Kabam Aaron Loeb Interview (DICE Europe 2015)

It was a strange privilege interviewing Kabam senior vice president Aaron Loeb on behalf of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences for DICE Europe 2015. It was a privilege because Aaron is an excellent fellow that has accomplished a lot in the videogame and theater worlds. Prior to working at Kabam, Aaron held high-level positions at Planet Moon and EA, while his plays have been performed across the country. The interview was strange because we both used to be videogame journalists. It’s true! Once upon a time, before Aaron became a powerful executive and I became a verbal entertainer of international renown, we used to be game journalists in San Francisco. To paraphrase the immortal Phil Collins, “Take a look at us now!”

Here are a few excerpts from the interview. The first clip is about whether Aaron’s experience as a videogame journalist has had any impact on his work on the development side:

For a little while there, no. For what I’m doing at Kabam, very much so. As you know, when I was a journalist, I was entirely in the web space and was never really on the print side — even back in the ’90s. Learning how to talk to an audience every single day, learning how to see what they’re interested in or not interested in, and figuring out how to target your editorial to cover the topics the audience actually wants to hear about and how to target your editorial to come up with stuff that the audience doesn’t yet know they want to hear about — those are all things that help me today.

Next, Aaron talks about his experience as a playwright crossing over into his day job:

When I’m working with writers from one of our games, they take my feedback more seriously because they know that I’m also a writer. I’m not just an executive pinhead. [Laughs] Normally if you’re a writer and you’re getting feedback from the senior vice president of the studio you’re thinking, “Why is this jerk talking to me?!? How can he possibly know the difference between good writing and bad writing?!?” So I do get some respect from our game writers because of my background as a playwright.

Check out the full interview when you have a chance (please!). Aaron is an excellent man and I’m thrilled for his tremendous success.

Ronda Rousey Loves Pokemon

Just when I thought Ronda Rousey couldn’t get any hotter…I discovered that she loves Pokemon! That’s right, the first lady of UFC and queen of MMA is totally into Nintendo’s pocket monsters. In the interview below, she discusses how she got into Pokemon, the numerous Pokemon games she has played, and some of her favorite creatures. Miss Rousey is clearly a most impressive physical specimen, but her encyclopedic knowledge of Pokemon takes her sexiness to a whole new level. It’s almost…too much.

Ronda claims to have put in more than 200 hours in her first Pokemon game. I wonder if she’ll be impressed with my nearly 700 hours on Pokemon Pearl. Yeah, that’ll be my in when I meet her. Ha!

Anyway, check out the video below and prepare to be dazzled by Ronda Rousey’s Pokemon mastery. It’s seriously impressive and completely hot.

Source

Unity David Helgason Interview

It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Unity founder and former CEO David Helgason. While it’s normally intimidating talking to someone that’s exponentially smarter than you are, David Helgason is such a nice and interesting man that the exercise was fun. We had a lengthy chat about Unity’s evolution, games that inspire him, and his eclectic taste in movies. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

You know, we didn’t even call Unity an engine in the beginning. We thought of it as a tool to help developers build the games that they wanted to build. At first, we focused on small platforms, where the target specs were pretty low. When mobile started to grow, we targeted that — around the time the iPhone 2 came out. At the time, the hardware was super low end. As the market grew, our customers became more and more demanding, wanting to build bigger and bigger games. Then we started working closely with the console manufacturers. These days, AR (alternate reality) and VR (virtual reality) are really taking off, so we’re working closely with that as well. We’re constantly working to try to stay ahead of the curve and provide our customers with all the technology that they need. It’s very different when you’re working on a high-end VR game than an iPhone 2 game in 2008. [Laughs]

We’ve been very lucky that we have a lot of customers that are happy to pay. Unity doesn’t really cost a lot, but we have enough customers that are happy to pay the pittance it costs. That enables us to aggregate the revenue and hire a lot of great people. We’ve been hiring like crazy in order to invest really deeply and long-term into the Unity platform.

When we started, we were out to democratize game development. We wanted to significantly change how games were built and who could build games. We wanted to expand that universe, so we had to give people great tools.

Again, I’m really, really happy with how this interview turned out. Please, please, please hit the source link, give it a read, and let me know what you think. If you’re a male gamer nerd then I guarantee that you’ll have a man crush on David Helgason. If you’re a female gamer then it’ll more likely be a crush crush.

Source

Amazon Games Alf Tan Interview

Here’s a brief chat I had with Alf Tan, head of games business development for Amazon. Prior to joining Amazon’s game team, he worked for Microsoft Game Studios and Microsoft’s Xbox team. His goals at Amazon are to make Amazon a great platform for developers to publish their games on and for customers to buy their games from. In the interview below, Alf talks about Amazon’s culture, how the company views developers and gamers as its customers, his favorite movie, and more. Here’s a brief clip:

We see developers and gamers as customers, and will relentlessly drive hard to deliver what both want. One of the core areas we are focused on is the set top box space to deliver a great gaming experience. Today, many customers have to find gaming experiences in their living rooms through a $300 console. We see an opportunity to deliver great games to customers at a vastly different price point. We have done that through providing fun and challenging gaming experiences on Fire TV with launches like Flappy Bird Family, Crossy Road, some of our own games like Sev Zero, and new experiences like GameFly Streaming.

Alf wasn’t as forthcoming as the other DICE Europe 2015 speakers I interviewed, but he has an interesting position at a powerful company. While Amazon has had success with its games division, the sheer size and influence of the company give it a chance to be a dominant player, especially as it pursues original content. I’m curious to see how big Amazon Games can get.

When you get a chance, please hit up my interview with Alf Tan and let me know what you think.

Source

Coffee Talk #656: Random Thoughts on E3 2015

Another E3 Expo is in the books! Since we’re a few years removed from console launches, E3 2015 was gloriously software heavy. That said, virtual reality hardware was huge at this year’s show and generated lots of excitement. There were tons of great games on the show floor and behind closed doors. Special thanks to old friends and new friends that let me cut lines and sneak into demos that I didn’t have appointments for. Now here are some random thoughts on E3 2015.

Console Press Conferences: Sony crushed it. The company had lots of great original content and showed off juicy timed exclusives. The Shenmue 3 and Final Fantasy VII announcements won the hearts of millions of old-school gamers. Sony has come a long way with presentation too (remember those old Kaz Hirai PowerPoint slides?), largely because Microsoft raised the bar for E3 press conference theatricality. Microsoft put on a good show, but I found Sony’s press conference far more exciting. As for Nintendo’s latest direct-to-video presentation, the company had lots of games that I’m excited for…but the Nintendo executive muppets will haunt my dreams for the next few months (the Satoru Iwata muppet is terrifying).

Nintendo Muppets E3 2015

Publisher Press Conferences: I’m probably in the minority here, but I was more impressed with Square Enix’s presser than EA’s or Ubisoft’s. While Square Enix’s presentation was flat and the company didn’t have the celebrity star power its competitors flaunted, the games were excellent. Square Enix simply had more games that I wanted to play. While many of my friends loved Ubisoft’s lineup, it didn’t do much for me, save for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Ubisoft gets bonus points for Aisha Tyler hosting and for Angela Bassett’s appearance. As for EA, it had frickin’ Pele — one of the coolest and most legendary single-name celebrities ever. EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had me amped, but not as much Kingdom Hearts 3, World of Final Fantasy, Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (more on that in a bit).

Virtual Reality: I played a bunch of VR games/demos and totally understand why so many people are excited about this type of gaming. It feels fresh and exciting. When VR works, it’s amazing and makes you feel like you’re playing a game from the future. When the frame rates are clunky, VR games give you a headache. What I’m unsure about is the business model. From what several people told me, making a VR game is very expensive. Gamers will need expensive hardware for the best VR experience. From the (admittedly limited) information I gathered, Valve has the best plans for making VR accessible for developers and consumers. I’m curious to see what the other VR companies will do to help make VR affordable for creators and gamers alike.

Wattam: Going into the show, I was certain that I’d be charmed by Funomena’s Wattam. The creation of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Robin Hunicke (Journey), Wattam is wonderfully creative — a game that’s simple, but with complexity that makes it difficult to describe. Some people are calling it a puzzle game, while others feel it’s adventure, and some are calling it a platformer. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself. Whatever category you think Wattam fits in, there’s no denying that the graphics are cute, the gameplay is creative, and the sound design is adorable. I love that Sony publishes atypically delightful games like Wattam.

Final Fantasy VII: Some gamers feel that FFVII is the best game in the series. Others feel that it’s the most overrated. Either way, it’s a huge deal that the game is being remade and coming to PlayStation 4 (initially). While I enjoyed the original game, it’s not in my top five for the Final Fantasy series. Having said that, I’m a big fan of FFVII world, since Crisis Core and Advent Children helped make sense of everything. I’m going to dedicate a full topic to this column next week. No matter how good or bad the FFVII remake ends up being, I’m excited to watch the process and listen to the debates. I expect full fanboy fury over FFVII and gamers better not disappoint me.

Mario Tennis: I “accidentally” spent more than hour playing Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at Nintendo’s booth. I’m a longtime fan of the Mario Tennis games, both on home and handheld consoles. Even though the game is early and there were only two playable characters, I had a blast with Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The core gameplay is tight, while the addition of power-ups gives it a wackier feel that make sense in the context of the Mario universe. I’ll give this one a full preview in a bit.

Sword Coast Legends: As a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I was really looking forward to learning more about Sword Coast Legends. After getting a demo and playing the game, my expectations were exceeded. It will surely satisfy fans of the isometric PC RPGs that I mentioned, but should also satisfy fans of pen-and-paper RPGs. The dungeon master features look awesome, powerful, and fun. While most of the game will have professional voice acting, I was delighted to learn that there will be opportunities for live action role-playing. I vow to make a character based on Azrael Abyss from Saturday Night Live and annoy the hell out of anyone foolish enough to let me be a dungeon master. I’ll be giving Sword Coast Legends a full preview too.

Your Take: Naturally, I didn’t get to play or see everything I wanted to. This is where you come in! I’d love to get your take on E3 2015. How did it play from home? What games are you excited for? Who do you think “won” the press conferences? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.

Coffee Talk #655: E3 2015 — So Wha’tcha Want?!?

E3 2015 is next week! It kind of crept on me there — totally forgot it was this close. As always, I’m excited to see lots of great games, watch the console manufacturers try to outdo each other, and catch up with longtime videogame industry friends. This year, I’ll have a bunch more “me” time at the show. At E3 2014 I made the mistake of working for two companies that wanted full-time efforts out of one person. While I enjoyed the show, it was tiring and I didn’t have the exploration time that I love (I also missed my annual Hooter’s lunch with my dear friend, AIAS Debby). E3 2015 will be different! I have some light freelance work and a bunch of meetings, but will certainly have lots of time to check out games.

Hooters with @debbychen, an E3 tradition. #e32013 #losangeles #chickenwings

A photo posted by Raymond Padilla (@rpadtv) on

I tried to load up as many E3 2015 meetings as I could on Tuesday (day one of the show). In years past, some of the best games I’ve seen were ones that I looked at because friends and respected colleagues told me to check them out. Bumping into someone between appointments and asking, “So what have you seen that’s cool?” has lead to some amazing revelations. I’ll rely heavily on that technique at E3 2015.

Some of my industry friends have been making fun of me and asking, “So? What indie game are you going to fall in love with this year?” Yeah, yeah, yeah — that’s totally deserved after being smitten with games like JourneyThe Unfinished Swan and Sound Shapes during previous E3 shows. While I’m looking forward to the spectacle of big-budget games and the unique charm of indies, the game I’m looking forward to the most doesn’t fit into either category — Sword Coast Legends. As a huge mark for the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I can’t wait to learn more about this one.

As longtime RPadholics, I want to know what you want me to check out on your behalf. If I have access to the game and time allows, you’ll get your own personal preview. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’d like me to check out at E3 2015.

Rocket League Preview (PS4, PC)

Rocket League has a premise that’s so preposterous that is must be fun — cars playing soccer. If that’s not enough to get your attention then how about ridiculously acrobatic cars playing a physics-enhanced death-match version of soccer? Okay, fine then. Let’s add Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal to the mix! That dude brings an absurd amount of fun to any party he’s invited to and he aims to amp up this game. From the brief time I spent checking out Rocket League, I found it to be a game that’s pure fun, whether you’re playing it alone (good) or playing it as a party game (better).

Let’s get some of the official particulars out of the way. Rocket League is being developed by Psyonix, a company known for creating Unreal Tournament 2004, ARC Squadron, and Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (Rocket League’s forerunner). The game will be available for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on July 7, 2015. In addition to playing against Rocket League’s AI, the game supports up to four players in split-screen mode and up to eight players in online mode, with drop-in drop-out gameplay.

After a quick demo and some gameplay, the aspect of Rocket League that I enjoyed the most was its feel. The game is flat-out fun. I loved the silly premise of cars playing soccer. Rocket League’s physics are extremely enjoyable, so much so that driving around and seeing what the cars could do was as much fun as competing in a match. I would say that the physics are accurate, but I have no idea of what the physics of driving up walls and on arena ceilings is actually like (I’ve lived a limited life, sorry). Where I think the game will really excel is as a party game; sure, solo and online play should be lots of fun, but I can easily picture having a blast playing Rocket League with several buddies on a couch.

Driving in Rocket League is much more than crashing into a giant ball and trying to get it into a net. The game’s cars are capable of outlandish maneuvers that will have you soaring through the air and performing acrobatic stunts. The cars can drive on walls, execute bicycle kicks, double jump, perform wicked power brake moves, and more. In the time I spent playing Rocket League, I found the driving to be insanely fun.

As you play Rocket League, you’ll unlock features. The developers were keen on going heavy with unlockables, so as to keep players coming back for more. I was told that Rocket League is loaded with Easter eggs, to the point that players should discover something new every time they play the game.

When playing against AI-controlled characters in Rocket League, Psyonix hopes to offer an experience that’s lifelike. From what I was told, the AI shouldn’t fall into predictable patterns. Sometimes the game will go at you aggressively and other times the game will emphasize defense. Psyonix’s goal for the Rocket League AI is to make it feel like you’re competing against an actual person.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Like many car-based games, Rocket League offers lots of customizability. Players can choose from up to ten body styles — buggies, trucks, a Batmobile-like vehicle, RC cars, sports cars, and muscle cars. Paint color, paint type, wheels, tires, decals, exhaust trail colors, and more can be customized. I was shown some cool customizations, like sparkle exhausts and rainbow exhausts. I was told that other exhaust types include money and grass, while various paint types like glossy and metallic will be included.

Of course if you want to go with a pre-made vehicle, Rocket League should have some cars you’ll immediately recognize. Sweet Tooth of Twisted Metal fame will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version of Rocket League. You can see Sweet Tooth in action in the video embedded below and check out several screens of the iconic ice cream truck in the screenshot gallery above.

Other Rocket League features include extensive stat tracking, a robust replay editor that takes advantage of PlayStation Share Play, season mode, and (for your trophy whores out there) platinum trophies. At a glance, Rocket League appears to be a complete game. While I’m fairly sure that it will be entertaining as a multiplayer game, I haven’t seen enough to say if the single-player mode will have much longevity. Details on the game’s season mode will be revealed at E3 2015, so hopefully that’ll give me more of an idea of the single-player fun. For now, check out the Rocket League media in this story and kindly let me know what you think of the game in the comments section.

DICE Europe Chats With Michael Pachter & Greg Essig

Many of you longtime RPadholics know that the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ DICE Summits are my favorite events in the videogame business. I’ve been helping out the Academy with some interviews in preparation for DICE Europe 2015. The first two are live! First up is a chat with Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. Next is an interview with FunPlus head of business development Greg Essig.

A lot of you know Pachter as the most quotable analyst in videogames and from his Pach Attack show. He talks about his upcoming DICE Europe 2015 session, as well as some general nerd stuff. Learn about Pachter’s session, as well as his thoughts on the upcoming Star Wars movies and his view on A Song of Ice & Fire vs. Game of Thrones, by clicking the interview linked above.

While not as “game famous” as Pachter, Greg Essig is just as charming. Formerly with Apple and Creative Artists Agency, Essig has taken a new position with FunPlus. At DICE Europe 2015, he’ll be talking about “defining value in mobile gaming.” He told me a bit about his session, as well as his love for Sigur Ros and the Avenger he identifies with the most.

So yeah! Please do me a favor an check out the two interviews linked in the last two sentences of the first paragraph. You’ll be my favorite person in the world if you do!

Hearthstone Available For Android and iOS Phones Now

Blizzard has announced that Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is now available for Android and iOS phones. The collectible card game (CCG) was initially released for Mac OS and Windows PCs, which was followed shortly by an iPad release. In late 2014, Hearthstone came to Android tablets. Today’s release gives Blizzard an even bigger reach with Hearthstone, hitting millions of people that play games on their phones (or as they say in England, mo-biles). You can download the game through the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was one of my favorite games of 2014 and is still something I’ve played most days this year. It’s easy to learn and incredibly addictive, while offering numerous gameplay styles. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing it on my iPad and MacBook. I’m positive that I’ll spend hundreds of hours in 2015 playing it on my iPhone 6 Plus. It’s great fun and I hope that several of you RPadholics download the game on your phone, so that we can play against each other. Maybe we’ll get a tournament or something going and I’ll send a prize to the winner. Yeah! Let’s bring back the RPadTV Invitationals!

Having said all the praise for Hearthstone, the game can be frustrating. There’s certainly a pay-to-win element to it, in that players that sink lots of money into the game will have access to better cards. As a free player, it’s annoying when I run up against a guy or gal with multiple legendary cards in his or her deck. Blizzard is an amazing videogame company — easily one of the best in the history of the business — but the matchmaking in Hearthstone can suck. While I hope that all of you guys and dolls play the game, please be prepared to run into some trust-fund kid that will beat the pants off of you, simply because he bought his way into a killer deck.

Now that Hearthstone is available for phones, will any of you be giving it a shot? Please let me know in the comments section. Do it for the RPadTV Invitational!

Hearthstone phones 2

Hearthstone phones 4 Hearthstone phones 5 Hearthstone phone 3

Source

Balotelli Says Mario Jumps Like a Black Man and Grabs Coins Like a Jew

Ah, Twitter…the social media service that gives a voice to millions of people that should be muted and gives athletes a chance to expose their idiocy. One of the latest instances of athlete Twitter fail centers on Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli. One of the most gifted footballers in the world, Mario Balotelli also has a reputation as an extraordinary bonehead. Urging people not to be racist on his Twitter account, Balotelli asked people to be more like Mario from the Super Mario Bros. series. His description of the Nintendo plumber was amazing. Check it out:

Be like Mario, he’s an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican. He jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.

Mario Balotelli has deleted his arguably racist “Don’t Be Racist” post and issued an apology.

Personally, I don’t think he was trying to offend anyone and believe that he thought his original post was a positive thing. I don’t believe there was anything malicious behind his original post. All of this is, of course, conjecture.

Having said that, it was idiotic of him to make that post. Being an idiot is something that Mario Balotelli has been accused of thousands of times. Famous people that are in the public eye shouldn’t post stupid things that could be construed as racist. It’s just dumb and leads to more trouble than a 140-character post is worth. Hell, people that aren’t the least bit famous have gotten in trouble for posting stupid things on social media. If normals can get in trouble for misguided social media rants then it should abundantly obvious that celebrities need to be extra-careful with what they say on social media.

What do you think of Mario Balotelli’s Twitter adventures? Does he need to hire a social media editor to censor the dumb ideas he wants to share with the world? Or is he getting too much heat for his comments? Share your thoughts in the comments section (please!).