Posts tagged Games

The Top 6 Video Games Of 2014

While 2014 hasn’t been a banner year for many (e.g. law enforcement, Congress, the CIA, etc.), it has produced an excellent crop of video games. The industry itself continues to grow, with revenues rising eight percent to an estimated $81.5 billion worldwide.

Here are some of games that made 2014 a year worth remembering.

Hearthstone

Category: Most Unnecessary Huge Success By A Game Studio That Already Controls Players’ Souls
Cost: Free (though featuring addictive in-game purchases) for PC, Mac, iPad, Android tablets

Relative to how most games are developed, Hearthstone was basically an afterthought. Blizzard initially created “Team 5” to assess targets of opportunity that larger teams couldn’t get to, then dissolved it, leaving Eric Dodds and Ben Brode to create Hearthstone. Two people! Now the game boasts over 20 million players, making it another phenomenal success for Blizzard—as if the company needed additional control of players’ lives and pocketbooks.

Hearthstone is an online collectible card game, something like Magic: The Gathering. It’s also very easy to pick up, with rules that aren’t hard to understand, completely unlike Magic: The Gathering. It’s also free to play and has a beautiful, intuitive UI (again, totally unlike M:TG). Players play against each other online in one of two modes.

Released in March of this year, the game has already received two expansions: Curse of Naxxramas in July and Goblins vs. Gnomes this December. Curse added 35 new cards and a four-part single-player adventure, while Goblins vs. Gnomes added 143 new cards.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

This dragon is probably not interested in chatting

Category: Most Dialogue Trees
Cost: $60, for PC, XBox One, XBox 360, PS4, PS3

Dragon Age: Inquisition is the latest effort from BioWare, the game studio that also brought you Baldur’s Gate II and the Mass Effect series. By all accounts, DA:I is absolutely massive in every way you’d want a fantasy RPG to be. There’s a huge world to explore, lots of different story options, tons of lore, dozens of side quests, and so forth.

Of course, being a BioWare joint, it has a lot of dialogue trees, because every character has a lot to say about a lot of things. Sort of like real life! Only less insipid, because all the characters in DA:I have professional writers. So, better.

Transistor

Category: Best Talking Sword
Cost: $20, for PC, Mac, PS4

A singer without a voice pulls a talking sword out of a man’s chest and is soon attacked by robots in a giant, beautiful, sci-fi dystopia. If that doesn’t grab you, maybe the above trailer will.

Transistor has a cool story, a female protagonist (which pretty much all forms of media could use more of until it’s no longer notable and just the norm), is pretty to look at, has a killer soundtrack, and interesting gameplay (this review has a pretty good breakdown of how that works).

Shovel Knight

Shovel your way to victory!

Category: Best Callback To The Platformers You Grew Up With
Cost: $15 for PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

If card games, AAA fantasy RPGs and action RPGs aren’t your thing, maybe you’d enjoy some old school platforming. Shovel Knight, the outcome of a Kickstarter campaign, has the look of classic old school side-scrolling games like Mega Man and Super Mario. You’re also a knight with a shovel, which is perhaps a selling point only to me.

Beyond its nostalgic look, Shovel Knight’s game mechanics are also quite solid and have been compared to DuckTales (i.e. the shovel is similar to Scrooge McDuck’s cane) and Dark Souls (though you don’t have lives, and instead you lose gold when you fail). As some reviewers noted, it also has a story that’s more interesting than the old NES platformers it resembles (which is to say, basically all of them).

Super Smash Bros.

Category: Best Way Of Determining Whether Mega Man Or Pac Man Would Win In A Fight
Cost: $60 for Wii U, $40 for Nintendo 3DS

Fighting game franchises tend to have very devoted fanbases, and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. claims one of the largest. The release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U this year marks the first new entry to the franchise since 2008. The five years were worth the wait.

The latest edition of Smash Bros. boasts a deep roster of playable characters, from Nintendo cornerstones like Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Zelda to new contenders like Pac Man, Mega Man, and the dog from Duck Hunt (who works with the duck from Duck Hunt). Super Smash Bros. attempts, and mostly succeeds, in satisfying both the hardcore fighting game fan’s need for a deep and complex fighting game and the casual fan’s desire for fun new ways to play with their favorite Nintendo characters.

Super Time Force Ultra

Category: Best Use of Time Travel & Action Movie Callbacks and Best Game Featuring A Sony Executive
Cost: $15 for PC

So here’s a lighthearted game with a team of heroes constantly time traveling to accomplish important tasks like getting all the web plugins from the future so their boss can watch cat videos without ever needing to download new plugins. The team is composed of callbacks to action stars—like Melanie Gibson and Dolphin Lungren.

Each character on the team has special powers, and you play each level as one character at a time until they die, then you rewind time and play as the next one, only the previous times you’ve played through the level affect subsequent run throughs. A gameplay video might make this clearer:

Super Time Force will soon be available on the PS4 and Vita. As a result, Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida is now part of Super Time Force. One hopes this makes Nintendo include Shigeru Miyamoto in the next Smash Bros. 

Images courtesy of Blizzard, BioWare, Supergiant Games, Yacht Club Games, Nintendo and Capybara Games

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Sweden’s Sexism Test For Games Is A Great Idea

Editor’s Note: This was originally published by our partners at Kill Screen

Those social justice warriors known as the Swedes are at it again! Last year, four Swedish cinemas started indicating whether the films they screened passed the exceedingly low bar set by Bechdel Test for female representation.

Now Dataspelsbranchen, Sweden’s videogames industry organization, is considering putting a label on future games produced in the country denoting whether or not they promote gender equality. Good on Dataspelsbranchen.

See also: Call Of Duty Doesn’t Understand Grief—But Who Does?

It’s not yet clear what such a policy would entail. In the case of narrative fiction, the Bechdel Test sets a relatively clear and objective standard: a work must have at least two named female characters who speak to one another about something other than a man. But the interactive nature of videogames complicates matters.

Scripted vs. Interactive Entertainment

How does a test measure the gender equality of a game in which the narrative and interactions are partially determined by individual players? Should the gender diversity of developers be factored into a game’s score? Dataspelsbranchen has only just received grant funding to study these questions; answers will come later.

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow @killscreen on Twitter.

But this story isn’t really about labels. The debate over what constitutes a “game that promotes gender equality” is one that needs to be had, even if unanimity will never be reached. Assuming the eventual Swedish label follows the lead of the Bechdel test and sets a low bar, it will be more useful when discussing the state of the industry than when choosing a game to play.

Discussions of sexism in videogames currently focus on the anecdotal: one can easily sense that something is wrong, that a great many games simply use women as props and therefore fail the most rudimentary of eye tests. But the eye test is of limited discursive use, particularly in the face of relentless online pressure. Film critics can point to the fact that 57% of films fail the Bechdel Test as an indictment of their industry; games critics would benefit from having a clear figure.

See also: Sexting With Robots With Kara Stone

Labels have as little power as the glue that affixes them to boxes. You can choose to buy a game even if the label warns of violence. Likewise, Dataspelsbranchen’s label would not preclude you from buying a game that does nothing to promote gender equality.

A label is a minimal imposition on the consumer in service of a larger goal. Sweden’s label will not reflect the quality of the work—artistically, narratively, or technically—but it will contain information worth knowing, information we should have known for some time now.

More From Kill Screen

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

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Before Slack And Flickr, Tech Pioneer Stewart Butterfield Played Video Games

Editor’s Note: This was originally published by our partners at Kill Screen

If you ever want proof that games write the first draft of history, you need to look no further than the last ten years of Stewart Butterfield’s work. His early experiments with an MMO called Game Neverending yielded a kernel of a photo-sharing app. It was called Flickr, and sold to Yahoo in 2005.

Then in 2009, Butterfield founded Tiny Speck, pulling in game vets like Journey’s Robin Hunicke and Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahasi, to launch a browser-based online game called Glitch. Beloved by many—but ultimately not enough—fans, Glitch shuttered in 2012.

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

But again a seed grew. Butterfield transitioned some of Tiny Speck’s staff, alongside some hard-learned lessons about onboarding new users to build a commercial communication tool that Tiny Speck had used to build Glitch. Last August, Slack was launched as an “email killer” and a way to transform how businesses talk and do work together. (We use it at Kill Screen, in fact.)

Here, in an edited transcript, Butterfield opens up about his early game-playing roots, teaching new players the basics, and why games are “too f—ing hard.”

A BASIC Beginning

When I was a little kid, I used to program in BASIC and make simple text-based games. One was Dungeons and Dragons-ish and another was a super boring basketball game. You could pass, shoot, run and say the trajectory. These were games for myself and my friends mostly.

I just thought that games were awesome. I was a big player of Galaga, but on the Mac, I played Adventure, and there was this one Indiana Jones character. Pitfall! It was Pitfall. There was a super fucked-up one where there were spinning knives. Drol!

I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. Our computer was in the living room. I don’t recall why my parents got us a computer but I think it was for accounting. Also, computers were supposed to be good for kids.

See Also: Die, Email, Die! A Flickr Cofounder Aims To Cut Us All Some Slack

Early on, I was into multi-user dungeons (MUDs) and MOOs (MUDs, object-oriented), but mostly I loved online communities. It was absurd and surreal when I first got online in the 90s. I started university and got my first Unix account.

Over ten years, I saw Usenet and IRC and a lot of forums and stuff but also the rise of blogs and was fascinated with the kinds of interactions they had with each other.

The intention wasn’t so much a game, but we were using a game the way that people use bridge or golf for pretext for socializing. I remember looking at my dad, who’s a big bridge player, but doesn’t like playing with the computer because it’s boring. But he always wouldn’t ask his friends to to hang out.

Gaming = Interaction

So the context of play is much more interesting sometimes than the game itself. You’re using some part of their brain for strategizing, estimating what the other people at the table know. I don’t play golf, but it’s a context for an experience to go on a walk with friends. Of course, there’s golf for its own sake, but really it’s the game plus the interaction.

In 2002, Butterfield co-founds Ludicorp to begin development on Game Neverending, a massively multiplayer game. It never launches, but sets the stage for Flickr.

Game Neverending was an open-ended way to interact but to have those interactions be much more text-based. This was before Second Life technologically. Second Life was about 3D which we felt like was a distraction. We never considered it. Besides, we wanted it to be playable in a browser. There was Flash but Flash wasn’t what it was now.

It’s often said that Flickr was a feature of the game, but to be honest, not really. Flickr was in the beginning of 2002 and we built a prototype, but it was at the all-time lowest period for consumer-facing web stuff. This was after 9/11 and WorldCom and Enron and the dot-com bubble, even though we felt like we had a successful prototype with a couple thousand users. We were optimistic but felt like to finish it, Flickr would’ve taken a year. There was no way and it got to the point that the person at Ludicorp who got paid was the one who had kids. We had to get to market faster.

So we completely switch gears. The first version of Flickr was based on the game. People would send messages back and forth in the same way the way the chat it did with Game Neverending. Instead of inventory, there were places to store photos.

Raising more than $17m, Glitch hopes to fill in the gaps left by Game Neverending. It’s a fantasy world populated by people encouraged to collaborate and build communities. It closes after a year.

By the time we started Glitch, we were all a lot more experienced and hardware was 90% cheaper. The amount and quality of open source software was so far beyond what previously existed as well as the quality of the public’s computers. More people were online. Everything had moved forward by an order of magnitude in 7 years.

Some of the differences between Glitch and Game Neverending were basic. Game Neverending was like a MUD as you didn’t have a position in space. Everything was a point. In any text-based adventure game, you send N to go north and you didn’t have a discrete position.

Glitch was a side-scroller and had some basic physics. That made it completely different, because there was motion. Game Neverending was so lightweight by comparison.

The thing that seemed unfulfilled in Game Neverending was we what we ultimately gave people. Game Neverending was a stupid game and so was Glitch in the end. Neither were good as games, but they were good as a way for people to interact to create a type of play. With Glitch, there were more people playing it and by the end it was decent, but not great.

See Also: Flickr Co-Founder Launches Glitch Game

What was fun was the amount of expression people had. For example, there were “quoins” floating around you and (you could) interact with them. So there was this dynamic known as “quoin sharding” where if you were near me, you’d get a piece of it. The closer you were to the coin, the more you’d get and this laser beam thing would shoot from me to you. It was really fun with a dozen people making a swarm. It was very collaborative and for most of the time, it was a cool place to hang.

Here’s the thing we took from Glitch. In games, there’s a user experience that is critical. Unless it’s completely derivative, the first thing you want to do is help them understand what the possible moves are and the context for making them. But imagine the tutorial. You have to figure out what’s possible and that was something we worked incredibly hard because it was so new and different. Glitch had no combat multiplayer and had this cutesy veneer. There were so many strikes against us.

But on the other end of the spectrum, you had FarmVille and FishVille and so on where it was what kind of game it was and then the particular flavor of that one. If you like real-time strategy games or shooters and I say, “This is a World War 2- themed shooter,” you’re like 70% of the way there. You have a sense of what you’re supposed to do, how are these controls mapped, and what are the qualities.

But for something completely different, people have to cross a big barrier. They’re investing time.

See Also: Learning From Flickr’s Co-founders On Their Way Out of Yahoo

The big design challenge with Glitch was prioritizing what you had to get introduced to. We had people playing the game who’d never played a side-scroller. The arrow keys and the space bar seem so obvious, but people needed to be taught that. Then there’s the introduction to the fundamental mechanics like energy and mood.

There’s also not spending that initial time doing tutorials. We had a bunch of players that volunteered to be a greeter and probably 75% of the new players assumed the greeters were bots. We had people trying to figure out where they type so it was a range of needs. Ultimately, it was more pacing and prioritization. Some people are less comfortable. Some people wanted to skip through that stuff.

We did the same process for Slack, even though it was much simpler conceptually. It was group messaging for teams. The customers know 70% of what they’re supposed to do.

Overall, I think I’m done with games. They are too hard to make, especially with what I wanted. I wanted to play from the bottom up rather than top down, like in Sim City. But collective decision making—that’s just too fucking hard.

In its first 24 hours, Slack receives more than 8000 signups. That number stands now at 200,000 daily active users. Slack just announced its first acquisition last month of a collaborative document-editing tool called Spaces.

This interview has been edited for content and length. As told to Jamin Warren.

More From Kill Screen

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow @killscreen on Twitter.

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SearchCap: Google Rolls Out Pirate Update, Bing Adds MCC, Video Games In Knowledge Graph

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: Reports: Google Pirate Update Has Rolled Out This Week Last week, we reported that Google will be pushing out an update to the Google Pirate Update in the…



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Video Games Added To Google’s Knowledge Graph

Google is upping its game for gamers, now including video game information in its knowledge graph. Search queries on video games will result in a knowledge graph panel that includes details like the game’s release date, supported platforms, developers, review scores and more. In a report on…



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How Social Media Can Help You Survive The SEO Hunger Games – Business 2 Community


Business 2 Community
How Social Media Can Help You Survive The SEO Hunger Games
Business 2 Community
How Social Media Can Help You Survive The SEO Hunger Games image archer 300×200.jpg Google has essentially become the Gamemaker of “The Hunger Games” and every piece of content is a Tribute trying to survive the search environment. With a …
13 Tips for Making the Most of Google+Chief Marketer

all 2 news articles »

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Yahoo Games Hit By Shellshock Bug, Researcher Reports

The Shellshock bug is bad news, and Yahoo may’ve just found out first hand. 

At least two servers for Yahoo Games were allegedly breached in a hack discovered by security researcher Jonathan Hall.  

Hall says he found evidence that Romanian hackers gained access to at least two of Yahoo’s servers by exploiting the Shellshock bug, a vulnerability in bash, a low-level program used to execute other programs. By exploiting the bug, hackers can gain remote access of servers and systems. Hall said Yahoo’s servers were vulnerable because they were using an older version of bash.

Hall, a Unix expert with Future South Technologies, offers a lengthy explanation on the tech consulting firm’s website, where he describes how he tracked the breach to Yahoo’s game servers. Hall also shares an email he says he received from Yahoo confirming the breach. Since millions of people play Yahoo games every day, they make an ideal target for hackers. 

See also: Everything You Need To Know About The Shellshock Bug

If hackers gained control of a Yahoo server using Shellshock, they could potentially steal user information, deliver malware to vulnerable computers and take control of the system. So you’d think Yahoo would be grateful for the information. Hall, however, claims Yahoo did not reward him for the discovery, instead telling Hall that his findings didn’t qualify for its bug bounty program.

“I literally gave them two servers that were hacked, of which there were most likely more—without a doubt—considering one gets a public DNS response of a private IP address… And that doesn’t qualify? What a joke,” Hall posted on Reddit.

Yahoo has a poor track record when it comes to rewarding security researchers who uncover serious flaws, Mashable notes. Where a similar bug might net five figures at Facebook, Yahoo is more in the habit of awarding $25 vouchers which can be used to purchase t-shirts, pens and other items from Yahoo’s company store. 

Photo via Shutterstock

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Are Games & Lyrics Sites Google Panda 4.1′s Biggest Losers?

Google began rolling out Panda 4.1 last week into this week but we already have the winners and losers report from SearchMetrics. The biggest winners for Panda 4.1 based on this early report are sites in the news, content and download portal realm. While the biggest losers are sites in the games,…



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If You’re Good At These 3 Games, You’re Probably Good At SEO – Forbes

If You're Good At These 3 Games, You're Probably Good At SEO
Forbes
SEO is not dead or dying, despite some critics claiming otherwise. You may have heard, for example, about SEO Jill Whalen moving on after a successful 20-year career in the field. Her reason? In her opinion, since Google Google released its Penguin and …

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Google Dorking: It’s All Fun & Games Until The Hackers Show Up

For anyone not in the know, Google Dorking is the practice of using advanced search techniques – more specifically, specialized search parameters – to locate hard-to-find web pages and information. As innocent as it sounds, Google Dorking has a dark side – so dark, federal…



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