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Video: How a team of inexperienced devs created Tokyo Jungle

Crispy’s Inc. was founded by a team of aspiring creators with zero previous game development experience. So how did the inexperienced team manage to create Tokyo Jungle

In this 2013 GDC session, Yohei Kataoka goes over how a game development team with little experience was able to create the successful game Tokyo Jungle and explores the potential of the Japanese game development scene.

Kataoka also discusses how an inexperienced company like Crispy’s Inc. ended up releasing a first-party title for the PlayStation 3 as their debut game. 

Developers interested in how Tokyo Jungle came to be may appreciate that they can now watch the talk completely free via the official GDC YouTube channel!

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its accompanying YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC or VRDC already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas.

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EVE Online to permanently ban repeat offenders using bots

In a blog posted earlier this week, EVE Online developers announced that players who create automated bots will be banned for three days and removed from the game permanently if they are repeat offenders. 

While CCP isn’t taking legal action against players who create automated bots it could be a possibility in the future, as a court recently ruled in favor of Twitch cracking down on illegal bot makers. 

After players expressed frustration over the increased number of botters in EVE Online, CCP was prompted to implement stricter punishments.

“A little over 1800 accounts were banned for botting/automation in January,” the blog states. “About one third of the affected accounts received permanent bans as repeat offenders, while the rest was temporarily banned on first offense.”

Starting March 1st, players caught on a first botting offense will be temporarily banned from EVE Online for three days as opposed to the current thirty days. A second offense will result in a permanent ban from the game.  

Lead community developer Sveinn Kjarval went into more detail about the update in the comments of the blog post. “We used to have more strikes in the past but they were reduced down to two which is plenty enough,” he writes. “Our goal isn’t to punish but to end the behavior that breaks the rules for the sake of the game.”

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Despite increased downloads, Gameloft sees drop in daily and monthly average users

According to a report detailing the company’s fiscal year ended December 2017, Vivendi posted revenues of $15.6 billion for the year, up 15 per cent year over year. Additionally, profits grew by 73.9 per cent year over year to $1.6 billion.

Gameloft saw a 12 percent growth in revenues from advertising activities and sales via app stores, with more than 2.5 million downloads per day across all platforms in 2017. 

65 percent of Gameloft’s revenues were generated by internally developed franchises from titles like Disney Magic Kingdoms and Asphalt 8: Airborne. 

The developer maintained an average of 2.5 million downloads per day throughout 2017, but its monthly active users dropped to 128 million while its daily active users fell to 15 million.

However, Gameloft disclaims that its reported results for 2016 only account for the latter half of the year, due to it being “consolidated”.

It’s worth noting that the report did not mention the closure of its New Orleans studio or layoffs at Madrid.

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7 games with interesting hacking mechanics all devs should study

Games have immense capacity to make us feel cool or smart or highly capable — or all three at the same time. And few things can pull that off quite like a great hacking mechanic.

These days hacking is more topical than ever, and for anyone making a game that even flirts with the implications of the growing interconnectedness and networking capabilities of objects and devices all over the world — and the sometimes-questionable security protocols protecting them — it’s rife for potential as a video game mechanic.

With that in mind, we reached out to several developers for their help building a list of games with hacking mechanics that every dev should study. 

Watch Dogs 2 — an open-world hacker’s toolkit

Watch Dogs 2‘s satire-laden cautionary tale on the dangers of unchecked, unregulated technological progress has hacking woven into its very DNA. Whether it’s the InfoSec-rooted storyline or the hacktivist credentials of its lead character and his team, or the remote-controlled contraptions and Internet of Things trickery, this is a game that’s as much about the ethics of tech-powered vigilantism as about holding technology corporations accountable for their wanton breaches of customer privacy and the security flaws of their products.

It’s little wonder, then, that the player is armed with a plethora of fun hacking tools — in addition to all the usual open-world fare. The player can hack into security cameras around the city, remotely hijack cars (either one or many at a time), drain people’s bank accounts, redirect electrical currents to power gates and elevators, and much more. Watch Dogs 2 is a fine example in how to give players a large range of ways to interact with the world while simultaneously nudging them to favor a subset of available options. “Even though a wide selection of firearms and weapons is included,” notes Quadrilateral Cowboy and Thirty Flights of Loving developer Brendon Chung, “using them just kinda feels like… the wrong way to play the game?” 

Watch Dogs 2 never explicitly says it,” he continues, “but everything about the character personalities, dialogue, and tone of the game steers you away from weapons and toward the way-more-fun gadgets and hacking tools.”

TAKEAWAY: If the theme and story allows for it, arming players with a hacker’s toolkit of special skills and gadgets can be a delightful, refreshing, and possibility-laden way to escape the dominant modality of 3D action and open-world games.

Hacknet and UplinkHollywood-style hacking coolness

HackMud developer Sean Gubelman points to both Uplink and Hacknet for the strong theming of their core hacking mechanics. These are games that make the player a cyber hacker in the way popular culture imagines this to be. They’re about Hollywood-style hacking, designed to look and feel like elite code cracking and cybercrime without requiring much — if any — actual hacking knowledge.

There’s an interesting difference in how they do this: in Hacknet, the player spends much of their time typing Unix commands into a terminal interface to break through network security and explore and wreak havoc on the connected systems. Uplink, on the other hand, is more theatrical. It involves building elaborate routing sequences to hide your real IP address, then dialling in and using a password-cracking program to gain access to the target system — with everything depicted in the kinds of fancy, futuristic interfaces of WarGames or the hacking scenes in any number of late-90s movies.

TAKEAWAY: Good game mechanics are never solely about substance. You need the right mechanic in the right place in the right game, and when it comes to emulating highly-difficult real-world tasks like hacking you ideally want another layer: cool. The best hacking mechanics make players feel like they’re geniuses, even if just for a moment.

Else Heart.Break()hacking intertwined with everything

At first glance, Else Heart.Break() seems like a traditional point-and-click adventure game. In truth, however, it’s anything but traditional. Its sprawling city is full of places to go and things to do, and its lifeblood is a BASIC-derivative language that makes everything in the city work. If a player clicks on an object with the “hack” command, which is unlocked once the player gets access to a special key, they get to see the object’s code — and to change its properties or behaviors. The effectiveness of this hacking mechanic, says Deus Ex: Mankind Divided lead designer Richard Knight, rests on the decision to expose the language to the player — which lends it a “realistic feel” and lets the game become about “solving problems creatively through language expression.”

Introversion founder and creative director Chris Delay argues that the critical thing about Else Heart.break() that its hacking mechanic is all-pervasive in its world. “I couldn’t believe how far they’d gone with this concept,” he explains. “Every door, every item, even food and drink, every system in the game could be analysed and understood by reading its source code, then edited. I found myself wandering around the world just looking for objects to inspect. Eventually, when you find a second key and realise you can now actually hack THE KEY ITSELF, well, my mind was blown.”

TAKEAWAY: The best hacking mechanics are often deeply tied to the game’s world — they upend rules and logic, reshaping them at least in part to the player’s whims.

TIS-100 and Shenzhen I/Ohacking as a programming challenge

Zachtronics’ pair of programming games favor the older meaning of computer hacking, from a time when before the term gained its nefarious connotations. They are games about programming for the purposes of mastering a system, solving problems, and experimenting. Knight praises them for the same reasons he recommends Else Heart.Break() — they’re about building things (Shenzhen especially) and solving problems in creative ways, using code and simulated circuits.

In TIS-100, this means reading a detailed technical reference manual for an imaginary 1980s computer and then manipulating pre-written Assembly code to repair corrupted segments (and then optionally refining this code to minimize its size and required clock cycles, like any self-respecting 1980s hacker). Shenzhen I/O, meanwhile, is more like roleplaying a hardware hacker who’s stuck having to make stuff for money when really they’re only in it for the challenge of making a radio-controlled LED vape pen or a drinking game scorekeeper that tracks and visualizes past performance. These are games that don’t simply have a hacking mechanic; they are simplifications of real-world hacking, as engineers see it — where the entire goal is to solve technical puzzles, for the puzzle, and then to solve them better.

TAKEAWAY: Hacking mechanics, much like real hacking, can be a means to an end or they can be both the means and the end — which is to say that the hacking can be about hacking and not about opening a door or distracting a guard or stealing money or whatever.

HackMudan exercise in trust

The whole point of HackMud is to behave like a hacker. That means whiling away the hours tethered to the command-line prompt, writing and editing your own scripts and programs and running other people’s code when you don’t know how or can’t be bothered doing something the hard way. Everything except for a few key system commands is player-authored, so there’s always a lingering question as to whether it’s worth the effort writing a new script or program or worth the risk of using an existing one. 

Delay says that he had “a brief obsession” with the game. He praises its treatment of the issue of trust in hacking. “You are constantly trying to ascertain how trustworthy a player or script is, and if they are actually going to steal all your cash (which happens often),” he explains. “There are command line tools to determine how trustworthy a script is, but many of them are written by players as well. The game forces you into a world of hackers and has you fend for yourself. One typo and you can lose everything, especially as most of the ‘safe’ system commands have nasty malware versions that share the same filename except with a single typo, which your client will happily run if you type the name wrongly.”

TAKEAWAY: In the real world, hackers often rely as much on trust and cooperation as on skill and collaboration — so why not make hacking mechanics in games work the same way?

Quadrilateral Cowboy and Gunpoint hacking as a system

Quadrilateral Cowboy ties its hacking systems into a computer-in-a-briefcase that can be used to control the environment — to switch off lights and open doors or operate lasers and rifles and more for player-specified spans of time (“door4.open(2)”, for instance, will open door 4 for 2 seconds). Gubelman says that it does a great job of connecting the world and the typed hacking commands together through puzzles.

It’s a heist game in which the 3D environment is the puzzle(s) and this simple (but versatile!) hacking mechanic becomes almost like a toolbox. And it’s the detail afforded by this combination — the objects in the environment, each placed for narrative or gameplay purposes (or both), but also the precisely-timed sequences of commands and multi-character actions — that makes the game compelling.

Gubelman also points to Gunpoint as a fine example of hacking mechanics that connect a game’s world and its puzzles — thanks to a nifty gizmo that allows the player to manipulate the wiring of each level to activate elevators, overload light switches and power pockets, re-wire motion detectors, and so on. As in Quadrilateral Cowboy, these actions don’t merely forge a path; they also affect the behavior of other characters and objects. The hacking here is not a parlor trick or an isolated puzzle, but rather a core system that can be played with for sometimes-unexpected environmental consequences.

TAKEAWAY: Even in games with free character movement around an environment, hacking mechanics are more compelling if they work in concert with other systems to produce emergent situations.

Bioshock — hacking abstracted from reality

Knight points out that hacking mechanics need not be in any way realistic. “If it’s something far-flung or fantastical,” he explains, “a mini-game makes sense as a way to abstract it entirely.” In something like the Deus Ex games, for instance, the Internet as we know it has been transformed into something more akin to the worlds of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Its conception of technology and networking is already abstract, so the “hacking” can be almost anything.

“You could turn it into a turn-based RPG and it would still make sense that you’re not port sniffing or running buffer overflows or whatever,” says Knight. “Bioshock essentially does the same thing with their clone of Pipe Dream. In both cases, the player is not a hacker. They can hack, but it’s a skill to learn for a hero that is usually a clean-slate. A mini-game to master hacking becomes a skill to optimize just as combat and exploration do.”

TAKEAWAY: The further a game is from a current day real-world setting, the more freedom you have to make your hacking mechanics unlike real hacking — and you might even be better off making it something completely abstracted away from real hacking.

Press X to hack

Knight also points out that sometimes when hacking is thematically appropriate it need not necessarily be implemented in a game mechanic. “If you’re doing something heroic, or rather too easily within the skill of the player, it makes sense not to apply gameplay to hacking at all,” he explains. 

In Hitman (2016), for instance, the player controls an elite and highly-trained assassin, which Knight suggests makes it perfectly logical that a player to press X to hack a computer or fly a helicopter — he’s an expert for whom such acts would be trivial and straightforward. And that then leaves the designers more time to focus on the parts where he is actually at risk — the core part of his job: maintaining cover and assassinating his targets.

Whether it’s a plot contrivance, as in this Hitman example, or a core mechanic like in most of the games listed here, or anywhere in between, hacking mechanics executed well can offer both a refreshingly non-violent way to get things done and an intellectual challenge that leaves successful players feeling like geniuses. But take care if/when using them, especially if it’s not as a core mechanic, as the line between too complex and too simple may be aggravatingly small.

Thanks to Richard Knight, Sean Gubelman, Chris Delay, and Brendon Chung for their help putting this list together

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Video: How animators approached super jumping in Saints Row IV

What do you do when your animation direction conflicts directly with a key feature being added within your game? How do you approach gathering reference material when the animations requested aren’t even humanly possible? 

In this 2014 GDC session, Volition’s Zach Lowery discusses how the Saints Row IV animation team took a different approach to gathering reference material for superhero-styled jumps when traditional methods didn’t not work.

Lowrery explains how the team applied their “comfortable and confident” animation direction to a world filled with superpowers, without making a super hero game.

Animators may appreciate that they can now watch the talk completely free via the official GDC YouTube channel!

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its accompanying YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC or VRDC already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas.

Bayonetta blasts onto the Nintendo Switch system with two stylish games

Bayonetta blasts onto the Nintendo Switch system with two stylish games

Time to check your style and hone your reflexes. Both the original Bayonetta™ and the Bayonetta 2™ games are now available for the Nintendo Switch™ system. The deadly witch is back and ready to dispatch her enemies in creatively devastating ways.

Bayonetta
See how the saga started! Bayonetta has lost her memory after being asleep at the bottom of a lake for 500 years. The Umbran Witch must now summon Infernal Demons, dodge enemy attacks to slow down time, and defend against the armies of Paradiso as she uncovers the truth of her long-lost past. Deftly change weapons to take out your foes in the most stylish way possible!

Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta sets on a quest to save her friend’s soul, and it will take all the pistols, whips, hammers, flamethrowers, and poison bows at her disposal to do it. This sequel takes the original game’s stylized action and massive scale and amplifies them to ridiculous levels. You’ll also be able to team up with other Umbra Witches in a two-player cooperative mode that can be played via local wireless* or online.**

Purchasing Info:
There are a few ways to purchase both games for one low price. Buying the retail version of the Bayonetta 2 game will also grant you a download code for the original Bayonetta game. Or, if you decide to buy digitally, buying the digital version of one game will automatically grant you a discount on the other game.

Please visit the official site (http://bayonetta2.nintendo.com ) for more details!

*Additional games and systems required for multiplayer mode. Sold separately

** Nintendo Account required. Online services and features, including online gameplay, are free until the paid Nintendo Switch Online Service launches in September 2018.

Game Rated:

Blood and Gore
Intense Violence
Partial Nudity
Strong Language
Suggestive Themes

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Eugen Systems devs on strike after claiming violation of rights

A group of developers from Eugen Systems are on strike after citing labor law violations. Known for the Wargame franchise, the French studio has confirmed that 21 out of its 44 employees walked out yesterday in protest over management. 

In an open letter published to Le Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo (Union of Video Game Workers), the post alleges how Eugen neglected to compensate developers for overtime, refused to acknowledge contracts with some of its employees, and has ignored minimum wage laws. 

“It has now been nearly fifteen months since we have been discussing with management serious violations of our rights,” the letter explains. “In front of the wall that was opposed to us during the first six months of negotiations, we were forced to call on a lawyer to remind the law of our employer.” 

Eugen Systems came out with a statement acknowledging an issue with its recent payslips going out late, but attributed them to a delay in complications caused by legislative reforms.

The strike comes a day after Eugen Systems released Back to Hell, an expansion of Steel Divison: Normandy 44.

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Dota 2 Update – February 15, 2018

* Lane creeps now have a minor knockback based on the amount of hero damage in the killing blow
* Nature’s Guise now shows a buff icon to show when Treant remains within range of trees
* Fixed Flesh Golem heal not taking into account temporary increases to max HP
* Fixed location of familiars when player had bought Aghs or chose the +1 Familiar talent
* Courier no longer try to deliver gems if your inventory is full.
* Minor Windranger updates to model, textures and attachment point for bow strings
* Fixed Windranger taunt not showing when you don’t have vision of the center of the map
* Added last updated time to the guide details view in the In-Game guide picker
* Added number of camps stacked to the support column of the post game scoreboard
* Added a toggle near the language filter to prioritize recent guides
* Custom Games: The local lobby list is now sorted by oldest lobby first
* Custom Games: Fixed a bug where loading into a custom game would occasionally fail to find the necessary files (resulting in a crash or missing interface elements)

7.09:
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* Courier cost reduced from 200 to 50
* Starting gold is reduced from 625 to 600

* Tangoes now come with 3 charges and cost 90 gold

* Initial bounty rune now gives +40 gold to all heroes instead of 100 to the hero that picks it up (those bounty runes look slightly different)

* Killing a neutral camp stack now gives a bonus 15% gold bounty to the hero that stacked it. No bonus is given if the stack is cleared by an enemy or the hero that stacked it. (New audio is now played once a stack is successful. Stacked neutrals have a buff with the stacker’s hero icon on it)

* Tier 1 mid lane towers are now a bit closer to the river
* Removed a tree in the radiant jungle (to the top right of the blue crystals near the ancients)

* Range creep attack acquisition range reduced from 800 to 600

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Steam Lunar New Year Sale

The Steam Lunar New Year Sale starts now, celebrating the Year of the Dog with great deals across the Steam catalog throughout the weekend*. Come back every day to see new featured titles, check out the games that are recommended for you, and use the updated Wishlist tools to sort and filter the games on your Wishlist!

*Discounts end Monday at 10am Pacific

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TrionWorlds Publisher Weekend

* Lane creeps now have a minor knockback based on the amount of hero damage in the killing blow
* Nature’s Guise now shows a buff icon to show when Treant remains within range of trees
* Fixed Flesh Golem heal not taking into account temporary increases to max HP
* Fixed location of familiars when player had bought Aghs or chose the +1 Familiar talent
* Courier no longer try to deliver gems if your inventory is full.
* Minor Windranger updates to model, textures and attachment point for bow strings
* Fixed Windranger taunt not showing when you don’t have vision of the center of the map
* Added last updated time to the guide details view in the In-Game guide picker
* Added number of camps stacked to the support column of the post game scoreboard
* Added a toggle near the language filter to prioritize recent guides
* Custom Games: The local lobby list is now sorted by oldest lobby first
* Custom Games: Fixed a bug where loading into a custom game would occasionally fail to find the necessary files (resulting in a crash or missing interface elements)

7.09:
=====
* Courier cost reduced from 200 to 50
* Starting gold is reduced from 625 to 600

* Tangoes now come with 3 charges and cost 90 gold

* Initial bounty rune now gives +40 gold to all heroes instead of 100 to the hero that picks it up (those bounty runes look slightly different)

* Killing a neutral camp stack now gives a bonus 15% gold bounty to the hero that stacked it. No bonus is given if the stack is cleared by an enemy or the hero that stacked it. (New audio is now played once a stack is successful. Stacked neutrals have a buff with the stacker’s hero icon on it)

* Tier 1 mid lane towers are now a bit closer to the river
* Removed a tree in the radiant jungle (to the top right of the blue crystals near the ancients)

* Range creep attack acquisition range reduced from 800 to 600