, and it rarely, rarely coming through. I thought about much that hurt me throughout my life, and what I've done to combat that.
Posted ImageWhen it was Dave's turn, he announced he was going to stand up for his story. Of course.
Very recently, there's a good example of this

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Gun-toting teachers

Aug 25 2014 01:50 PM | ENZO in Articles

School district sticks to its gun policy

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ARGYLE, Tex. — It’s safe to say that one school district is ready to start the school year with guns blazing.
The Argyle Independent School District is on target to continue its new policy of allowing some teachers to pack heat on campus.
The posted sign on campus shoots straight, when it comes to the relatively new rule. It reads: “Please be aware that the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.” The signs are posted at all campuses within the district.
“I trust that the administrators of this school district will put my kid’s best interest at heart,” parent Lacey Fenoglio said.
Back in January, the district voted in favor of school marshals. Some Argyle teachers will act as the long arm of the law under the state’s Protection of Texas Children Act.
Gun-toting teachers must have and maintain a handgun license; pass a psychological evaluation; and undergo firearms and emergency response training.
Some parents say the district is right on target.
“I think if a tragedy does occur, lives can be saved by guns being in the right hands, and I think the teachers here might be able to stop something like that and life can be saved,” Fenoglio said.
Argyle ISD Superintendent, Dr. Telena Wright tells NewsFix continuous training is required, and some training even took place over summer break. However, the names and number of pistol-packing teachers will not be released for safety reasons.
So, while most North Texas districts are strengthening school security, Argyle ISD isn`t afraid to take aim on the loaded topic.

Courtesy of Fox 8 (North Carolina)

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Double Fine Will Help Publish Gang Beasts

Aug 19 2014 01:27 PM | ENZO in Articles

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If you've been watching Unprofessional Fridays, you know Giant Bomb's love for Gang Beasts, the hilariously weird local multiplayer brawler. Even better? Double Fine is making it part of its "Double Fine Presents" lineup.
With Double Fine Presents, the studio takes smaller games--Mountain, Escape Goat 2--under its wing, and provides various resources to ensure the games make it to the finish line and people are paying attention to them.
Besides showing up at PAX Prime next week, Gang Beasts will launch on Early Access on August 29.

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School Giving Out League of Legends Scholarships

Aug 19 2014 08:46 AM | ENZO in Articles

If there's a sure sign eSports is moving into the mainstream, it's recent news of Illinois private school Robert Morris College (RMU) becoming the first university to offer scholarships for League of Legends.
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The sheer popularity of League of Legends means schools are finally starting to take competitive gaming seriously.
RMU associate athletic director Kurt Melcher has been playing games for years, though it's dropped off. The 45-year-old used to love StarCraft, and one day found himself nostalgically looking up the game.
"I was like 'well, I wonder what ever happened to that game?' I was out of the loop," said Melcher. "I didn’t know there was a StarCraft II! I looked into that, and I saw it was played competitively, collegiately, and professionally. I thought 'Wow, that’s really neat!' That lead me to League of Legends."
Just as Melcher had no idea StarCraft was competitively played by millions in the United States and beyond, he was equally floored by how how many had flocked to League of Legends.
Earlier this year, League of Legends developer Riot Games announced the MOBA has more than 67 million players monthly and 27 million players daily, with at least 7.5 million playing simultaneously during peak periods. Just two years ago, that number was 32 million players monthly, 12 million players daily, and 3 million concurrent players. It's clear League of Legends is only getting bigger.
As Melcher continued his research, he started mulling a seemingly crazy idea: make League of Legends part of RMU's athletics program. League of Legend's team-centric nature helped cement the pitch.
"I told my athletic director, 'I’m gonna bring an idea to you, and I want you to be open minded.'" he said. "She was! [laughs] There’s a little buy-in [with it], but once you explain it, what goes into it, and what it’s like, it has all the same elements as traditional sports do. It fits hand-in-hand."
RMU revealed its scholarship program in June, looking to recruit students for the September school term. Melcher has been overwhelmed with applicants. When the school signed off, it tasked him with building a single team. More than 3,700 people have inquired about the program, resulting in more than 130 applicants. Now, Melcher is putting together 30 varsity players and 30 varsity reserve players.
When someone emails about the scholarship, the school's application fee is waived. During that process, RMU asks for their summoner name, which is what players go by in-game. This allows RMU's League of Legends coach to look up and vet the match rankings and statistics for prospective students.
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At first, Melcher downloaded League of Legends to understand the game, but he's hardly an expert. Before RMU went forward with the scholarship program, it got in touch with Riot Games. The studio was happy to help. RMU was looking for someone within the community to give its program legitimacy, and Riot had just the guy: known recruiter Ferris "AGeNT" Ganzman. Based in Chicago, Ganzman was the perfect fit.
The RMU scholarship itself can cover up to 50% of tuition and 50% of room and board for students. In other words, nearly $20,000. The varsity players can quality for more than the varsity reserve players.
Melcher admitted it's taken some convincing for students in more traditional sports.
"Once you talk to, say, a basketball player, [and] I explain it to them, [the response is] 'yeah, makes sense, if that’s what they like to do, why not have an opportunity?'" he said. "Playing within a team and destroying nexuses is no more valid for an indication than putting a ball into a net or a ball into a goal when you break it down, really. What’s the difference there, academically? It’s doing something that you love and are passionate about and combining that with a rigorous [academic] experience. I think it goes hand-in-hand."
The terminology surrounding competitive games can sometimes cause a reaction, though.

"I told my athletic director, 'I’m gonna bring an idea to you, and I want you to be open minded.'"

"There’s no cardiovascular element to it," he said. "I think we all can agree with that. [laughs] But people call bowling a sport. But there’s a skill involved, right? There’s not, cardiovascularly, a whole lot, but it’s a technique, it’s a skill. Same with League. Golf falls around there. [...] But it’s an eSport. It’s an online sport, but there’s definitely a strategy element, teamwork. All those fall inside of that."
Melcher and Ganzman comprise the eSports department at RMU, but it might expand in the future. League of Legends is hardly the only competitive game around, and Melcher acknowledged that. Right now, the school is building what it's calling an "eSports arena" for students to practice and compete in.
"The League players aren’t going to just be stuffed in a computer lab on only off-hours," he said. " [...] It’s going to be awesome. I feel confident saying it’s going to be the best eSports arena university in the nation. Because it’s probably the only one. [laughs]
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

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Suddenly, Big Budget Games Love Horror Again

Aug 14 2014 02:07 PM | ENZO in Articles

The last person I expected to give video game horror a kick in the ass was Hideo Kojima.
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P.T. opens with a door that you'll enter many times. Eventually, you'll want to stop going inside that damn door.
When it comes to promotion, there is no one quite like Kojima. His success with the Metal Gear series may have chained him to the franchise years longer than he wanted, but it's also given him the freedom to go batshit crazy.
In case you missed it, at Sony's Gamescom press conference, it revealed a playable demo for a new and mysterious game, P.T., which was available to download on the PlayStation Store. Nothing else was said about P.T., but Sony employees on Twitter immediately began prodding players to discover its secrets. Later in the day, we discovered P.T., which stands for Playable Teaser, is viral marketing for Silent Hills, a new entry in Konami's horror franchise from Kojima and genre filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.
In other words, Kojima asked Sony, a platform holder at one of the year's biggest events, to lie on stage, avoiding a huge reveal, in service of a surprise. Kojima asked Konami to let him develop a viral game demo that's purposely obtuse, in the hopes that most players will never, ever see what P.T. is hiding inside.
Game unveilings are so boring and predictable these days. A Game Informer cover here, a CG parade there. Then, we prepare for two years of weekly trailers. (I'm looking at you, Ubisoft.) There's no magic, no spectacle. Even if I have problems with Kojima's recent character and plotting choices, I always anticipate his next PR move, knowing that Kojima is the closest we have to J.J. Abrams: creatives who respect the art of mystery.
(Let me cut some Abrams haters off at the pass, too. We're talking about mystery, not answers, and a dedication to playing with audience expectation. Watch his TED talkabout the "mystery box" for details.)
Kojima didn't even tease his involvement: his name was a surprise. It's unclear how hands-on Kojima will be with this new Silent Hill, given he was distant from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. But if attaching his name means the team is given the resources to give Silent Hill the revival it deserves, that's good enough for me.
Because lemme tell you, P.T. is remarkable. It might consist of walking the same hallway over and over again, but I haven't been this shaken by a game in years. Only my experiments with hastily made Oculus Rift experiments come close. I measure how well a horror game is working by how quickly I begin backing my face away from the screen, as though just a few more inches will save me from whatever is around the corner. With P.T., one sequence involved me walking down the hallway with my arm nearly covering my face. Real cool, bro.
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The Phantom Pain Headed to Steam

Aug 13 2014 02:37 PM | ENZO in Articles

Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain Headed to Steam
UPDATE: It's been confirmed.
More and more console games are also coming to the PC, but some heavy hitters remain elusive. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes will not be among those games, however.
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Psst, check the bottom right corner.
A Metal Gear-related event is happening at Gamescom as I write this, but Konami Europe updated its website a tad early. Oops. We should hopefully have more details on Metal Gear's expansion onto the PC soon.

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