In this video, we talk with author David Craddock about his investigation into the early days of game studio Blizzard for his new book, Stay Awhile and Listen. He's joined by Dave Brevik and Max Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Blizzard North. They talk about some of the ways in which making video games was different back in the early '90s -- and the ways it's similar to making games today. They also discuss the importance of having lively debates, and how one of those arguments led to Diablo being a real-time action game, instead of being turn-based. (This is the first half of an extended interview -- part 2 will be available on Monday.
Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with a gaming industry that was still trying to figure itself out. In the early-to-mid 1990s, most of the gaming genres we're familiar with today were still indistinct, half-formed concepts waiting for that one game necessary to define them. Thus, many players sat up and took notice when a relatively unknown company named Blizzard managed to exemplify not one, but two separate types of game in quick succession. Warcraft: Orcs and Humans put real-time strategy on the map, and Diablo set the standard for action RPGs. The two games immediately elevated Blizzard to the top of the industry, and many gamers wondered how one studio could put out two games like these so quickly. As it turns out, it wasn't one studio; it was a blending of two very different but extremely creative groups who had a passion for making video games. In Stay Awhile and Listen, author David Craddock lays out the history of the two groups, from how they first got into the gaming business to their eventual success launching now-legendary games. Read on for our review of the book.
Sockatume writes "Sony has released a detailed FAQ for the PS4 system, which launches in coming weeks. Of particular note: although Bluetooth headsets will not be compatible, generic 3.5mm and USB audio devices will work; the console will require activation via the internet or a special disk before it will play Blu-ray or DVDs; media servers, MP3s, and audio CDs are not supported. The console's "suspend/resume" and remote assistance features are listed as unavailable for the North American launch, implying that they will be patched in before the console launches in Europe later in November."
An anonymous reader writes "On the whole, Battlefield 4 had a reasonable launch. The have clearly learned from their past experiences with Battlefield 3 and, more notably, SimCity. Still, some customers are unable to access the game (until, presumably, October 30th at 7PM EDT, 39 hours after launch) because they are incorrectly flagged by region-locking. Do regional release dates help diminish all the work EA has been putting into Origin with their refund policy and live technical support? Should they just take our money and deliver the service before we change our minds?"
MojoKid writes "NVIDIA announced a major update to its SHIELD Android gaming device today, with the over-the-air update delivering the latest build of Android (v4.3 Jelly Bean) to the handheld console. NVIDIA also launched GameStream in order to bring more PC titles to streaming devices. Wait, need more? How about SHIELD Gamepad Mapper, which turns touch-based Android games into ones that can be enjoyed with SHIELD's console-quality controls. Alongside that Android update comes Console Mode, which turns SHIELD into a portable living room game console. Users will be able to pair up a Bluetooth controller, kick back on the couch, indulge in Android games, browse the Web, and watch your favorite movies all at 1080p."
szyzyg writes "Star Citizen has broken all the crowdfunding records, raising almost 25 million dollars in the last year to fund Chris Roberts' promise of the ultimate spaceship game. However, an investigation sheds light on a murky secondary market where items are being resold by investors for profit, all for a game that won't be fully released for two years. The standard crowdfunding tactic of rewarding early backers has created a tiered system with ample room for profiteering, profits which many not be shared with the developers. Few things would please me more than Star Citizen succeeding, but backers should read this article before being tempted to trade up their internet spaceships through a third party."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Jon Brodkin talked to indie developers (including the creator of Super Mario Bros. Crossover), former Nintendo employees, and a number of others about where exactly Nintendo went wrong over the past few years. Their conclusions? Nintendo made a number of mistakes, including a lack of an indie-developer ecosystem, a refusal to license out core properties such as Super Mario to other gaming platforms (or even iOS and Android), and platforms that don't appeal to hardcore gamers. While the developers suggest Nintendo is taking steps to broaden its horizons, such as by reaching out to smaller studios, it's questionable whether such efforts will succeed in a world where the PS4 and Xbox One are about to enter the market, and iOS and Android are swallowing up mobile gamers' time and dollars. What do you think?"
RogueyWon writes "Four months after the launch of the Ouya micro-console, Gamasutra has pulled together a round up of the experiences of indie developers who have brought their games to the platform. There's both positive and negative news; developers seem to like the ease of porting to the platform, but have concerns regarding the approach that its marketplace takes. Perhaps most crucially, sales of games on the platform are far from stellar."
nk497 writes "Linus Torvalds has welcomed the arrival of Valve's Linux-based platform, SteamOS, and said it could boost Linux on desktops. The Linux creator praised Valve's 'vision' and suggested its momentum would force other manufacturers to take Linux seriously — especially if game developers start to ditch Windows. Should SteamOS gain traction among gamers and developers, that could force more hardware manufacturers to extend driver support beyond Windows. That's a sore point for Torvalds, who slammed Nvidia last year for failing to support open-source driver development for its graphics chips. Now that SteamOS is on the way, Nvidia has opened up to the Linux community, something Torvalds predicts is a sign of things to come. 'I'm not just saying it'll help us get traction with the graphics guys,' he said. 'It'll also force different distributors to realize if this is how Steam is going, they need to do the same thing because they can't afford to be different in this respect. They want people to play games on their platform too.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In the space of a few short months, Surgeon Simulator 2013 has attained cult status. A sort of spiritual successor to the maddening QWOP, the PC game requires you to operate the individual fingers of a hapless surgeon in an increasingly absurd set of gore-filled scenarios. What's so remarkable is the turnaround time: the initial prototype came out of a 48-hour game jam, and was released as a commercial game just a month and a half later. A new profile of the studio's founder looks at how Bossa Studios, the London-based development team behind SS 2013, iterates so quickly, as well as what's next from the team, including an iPad version of Surgeon Simulator, and a cross platform MOBA that's half League of Legends, half Mario Kart battle mode."
cold fjord writes "An article at DailyTech begins, 'While many people scoffed at or failed to recognized the significance of Microsoft Corp.'s talk of a "unified" development path for Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone, the real world ramifications of that approach are now becoming clear — and they're significant. A pre-order page from Dell for the Xbox One "accidentally" (and, it appears, officially) revealed that Windows 8.1 apps will run on the Xbox.'" A Microsoft spokesperson told AllThingsD, 'The suggestion that all Windows 8 apps run on Xbox One is not accurate," but they didn't deny that there would be some cross-compatibility. PCWorld's article has words of caution: "It would certainly be interesting if the full-blown Windows Store landed on Xbox One. But don't hold your breath for it to be there at the console's launch, no matter what Dell's words vaguely imply."
Nick Kolakowski writes "Markus 'Notch' Persson is the famous indie-game developer behind Minecraft, which is also the name of the new book about his life and work by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson. (The effect is slightly odd, like naming the Steve Jobs biography iPhone.) Minecraft traces Persson’s development from an isolated young man building simple PC games in his bedroom, to a frustrated game developer who feels the software conglomerates are stifling his creativity, to a multimillionaire who's had some trouble coming to grips with his gamer-land fame. The Persson described in the book is an introvert's introvert, far more interested in coding than partying, although he does display flashes of entrepreneurial aggression that would make Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos proud: at one point, he confesses that he wants to build a gaming behemoth on the scale of Valve." Read below for the rest of Nick's review.
An anonymous reader writes "After nine years of development, The Dark Mod is now a standalone game. Thief fans can now enjoy over 60 fan made missions which capture the essence of the Thief 1 / 2 games. Originally created as a reaction to Thief 3; with the upcoming release of Thief 4, many are comparing what was done here (a faithful extension of the old gameplay) to what Eidos has shown thus far. Can a little Doom 3 mod compete against a blockbuster AAA title? Should we even compare them?" All code in the The Dark Mod is GPLv3+, and the art assets are all CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported which means it, unfortunately, cannot be distributed by even Debian. Still, an impressive feat!
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times has a story about the imminent release of Battlefield 4 on 29 October, as it's one of the most highly-anticipated video games of the year. The most interesting part of the article is where it highlights what a mammoth undertaking such 'AAA' games have become. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people working full time on it, and hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in its development. These number have been rising and rising over the years; how big do they get before it becomes completely unfeasible to top your last game? The article also points out that the PC platform is beginning to wane in popularity. Nobody's quite sure yet whether it'll level out or go into serious decline, but you can bet development studios are watching closely. With bigger and bigger stakes, how long before they decide it's not worth the risk? Even consoles aren't safe: 'Electronic Arts is nevertheless trying to extend franchises like Battlefield to devices, because it must. But at the same time, it has to grapple with the threats undermining traditional gaming. Though the classic consoles are getting reboots this fall, there is no guarantee that new models will permanently revive the format's fortunes.' And of course, the question must be asked: do we even want the 'AAA' games to stick around?"
jones_supa writes "If you want to find the computer geniuses of tomorrow, you could do worse than to check out which kids are playing Minecraft. In a Google+ post, the Google Quantum A.I. Lab Team says that they've released a mod called qCraft to enable kids (and adults) to play around with blocks that exhibit behaviors like quantum entanglement, superposition and observer dependency. qCraft obviously isn't a perfect scientific simulation, but it's a fun way for players to experience a few parts of quantum mechanics outside of thought experiments or dense textbook examples. The team doesn't know the full potential of what you can make with the mod, but they are excited to see what Minecraft's players can discover."
barlevg writes "A college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spent nine months meticulously remaking Super Mario Bros. based on the latest web standards. His project is open source and the code freely available through Github. The site recently gained widespread media attention, which unfortunately brought it to the attention of Nintendo, which has requested that the site be taken down. In a column on the Washington Post website, tech blogger Timothy Lee makes the case for how this is a prime example of copyrights hindering innovation and why copyright lengths should be shortened. Among his arguments: copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."
vivIsel writes "Cyan, the company behind Myst, is taking another shot at an game in that vein — this time in a new game universe, with the Unreal 4 engine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they haven't gotten a lot of traction with traditional game publishers, so they are turning to Kickstarter with a $1.1M total ask. The Kickstarter video also has some neat shots of the Cyan headquarters — which looks a bit like one of the buildings on Myst island itself."
New submitter gamersunited writes with news of Blizzard Entertainment's defeat of another company that created bot software to automate World of Warcraft characters. Ceiling Fan Software faces a judgment of $7 million, and must disable any active licenses for the software. They're also forbidden from transferring or open-sourcing the bot software, and from facilitating its continued use in any way. The court order (PDF) follows more than two years of legal wrangling. Blizzard won a similar judgment a few years ago against another bot company called MDY Industries, which created the popular Glider bot.
MojoKid writes "EA took the wraps off Battlefield 4 this past week, offering players a chance to try an early beta. AMD has also been talking up Battlefield 4 in combination with their new Radeon R series line with a vengeance, highlighting the features of its new Mantle API and close partnership with DICE, Battlefield 4's developer. Sometimes, enough modest changes evolve into an entirely new product, and when you factor in the tessellation improvements, terrain deformation, Mantle API support, enhanced audio cues, and better particle effects, that's what BF4 is shaping up to be. And it appears likely the game is going to be a premiere title across all of the current and future consoles plus PCs. Battlefield 4 is going to be closely watched for a number of reasons; Mantle performance, comparisons between the Xbox 360 / PS3 and Xbox One / PS4 versions, and, of course, on its own merits."
itwbennett writes "Until now Sony has done a pretty good job of keeping future Playstation 4 owners happy. But last week they finally hit a rock when Game Informer posted an article about headset compatibility. At launch, USB headsets that work with the PS3 won't work with the PS4. Sony says that eventually there will be a system update that addresses the problem but for now, even your Sony-branded USB headset won't work. If you use a Bluetooth headset (as most PS3 owners do) the news is even worse. Bluetooth headsets will not be supported and no update is planned to address this. ITworld's Peter Smith is shedding a tear for his $250 Turtle Beach PX5 headset."