“Mean Streets of Gadgetzan” is the fourth expansion for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Blizzard announced the latest addition to its enormously successful online trading-card game (TCG) at BlizzCon 2016. The expansion adds 132 new cards to the mix, including several legendaries. The theme revolves around a shady corner of the Warcraft universe, with several cards poking fun at gangster themes. You’ll see cards like “Little Friend”, “Second-Rate Bruiser”, and “Small-Time Recruits”. Naturally, there will be a new game board (pictured below) as well.
Saving my favorite DICE Europe 2016 interview for last, here’s my chat with Hilmar Petursson, CEO of CCP Games. Many gamers know CCP for the popular MMORPG EVE Online. More recently, the company has been a pioneer in VR gaming, with titles like Gunjack and EVE: Valkyrie. At a previous DICE talk, Hilmar Petursson spoke about the human brain as a gaming platform. At DICE Europe 2016, he’ll be speaking about how gaming can benefit humanity.
As you can tell from the topics he chooses to speak about, Hilmar Petursson thinks a bit differently from most people in game development and game publishing. This is why chatting with him was so much fun. He has a beautifully creative mind, but he’s also kind of out there. Here’s an excerpt from my conversation with Hilmar Petursson.
I think we’re just beginning. How old would you say computer games are? Let’s say 30-years old. For the greater part of those three decades, the majority of games have been single-player. It’s one person playing against a device, not unlike solitaire. I am personally very interested in when you add a social dimension to it — when people are playing with other people. What we’ve learned through our work on EVE: Online is that once you start playing with other people, you’re part of a society. If you look at society as a computer game — at least the socio-economic aspects of society — it’s a fairly upstart endeavor. Money, debt obligation, and the concept of possession are really virtual phenomenon. They’re social constructs that we’ve trained ourselves to adhere to over thousands of years. They’re upheld mostly through paper, as well as our own understanding of rules and regulations. I believe that with computers, we will be able to elevate and accelerate those concepts quite a bit.
We’ve been inspired by a lot of what we’ve learned though EVE: Online. You could basically call it a society. I wouldn’t call it a country, because that’s a very specific thing, but it has all the expressions of a society. It has its own social economy. People value the things in that world. They have a similar relationship to their possessions in the virtual world as they do in the real world. Even though EVE: Online was one of the first games made like this, in many ways it can be improved upon a lot. It’s the first hint of what can be done with games. And then we see virtual reality and how we can really engage with the rest of the human senses. Then you can buy into the notion that not only do you belong to a virtual world in the abstract, but you can also buy into the notion that you are part of a virtual world in a concrete, physical sense. Even though you aren’t, so many of the body’s sense are engaged that you feel like you are. The illusion takes a step further.
I believe that with advances in both concepts — these vast, massive social worlds and economies — coupled with advances in the visual domain with technologies like virtual reality, we will be able to really bring about a virtual world where we have higher and deeper relations with each other. Physical reality is, in many ways, kind of primitive. We have to implement the atoms of the Earth to create clothing to express our personalities. It’s taking away resources that could be used for something else. Ninety percent of what we buy for our homes is out of them six months later as trash. We have all these very wasteful processes that we’ll be able to implement much more efficiently using technologies in computer games. In many ways, we’re trying to tell this to ourselves in science-fiction, whether it’s The Matrix or other works that discuss the virtualization of social interactions.
Please check out my full talk with Hilmar Petursson when you have a chance. He’s a wonderfully creative person that supports my theory that all Icelanders are at least a little bit crazy (see Guðmundsdóttir, Björk).
It was fun chatting with Jeff Hilbert, founder and CEO of Starting Point. One of the oldest agents and managers in the videogame business (in terms of experience, not chronologically), Jeff Hilbert was also the founder of Digital Development Management (DDM). Think of him as the Ari Gold of videogame agents…but with less tantrums and profanity. At DICE Europe 2016, Jeff Hilbert will be talking about “Realistic Opportunities in AR/VR.” In addition to touching on that subject, he spoke to me about traditional movie and television agents entering the videogame business. My favorite part of the conversation was when he spoke about aspects of Hollywood he’d like to see come to games. Here’s an excerpt from my conversation with Jeff Hilbert.
I’m indifferent to Hollywood talent coming into games, to be honest with you. I don’t really see any individual that makes me care whether they make a game or don’t make a game. I just don’t care.
Now, there are some IPs I’d love to see in gaming. I love the fact that Robotech is being discussed. I think that would be awesome! I love that Marvel, DC, and Tolkien have been coming in. That’s been spectacular! I don’t see Kim Kardashian as an individual because of the way that she’s managed herself. She’s done a brilliant job managing herself as a brand and that’s great to have in gaming.
So, I’m not really into individuals coming in as much as I am into the brands. I love when new brands are introduced into the gaming industry, because they bring in new people that didn’t realize that they love playing games.
Additionally, he mentioned some videogame properties he’d like to see get a second chance in movies and television. He also had some great stories of the attitudes some Hollwood talent had when entering the gaming world.
Kindly check out my full conversation with Jeff Hilbert when you have a moment.
Here’s a chat I had with Henrique Olifiers, the cofounder of Bossa Studios. The company’s Worlds Adrift is one of the most ambitious online worlds ever conceived, combining the broad aspects of MMORPGs and sandbox videogames. Given DICE Europe 2016’s theme of “World Builders,” Henrique Olifiers was a perfect choice for the summit. His DICE Europe 2016 talk is titled, “A New Dawn for Simulated Worlds: the Making of Worlds Adrift.” During out conversation, he spoke about the evolution of online worlds from the earliest MUDs to what we have today. Here’s an excerpt.
As a game designer, I’ve always looked at what could be the perfect online experience. That was never something that was possible because of technology restrictions and game design paradigms that we have to deal with. If you look back at the history of online interactions, ever since the first MUDs — multiuser dungeons — came along, up to today where you have massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, EVE Online, World of Tanks, and so on, there was always this progression curve going upwards in terms of what you can achieve and how you could interact with your friends. All of a sudden, we seemed to have hit a wall in that the same tropes and same design mechanics have been repeated, essentially with a new coat of paint.
Some terms came up, such as “amusement park,” from the players. They feel like the worlds that they’re playing in are on rails and that the experience is very scripted. Which is a shame, because as a big fan of MMOs and online interactions on a large scale, I always expected this to go all the way — into virtual worlds where people are free to do what they want. And so, this is what I mean by a means to an end. For me, it’s about being able to show people that we don’t have to be restricted anymore. There’s technology today that’s available to us and that will allow us to continue that trajectory. This is how I see Worlds Adrift — being part of a puzzle, if you will, and part of the evolution of online interactions.
When you have a chance, please check out my full conversation with Bossa Studios’ Henrique Olifiers by clicking the link below.
It was fun talking to Tanya Forsheit on behalf of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Most of the people I chat with for DICE and DICE Europe interviews are game developers or game publishers. Tanya Forsheit is a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz and the co-chair of the firm’s Privacy & Data Security Group. She is considered one of the leading privacy and data security counselors and litigators in the world. At DICE Europe 2016, she’ll be talking about “Building Communities through Big Data.”
While many people have a fear of data collection, Tanya Forsheit believes that gamers, developers, and publishers should embrace big data. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
The bottom line is that most websites are doing targeted advertising or behavioral advertising based on people’s browsing, including gaming sites. That advertising is based on things like your browser type, IP address, and device information. It’s not a “Big Brother” type of situation that a lot of consumers are afraid of — this idea that somebody out there is watching me all the time. It’s really not like that. This is a machine-automated process. It’s designed to bring people free or low cost services online, using more relevant advertising. And, by the way, even though do-not-track doesn’t work, there are ways to opt out of these programs through self-regulatory organizations like the NAI (Network Advertising Initiative) and the DAA (Digital Advertising Alliance). The funny thing is, if you opt out of targeted advertising then you just end up with a lot of advertising that you don’t want. It’s not an ideal situation, but if people want free or low-cost games or apps then there’s a trade-off. People should look at it as benefit that we could never have imagined having 20 or 30 years ago.
Kindly check out the full interview to get more of her take on big data’s role in videogames, as well as to find out her favorite lawyers from movies and television.
Here’s a chat I had with Clive Downie, chief marketing offer at Unity Technologies. He’ll be speaking at DICE Europe 2016 on “VR and the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences.” In addition to touching on the topics he’ll be discussing at DICE Europe, Clive Downie told me about the three principles that fuel Unity Technologies and the latest on his Pokemon Go adventures. Here’s a clip from the interview.
One of the challenges in creating in a new space with all the dimensions is something called “The Bubblegum Phenomenon.” If you create a VR environment with a table in it, you can bet that someone will look under the table to see if there’s bubblegum there. Developers have to think about what happens when someone does something like that. This isn’t a problem they had when they created 3D environments experienced on a 2D screen.
Another challenge is story. How do you tell a story in a VR or AR space? How do you tell a story when people can look everywhere and people will want to interact with everything? What are the new rules for storytelling?
Then there’s the challenge of, “How much is enough?” You’re immersing people in a space they haven’t been in before. You have to teach them a whole new set of control conventions. You’re bombarding their synapses with new kinds of stimuli. What’s the optimum time session? How do you design with that time session in mind? You want to provide people with a wonderful and delightful new experience, but you want them to keep coming back without making them sick or completely overloading them.
We’re seeing all these challenges associated with a pioneer moment and exploration. It’s really exciting for us to see developers go through that and it’s really exciting for us to help them work through these challenges with our regular updates to Unity.
Be sure to check out my conversation with Clive Downie to learn more about his take on AR and VR, as well as why he’s a big fan of Pidgeotto and Rhyhorn.
Virtual reality (VR) has the potential be as ubiquitous as the television set or smartphone. The technology for these immersive headsets has drastically improved over the last four years, and for the first time, VR is available to the consumer at a price point that does not break the bank. This has…
The following is a virtual reality feature given to RPadTV by author Geoff Blough.
Virtual reality (VR) has the potential be as ubiquitous as the television set or smartphone. The technology for these immersive headsets has drastically improved over the last four years, and for the first time, VR is available to the consumer at a price point that does not break the bank. This has led to an explosion of new virtual reality technology that will open the door for VR to be a part of everyday life.
“People are going to stop having guest bedrooms and start having VR rooms,” said quality assurance analyst for Personify and VR expert Hunter Kent.
Statista, an online statistics website, projects significant growth in the VR industry. Projections are set to see an increase in VR hardware and software sales from $90 million in 2014 to $5.2 billion in 2018. Statista also projects that the VR industry will reach 171 million active users by 2018.
The origin of virtual reality can be traced back to the 1950s with the Sensorama, a cabinet similar to an arcade game. The user would sit down and be surrounded by screens. Video, sound, and even smells would be manipulated within the hood of the machine. Fast forward to 2016, many of the same elements are being used to create a sensory experience. The cabinets have now morphed into headsets that can track movement in a three-dimensional environment.
Though games have been the most common application of virtual reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to what virtual reality can provide. Enterprise applications currently drive most of the profits for VR. With 360-degree cameras, VR can be used to transport a user to famous historical landmarks around the globe. Users can even enjoy a live concert in New York while sitting on a coach in Los Angeles. Wheelchair-bound individuals can now visit places through VR that were impossible in the real world. Additionally, virtual reality now has medical applications. Surgical training has typically been practiced on cadavers, but now a simulator can give a medical student the same experience without access to a cadaver or a real patient.
“I envision the future VR as kind of the way smartphones changed people’s relationship with technology. I think VR/AR (Augmented Reality) will be even quicker to adopt once we hit the critical mass threshold, and will start becoming integrated with many, if not all, areas of people’s lives. There is so much potential in the non-gaming space, that I think we’ll probably see corporate adoption of VR before we see gamers embrace it wholeheartedly,” said Fox Buchele, developer and CEO of Fox Game Studios.
One example of embracing virtual reality in the non-gaming space is TheWave. It’s virtual reality music software that creates an interactive experience for both the performer and the audience. TheWave allows the performer to not only control the music as most DJ software does, but also create light shows that change depending on the frequency, beat, and tone of the music. A performer in TheWave can even take tracker and physically give them to the audience members who are watching the performance in their own virtual reality headsets.
Finn Staber, chief technology officer and co-founder of WaveVR, Inc. said, “We want to avoid ‘gamification’ with TheWave, and allow people to perform in their virtual venue as they would with a musical instrument or DJ interface in a real world venue.”
Gamers are still the target market for virtual reality. Videogames being released specifically for virtual reality are allowing gamers to finally enter the world they could only see on televisions in the past. The Void is a company that is creating a completely new experience. Not only is it creating the world that gamers can interact with a virtual environment, The Void is building real world sets that translate directly to the software. This allows for a completely interactive world that players can feel as well as see.
“This is going to replace laser tag venues,” said Kent.
Job Simulator is a game that not only allows players to interact in a fictional parody of everyday cubicle life, it allows for the player to set up cameras so others can join in the action. This kind of interaction was only dreamed about before virtual reality.
Augmented Reality has the ability to bridge the gap between current technology in smartphones and computers to the world of virtual reality. AR differs from VR as it overlays the real world, instead of creating an immersive world under a headset. Google Glass was an early example of AR technology. Typically, AR is created with glasses that have screens integrated into the design. These devices can provide the user information vital to their day. Google, Microsoft, and Magic Leap are companies currently developing AR technology.
“Imagine what you see in Minority Report, being able to manipulate numerous folders with gestures. What took several monitors now only takes one AR headset,” said Staber.
The most basic virtual reality headset available right now is Google Cardboard, a cardboard box that accepts almost any smartphone, and the Samsung Gear VR which only works with the newer Samsung Galaxy phones. According to economics website The Motley Fool, Google Cardboard has been downloaded from the Google Play store over 10-million times. Samsung recently offered a deal for consumers by giving away free Gear VR headsets to all new pre-orders of the phones. This has allowed Samsung to reach an audience that may not have been excited about the idea of virtual reality in the past.
“I got it for watching movies and TV shows and demoing how far VR tech has come to people who aren’t familiar with it. Whether you have anxiety flying or get motion sick while riding in a car, people are already using Gear VR to deal with these issues. You can zone out on a flight or watch movies, which is what I do,” says Kent.
Recently, two new virtual reality headsets have hit the consumer market. The Oculus Rift was released on March 28 while the HTC Vive went to market on April 5. Both of these headsets require powerful personal computers to work effectively. These headsets provide a completely immersive experience that the smartphone headsets are unable to provide. These headsets have similarities, but differ on how they provide motion tracking.
The Oculus Rift started as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 as a development kit. The campaign earned $2.5 million in order to produce and ship the development kits to backers. Though mostly purchased by software developers, many VR enthusiasts purchased the development kit as a way to preview the technology. In 2014, Oculus was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion. This gave Oculus the capital to push their consumer level Rift to market.
The Rift includes a VR headset with basic head tracking and integrated speakers for sound, a head tracking camera, wireless remote, and an Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Rift is priced as $599 and is available for purchase on the Oculus website with turnaround time of about three months. On May 6, the Rift will be available at Best Buy for retail purchase. This headset has been popular because users do not need to move around the room in order to experience the immersion of VR.
HTC Vive is the major competitor to the Oculus Rift. The Vive also ships with a headset but this headset also has an external camera so the user can see the outside world while wearing the device. The Vive comes with two wireless controllers with tracking capabilities. Also included with the Vive are two tracking sensors that provide full room tracking. This allows the user to move around and manipulate the three-dimensional world created by the software. The HTC Vive is available on their website for $799 with a similar turnaround time as the Rift.
Sony also has plans to release a virtual reality headset for its PlayStation 4. The PlayStation VR, only works with Sony’s platform and will be released in October 2016. The headset bundle comes with the VR headset, two motion controllers, a tracking camera and a game that showcases the abilities of the platform. The bundle will be available in retail store for $499 and is also available for $399 for just the VR headset.
Developers are excited to work on both of the major platforms. Currently, most are aiming toward the Oculus Rift. Developing software on the Rift is easily ported over to the Vive as the motion tracking are not required in Vive software. The reverse is a bit more difficult because of the tracking not being as capable on the Rift. Because of this, publishers are a bit more apprehensive to develop for the Vive. “Publishers think developing a game specifically for the Vive is much more of a risk right now. Whereas most games developed for the Rift are playable on a normal monitor,” said Kent.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are moving at breakneck speeds. Developers, gamers, and non-gamers alike are excited for the possibilities that VR/AR can bring to the world. As the adoption rate increases, the prices will start to come down allowing for even more people to afford the hardware. VR/AR has potential in the creative and enterprise spaces in ways that have only been seen in science fiction. One day, there may be technology that will rival the holodeck in Star Trek. This kind of innovation drives the human race to places no one has gone before.
Former California state senator Leland Yee was sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in a corruption scandal involving guns. Longtime gamers will remember Leland Yee as an outspoken politician that attacked videogames. Over the course of his career, he sponsored several bills that hurt the gaming business. He was particularly outspoken against Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and claimed that the ESRB knew about the controversial “Hot Coffee” mod before the game was published. Additionally, Leland Yee held numerous anti-gun stances while in office.
With his games-are-violent and anti-gun positions in mind, it’s hilarious that Leland Yee was caught in an arms scandal. While trying raising money to run for California secretary of state, Leland Yee was busted. According to The LA Times:
The San Francisco Democrat was caught in an FBI sting that recorded him promising votes and guns to an undercover agent who was funneling him contributions. He pleaded guilty last year rather than face a trial.
I’m thrilled that Leland Yee has been legally declared a scumbag, but I’m disappointed that his sentence is only five years. What he did was deplorable and an abuse of the public’s trust. To me, five years seems light for a matter involving the illegal distribution of heavy ordnance. According to this CNN story, he was dealing crates of guns, shoulder-fired missiles, and rockets acquired from Filipino rebels. This kind of gun running and arms dealing leads to tremendous loss of life. Five years seems…light.
In a perfect world, Leland Yee would be sentenced to 20+ years in Federal Pound Me in the @ss Prison. He’s a liar, a thief, and a frickin’ arms dealer. He should be behind bars for the rest of his life. A five-year sentence, which I imagine will be cut short for good behavior or some other nonsense, isn’t enough for this piece of crap.
That’s my professional opinion, anyway. What do you think of Leland Yee’s sentence? Does the time fit the crime? Or does he deserve harsher punishment?
Embedded below is an excellent cover of the opening theme for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft by Alina Gingertail. It reminds me of Fredde Gredde’s stellar cover of the theme from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If you dig Alina’s cover then check out her YouTube page for more excellent music. She does acoustic versions of music found in videogames like Chrono Cross and The Witcher 3, as well as favorites from nerd television shows and movies. I’m particularly fond of her banjo version of “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back.
Anyway, please give Alina Gingertail’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft opening theme cover a listen and let me know what you think of it.
At BlizzCon 2015, I played five games of the new Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft adventure, “The League of Explorers.” Featuring an Indiana Jones-style theme, an early portion of the “The League of Explorers” was playable at the show. I was able to play as the rogue (twice) and shaman (thrice) characters in a collapsing-temple setting. The game was an exercise in survival; the goal was to exit the collapsing temple after a certain number of turns. In addition to the standard battle gameplay, there were a few twists in this level of “The League of Explorers” that added a different type of fun to Hearthstone.
In between rounds, you’ll have to make a number of choices. Some of them are a matter of strategy and some are a matter of luck. Here are some examples of the choices you’ll have to make in “The League of Explorers.”
- Gain a mana crystal or draw a card
- Take 5 damage or take a chance of receiving 0 or 10 damage
- Restore 10 health or draw 2 cards
- Get one turn closer to the exit and face a 7/7 golem or do nothing
Adding to the fun are a number of events that occur as you get closer to the exit. From what I played, these events happen on the same turn every game, so they can be played for and around. Here are some of the “League of Explorers” events I saw.
- A 0/4 boulder card appears on your side of the battlefield. It runs over all minions to its left.
- The temple ceiling collapses and clears the battlefield.
- After hearing, “Why’d it have to be bugs?”, a pair of 10/3 bugs appear as opponent minions.
Naturally, the most exciting part of any Hearthstone addition is the new cards. “The League of Explorers” adds 45 new cards in total. Here are some of the ones that I used.
- Everyfin is Awesome: This shaman card gives all minions on the battlefield +2/+2 and costs one less for every murloc on the battlefield
- Murloc Tinyfin: This is a scrub card, but the art is adorable. It’s a cute baby murloc with a sword.
- Sir Finley Mrrgglton: This is a fun 1-cost legendary card. It lets you change hero power, giving you a choice of three others.
- Elise Starseeker: This card shuffles a map into your deck. If everything pans out, it leads to an opportunity to play with a ridiculous amount of legendary cards. Sadly, it never panned out for me.
- Unearthed Raptor: This card lets you choose a friendly minion and copy its deathrattle effect.
- Huge Toad: I almost didn’t mention this card because the ugliness of the art scares me. It also has a deathrattle that deals 1 damage to a random enemy.
All told, I had lots of fun playing “The League of Explorers” for Hearthstone. I can see myself playing the adventure a few times, but I’m really excited about getting the new cards and figuring out how to incorporate them into my decks. Since my priest deck is the only that’s worth a damn, I’m wishing that “The League of Explorers” has some nifty priest cards. Get ready for an all-new, all-different Hearthstone exploration adventure when “The League of Explorers” hits on November 12, 2015.