Mary DeMarle Talks Deus Ex (DICE Europe 2017)

Here’s a chat I had with the absolutely delightful Mary DeMarle, narrative director of Eidos Montreal. She’ll be speaking at DICE Europe 2017 about maintaining motivation and innovation during long game development cycles. We talked about the challenges of reviving the Deus Ex franchise — bringing one of the most lauded IPs in PC gaming to a new audience more than a decade after the original release. Aside from talking to Mary DeMarle about Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I had an excellent time enjoying her company. She was charming and fun. Yeah, yeah, I know you want to hear more about the game stuff, so here’s an excerpt from my interview with Mary DeMarle.

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Why Kazakus Will Be My New Favorite Hearthstone Card

I’ve just played a dozen or so games of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft with the “Mean Streets of Gadgetzan” expansion cards shuffled in the mix. Blizzard’s BlizzCon 2016 press room had one-on-one matches featuring paladin vs. priest brawls. As priest is my favorite way to play and I generally suck with paladin, I played all the games using the priestly Anduin Wrynn. As expected, I enjoyed the new cards introduced by “Mean Streets of Gadgetzan,” but one stood out — Kazakus.

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Original Diablo Coming to Diablo 3

At BlizzCon 2016, Blizzard announced that the original Diablo will be recreated in Diablo 3. The original game is considered a classic — one of the most popular, critically acclaimed, and influential role-playing games of all time. It’s fantastic that 20 years after its release, Diablo will get to be enjoyed and appreciated by a whole new generation of gamers. For those that were around for the original, the reimagined version is certain to be a glorious stroll down memory lane. Whether you’re a veteran of the series or a newcomer, this is a fitting tribute to a legendary game.

Here’s some of what Blizzard has promised for the upcoming remake.

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Hearthstone Mean Streets of Gadgetzan Expansion Unveiled

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.

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Hilmar Petursson Interview (DICE Europe 2016)

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).

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Jeff Hilbert Interview (DICE Europe 2016)

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.

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Henrique Olifiers Interview (DICE Europe 2016)

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.

Full Interview