Well, That Was Interesting 5/25/2014

Gone Home screenshot

Hello and welcome to another interesting week, and don’t worry hidden somewhere in here there is bound to be some Oculus Rift and Twitch news.

The Big Four this week tends to focus more on games than the past few weeks of Well That Was Interesting has. This could be because the industry is bracing itself for the inevitable E3 punch to the face in two weeks’ time. But fear not, we’ve still got some time before that happens and everything grinds to a halt with previews and spotlights.

Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm has had an interesting development cycle from a simple Starcraft II mod to its own full-blown game, worthy of the Blizzard logo. With a huge – and we mean huge – patch update that dropped on Thursday afternoon forcing everyone in the alpha to re-install the game, we felt it would be good to highlight more this game. Ben Kuchera, of Polygon, has a great piece discussing the development of Blizzard DOTA and its eventual change into a full stand-alone game. Blizzard has done a good job moving their company design philosophy towards more accessible but hard to master games and Heroes of the Storm is the embodiment of that mindset.

Moving on to Drew Toal’s retrospective look back at last year’s sensational Gone Home, the surprisingly scary return to a childhood home of one teenage girl. Drew discusses how well the game plays into our preconceived notions of what is scary and elements of horror, and how well the game plays off those notions. Your mind fills in the empty gaps of the story and house to create something that at least one of us here at Continue Play couldn’t attempt to play unless the lights were on.

This year also marked the retirement of Adam Sessler from the videogame world, and on Friday he wrote a guest editorial piece about his 16 years in the gaming world. Maybe some of you haven’t heard of Adam, but he was a very public voice for the advancement of game journalism and a proponent of games as an art form. He was an outspoken critic of sexism and stereotypes in games and used his very public forums to help draw attention in the community to some serious problems.

Finally we come to a bit of serious news that has some implications on the gaming world without directly involving games, Emma Woollacott of Forbes reports on Microsoft’s protection of customer data from the FBI. This is all part of the larger narrative of net neutrality that will impact everything in the modern digital society, and Microsoft is attempting to stand on the right side of this issue – for the moment.

Both The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are multimedia machines that incorporate numerous applications and online functions to make themselves more appealing. PlayStation 3 was famous for being the most-used Netflix device in the world, and Xbox One has banked its future on digital media as well as games. Both systems are also part of the growing digital download movement that is an inevitable turn for media ownership. Should net neutrality become compromised, both systems stand to lose valuable digital downloads and access to streaming services and applications due to potential increased cost for internet bandwidth. We tend to get wrapped up in the gaming bubble but we have to understand that the net neutrality issue is a thing, and it could change any online gaming experience. Warcraft? Call of Duty? Anything really, it’s just something interesting to think about.

Its something to think about…

Anyways, as always here’s to another good week. Cheers.

Big Four

Blizzard set out to make a Starcraft Mod, and instead reinvented gaming’s most popular genre

Heroes_Of_The_Storm_assassins_01 “The team at Blizzard was exhausted. StarCraft 2 had just shipped on July 27, 2010, and they barely had time to take a breath before someone at the studio was asking what they planned to show at the next BlizzCon, Blizzard’s fan-based convention.

“And we said ‘Wow guys, we just shipped a game. We’re not showing anything at BlizzCon.'” Blizzard’s Dustin Browder told Polygon. “And they said, ‘Look these guys are gonna pay a bunch of money, and they’re gonna come see our games. What are you showing at BlizzCon?'”

There had to be something new for the fans, who didn’t really care that a game had just shipped. They paid good money to be entertained at the show, so something had to be done. It turns out this was the first step to the creation of Blizzard’s newest game, a title that would try to rethink a formula made monstrously popular by games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends.

And it all happened because they were tired, and had to come up with something that could be made quickly.”

Gone Home’s barren mansion doesn’t need monsters to unnerve you

Gone_Home_Living_Room_01“There’s a universal human fear of big, empty houses that feels almost primordial; something hardwired into our genetic code that tickles our fight-or-flight mechanism. Speaking generally, if you’re walking through the front door shouting “Hello?” and the only answer is your own voice echoing through the cavernous halls, it’s time to either pull out your Pope-blessed shiv or run for the hills. I’m not talking about haunted houses per se. I’m talking about emptiness. At least the Overlook Hotel had someone around, even if that someone was the enraged and restless souls of a defiled Native American burial ground. Still, there’s something to react to, something to mark your relative position in space-time. An empty house that has been abandoned, even by the ghosts? That’s truly unsettling.

“Daddy. Daddy. Find us.”

As Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs begins, you hear the disembodied voice of a child—yours, presumably—begging you to come to his rescue. You appear to be in a giant Victorian home, complete with metal cages surrounding the beds (for some harmless reason, surely!), a surprisingly large quantity of ceremonial pig masks, and a Transylvanian museum’s worth of troubling artwork lining the walls. The game doesn’t give you much more to go on, and soon enough you’re off with your trusty untrustworthy lantern to explore every dark, creepy corner of Satan’s beach chalet.”

Memories of my 16-year career in Video Games

Adam_Sessler_02“I’m 11 years old, and I’ve just discovered personal agency. Rather than going straight home from school, I can spend some time on my own without alarming the parental bodies. (I recently learned at a Mother’s Day brunch that they were never that concerned about my whereabouts. Parenting was different in the early 80s.) By “on my own,” I mean hanging out in the four-cabinet arcade at the Golden Gate Lanes bowling alley in El Cerrito, just a few blocks from my house, waiting to play Ghosts N’ Goblins.

I loved that game. It looked like nothing else out there; its depiction of fantasy had no bearing on Tolkien, Elfquest, Piers Anthony or any other fantasy authors whose books never matched the drama of their covers. It was illogical but so particular in its design that I couldn’t wait to see what the next level would bring because there was no way to guess without advancing on your own or, in my case, watching much bigger people accomplish that feat. Over time, I drummed up the courage to play it myself, apprehensive about the protocols of placing my quarter on the headboard of the arcade cabinet to mark my turn because, well… all quarters look the same.

I sucked at Ghosts N’ Goblins. Couldn’t get past the first level. Once the jawa guys on the broomsticks came at me, I panicked and lost the essential and sadistic timing the game required. But that didn’t stop me. I figured out how to sheepishly ask for car rides to the Berkeley BART station from my friend’s parents after school, pocketing the 40 cents for the child’s bus fare and saving it up for a Friday session on the game that lasted about 10 minutes, never clearing the first level but desperate to see what came next. This worked until my parental bodies talked to my friends’ parental bodies, and suddenly, I had to account for tens of dollars’ worth of change that I had absconded with. Apparently, hanging out at a Bowling Alley whose halcyon days had long past, rendering it more suitable for Bukowski than a scrawny kid, wasn’t an issue, but pre-adolescent embezzling was.”

Microsoft Stands Up To FBI Over Customer Data

Microsoft_Xbox_One“Eager to promote its privacy credentials, Microsoft has revealed that it’s successfully seen off the FBI in court over a request for customer information.

Documents released this week show that the company received a National Security Letter (NSL) last year asking for “several categories of information” relating to a single user account for one of its enterprise customers. As an NSL, the application is subject to a gagging order, meaning that Microsoft wasn’t able to reveal its existence to the customer – the focus of its complaint.

Microsoft has strong policies on guarding customer data, winning it top marks in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Who Has Your Back report last week. “EFF believes that National Security Letters (NSLs) – secretive FBI orders for user data accompanied by a gag provision – are a violation of the Constitution,” says the EFF. “We think it is vital that companies are as forthcoming as legally allowable about these national security requests to help shed light on government abuses of contested surveillance powers.”

Eye Candy

Christ Odd plays Dark Souls Blind

Always Sometimes Monsters Trailer

Because I Play A Rogue

Game one of a great series between The Alliance and Natus Vincere

Extra Study Material

It’s a lot of Polygon, Kotaku and AV Club articles here this week, but hey – when they’re interesting they’re interesting. Enjoy

Colin Campbell’s Civilization: Beyond Earth piece almost made the Big Four, but its an honorable mention. Civilization: Beyond Earth takes grand strategy to the stars”

Blizzard been dealing with the perceived notion that their games are going too casual for quite some time and Ben Kuchera discusses how Blizzard has handled this problem in the past. “Blizzard explains why Heroes of the Storm isn’t Dota for babies”

Matt Gerardi interviews his fellow colleague on his mastering of The Binding of Isaac and how it has probably ruined the game for him. “When mastering a game makes it less fun”

Want to know what all this Oculus Rift and ZeniMax hoopla is about? Check out Luke Plunkett’s full listing of the highlights of gaming drama. “Here’s ZeniMax’s Specific Beef (Well, Beefs) With Oculus Rift”

I know everyone is worried about protecting the content generators should YouTube buy Twitch, but Jeff Bercovici at Forbes is more worried about the “Cleavage Cams.” “Will YouTube Crack Down On Twitch’s Beloved Cleavage Cams?”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/05/20/will-youtube-crack-down-on-twitchs-beloved-cleavage-cams/

Brian Kale
With a firm belief that the day doesn't start without a firm cup of coffee, Brian has been writing almost as long as he has been gaming. Based out of Brooklyn where he spends his days discussing the rise of robotic singularity and the modern RPG revival.
Brian Kale

@brianwkale

Helping humans help their robot help humans. Writer, Futurist, and Internet hack - not in that order. x.ai
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