Passion doesn’t equate success. It’s a hard lesson to learn in any industry — no matter how dedicated your team is, regardless of how invested they are financially or emotionally, the entire business could burst into flames at any moment. Factors beyond anyone’s control can shift the course of a project in an instant, or kill it on the spot.
Few people know this reality better than the developers at 38 Studios. Founded in 2006 by former professional baseball player Curt Schilling, 38 Studios recruited top talent including fantasy author RA Salvatore and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, with the goal of building MMORPGs — huge, online games with dense ever-evolving worlds.
In 2010, 38 Studios received a $75 million loan from the Economic Development Corporation of Rhode Island, promising to build a universe of MMO games and bring 450 jobs to the state within two years. While $75 million was a hefty sum, it represented just a portion of the budgets of similar MMOs, where individual games could cost upwards of $100 million to develop, plus millions more just to stay online. Supporting World of Warcraft, for example, cost Blizzard $200 million over its first four years on the market.
In February 2012, 38 Studios’ first title, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, came out and was met with moderate success. Within months, the team had sold 410,000 copies of Reckoning and reviews were generally positive.
But by May that year, it was clear 38 Studios was in trouble. A $1.125 million check to the state of Rhode Island bounced, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee said he was working overtime to keep the studio solvent. The next month, the studio declared bankruptcy.
It would’ve been just another story of the perils of game development — MMO development, in particular — if not for that unsecured $75 million loan. The closure of 38 Studios meant Rhode Island taxpayers were responsible for repaying the loan, which came to $112.6 million with interest. The story rocked the video game industry and dominated the regional business news cycle. Rhode Island taxpayers are still repaying the loan today, though the total has been shaved down to about $55 million.
Zak Garriss joined 38 Studios as a writer and designer in 2008, and he left in 2011, just ahead of Reckoning’s launch.
“I left right before and then my phone blew up when it happened because my friends were like, ‘It’s the end,’” Garriss told Engadget.
Today, he’s the narrative director at Deck Nine, the house behind Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and he carries lessons from 38 with him.
“I remember meeting all the guys and gals at 38 Studios and just really seeing a synchrony there, and recognizing that these guys absolutely love making games,” Garriss said. “That’s beautiful, that’s so cool, we’re gonna kill it. And what we learned was, that’s not the totality of how the sausage gets made.”
Garriss has fond memories of 38 Studios. The team there was special — they were engaged, communicative and passionate. Still, despite successfully shipping a rich fantasy game and producing plans for two other titles, they all lost their jobs just months after launch.
Though the business aspect of 38 Studios was ill-managed, Garriss said its daily development routine was solid. Innovative, even.
“That’s not the totality of how the sausage gets made.”
“I think what I learned there built a foundation for who I am as a game developer,” Garriss said. “I got to work with some extraordinarily talented people. And part of the ethos, I think, that was particularly unique was this kind of self-production design approach where we, as writers and designers, we really sought to understand our full production pipeline and write with an eye toward the scope.”
This isn’t how it always works at AAA studios. With hundreds of developers contributing to a single game, teams are often segmented, focusing on individual slices of the project without keeping the bigger picture in mind. It’s easier at independent studios, where just a handful of developers are responsible for the entire game and it’s easier for everyone to be aware of the complete pipeline.
However, plenty of indie developers are still wary of the business side of game development, Garriss said. He attended a roundtable at GDC last week about shoestring indie development, and he noticed a trend among some developers.
“What I saw a lot of was this ideological imposition of a binary that I don’t think is actually true,” he said. “Which is, you love the thing you’re working on, or you can sell out and make money working in a studio or just working for the man.”
Indie developers often view creating a game as a noble, pure undertaking, just like producing any other form of art. Meanwhile, marketing and business dealings are seen as evil tools of soulless corporations. This simply isn’t true, according to Garriss.
“For Before the Storm particularly, it really became clear to me that marketing and PR serves a really positive role if you believe in the game you’re making,” he said. “Marketing is about getting people to play it. Introducing it to people. That experience — everything you just put your heart and soul into, marketing is about actually trying to earn a chance for someone to give it a shot.”
“Marketing and PR serves a really positive role if you believe in the game you’re making.”
Garriss saw the full effect of major-studio marketing plans with Before the Storm. It was published by Square Enix, a powerhouse in the video game industry, and it benefited from a multitude of advertisements, social media campaigns and special-edition bonuses. It helped that Before the Storm was a quality slice of video game goodness, telling a powerful coming-of-age story in a newly established, beloved franchise.
Under Garriss’ narrative leadership, the Deck Nine team kept its eye on the end goal, constantly considering the game’s complete development pipeline with every word they wrote. On top of that, they listened to everyone’s ideas and didn’t hesitate to challenge each other’s creative decisions. They weren’t afraid to fight — respectfully.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different writers’ rooms where this sort of mentality wasn’t necessarily embraced,” Garriss said. “When I was recruiting and building the room for Before the Storm, I think I found myself really drawn to these individuals who had a lot of awesome humility about them. Just as much passion as writers as anybody I’ve met, but a willingness to sort of be proven wrong, or advocate for their ideas at the same time.”
The results of this approach — honed by years of business and creative experience in the video game industry — speak for themselves. Before the Storm was a hit and it’s set Deck Nine up nicely for the future. Garriss won’t talk about the studio’s next plans, but he’s enthusiastic about what’s to come.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “Before the Storm has done wonderfully well. Everyone at Deck Nine is just very excited about next steps, and we’re all super excited to see what Deck Nine is going to do next.”
Facebook has been working on a smart home device called Portal — a video chat gadget powered by facial recognition that could reportedly suggest a call when two users are both near their respective devices. In January, reports surfaced that Portal might launch this year, but yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Facebook won’t be unveiling its home products at its F8 developer conference in May as was initially planned. The pullback is attributed to the ongoing Cambridge Analytica controversy and growing concerns over how Facebook handles its users’ data. Now, The Information reports that the company is also considering alternative privacy safeguards among its smart home devices.
According to The Information, Facebook now plans to limit the processing and storing of video data to the device itself instead of on its servers. A source close to the company said that the move comes after months of discussions with privacy experts.
Facebook already has a massive trove of facial data on its many, many users and this latest scandal hasn’t done much towards fostering trust in how the company manages that data. Some are expressing concern over the extra power Facebook might gain from having a video device in people’s homes. “It would be concerning in my mind if Facebook is designing and releasing a hardware device that uses facial recognition, as they already have one of the largest facial recognition databases in the world,” Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jennifer Lynch told The Information. “It would allow them to really take their algorithms to a whole new level because it would be scanning people inside the home from all different perspectives.”
Facebook already faces a number of lawsuits over the Cambridge Analytica debacle as well as other issues with how it handles users’ data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before Congress next month.
Via: The Information
Concerned over all of the hate notches have been getting, OnePlus decided to get ahead of the issue and explain to The Verge why it’s going the notch route with the OnePlus 6 and why that doesn’t make it just an iPhone copycat. The company says that the OnePlus 6’s notch will be larger than the Essential Phone’s because going that small would’ve affected the earpiece and front-facing camera quality or required it to omit other sensors and lights. But it will be smaller than the iPhone X’s.
Importantly, OnePlus is manually testing the top 1,000 Play Store apps to see which might require a notch compatibility mode and, The Verge notes, OnePlus will disguise the notch at times that it would impede video viewing. The company said that Apple’s moves often encourage the wider adoption of phone features in the industry, but when it comes to the notch, OnePlus said it would’ve gotten there without Apple. “Maybe not as fast,” OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told The Verge. “But we have access to the roadmaps of all the screen manufacturers, and when they gave us the opportunity to make cutouts at the top of the screen, it just made sense.” Because, ultimately, the notch means more screen.
OnePlus also shared that the 6 will have its biggest screen yet but the phone itself won’t be larger than any of its others. The screen-to-body ratio will be 90 percent and it will have a headphone jack.
Source: The Verge
Richard Ng didn’t plan it this way, but he might just be standing at the forefront of an eSports revolution.
The 38-year-old brand strategist finds himself moonlighting as the founder of the Five Deadly Venoms Crew, a supporters club for Overwatch League’s New York Excelsior team. What started as a simple Discord request to meet up with nearby eSports fans has quickly grown into a local phenomenon, hosting weekly, standing-room-only viewing parties at Waypoint, a cozy LAN café on the Lower East Side.
This past weekend’s event had more than 70 attendees — a lively, exuberant crowd that found plenty of reason to cheer as NYC routed the Los Angeles Valiant 4-0.
“There were no lofty aspirations at first,” said Ng, as he recalled the group’s humble beginnings. “We had 15 people come out for the first one, and it just snowballed from there.”
The crew needed a name, and Ng immediately thought of Five Deadly Venoms, lifted from a classic Kung-Fu movie and representing the five boroughs of NYC (with a wink and a nod to both Wu-Tang Clan and Waypoint’s proximity to Chinatown).
A Toronto native who has lived in New York for about five years, Ng was familiar with the concept of supporters clubs, which are common throughout the world — especially in big cities like New York — for European sports. In fact, soccer teams often rely on these groups to provide grassroots, organic marketing, and Blizzard’s emphasis on city-based teams made OWL a perfect fit for this model.
“Quite frankly, city squads have made eSports easier to talk about,” Ng said. “The product is the same as other eSports, but there’s an ease in being able to have something in common with other fans, to all unite and cheer on our city. That’s the beauty of all this.”
Indeed, OWL’s emphasis on city squads has created fans that are more in line with those found in traditional sports. For example: New Yorkers love Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. even though neither of them hail from New York. Similarly, none of Excelsior’s players are from NYC (in fact, they’re all from South Korea), yet fans have a reason to cheer for them. Like traditional sports fans, they’re rooting for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back, something not typically seen in eSports.
The Five Deadly Venoms routinely attract a broad, diverse group of guests, ranging from video-game veterans to pre-teens, hardcore gamers to traditional sports fans. These aren’t Dota 2 or League of Legends regulars, perhaps offering proof that the nascent Overwatch League is attracting a different kind of fan to established “arena” eSports.
“This might surprise you, but I must confess: I have never played Overwatch.”
Take, for example, Alex Nagler, a 29-year-old media strategist from Manhattan who proudly wore a New York Mets sweater at this past weekend’s viewing party. He was quick to point out that Jeff Wilpon, the CEO of the Mets, also owns Excelsior, which is what first piqued Nagler’s interest.
“This might surprise you,” he told me, “but I must confess: I have never played Overwatch.” Despite a lack of familiarity with the game, Nagler enjoys the excitement of watching it live with fellow fans, not to mention the Mets connection. “Every major American sport will be involved in this industry very soon,” he added. “I’m just curious to watch the eSports space grow, and this is a fun environment.”
Arina Wu, a graduate student at Columbia University, never expected to find a supportive, real-world community through eSports. During this past weekend’s viewing party, she greeted guests at the front door, smiling ear to ear while rocking her favorite Excelsior replica jersey.
“Overwatch League has a very different kind of fan base than other eSports,” she explained. “The game attracts younger fans, females, non-binary, the queer community — it’s so inclusive. And with the supporters crew, it’s like I’ve gained a whole new family.”
And then there’s Johann Maldonado, one of the youngest members of the crew. Although he’s only 12 years old, Maldonado has a lot in common with his fellow Excelsior fans — and his excitement was palpable.
“I feel right at home here,” he said as he enthusiastically flashed a D.Va-inspired V sign, his uncle smiling behind him. “Overwatch is my first eSport,” he continued, “and I just knew I had to come here when I found out there was a New York team. We’re all here showing our hometown pride.”
Five Deadly Venoms founder Richard Ng
Stories like these must be music to Blizzard’s ears. The company took a risk, and raised some eyebrows, when it decided to model OWL on traditional sports, complete with city-based teams. But only three months into its inaugural season, OWL boasts above-average Twitch ratings (even beating NA LCS in average concurrent viewers for the first time in late February) and — if the Five Deadly Venoms Crew is any indication — has attracted a broader audience than its competitors.
This shouldn’t come as a total shock. After all, studies have shown that more than twice the number of women play Overwatch than any other FPS, and Nielsen found last year that one of Overwatch’s main competitors, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, has a 90% male fan base.
But the city affiliations can’t be overlooked. While other eSports teams have their fair share of adoring fans — LoL’s SK Telecom T1 or Dota2’s Team Liquid, for example — they’re scattered across the world with no central location to unite them. As Ng argues, those fan bases can’t build the same type of grassroots, word-of-mouth community as a location-based supporters club.
“Rooting for those teams makes me feel like I’m rooting for a massive, conglomerate corporation,” Ng told me. “But cheering for your neighborhood, for your city, touches on a basic level of human pride that extends back generations.”
There are more OWL supporter groups popping up throughout the country, with up-and-coming crews in Philadelphia, Miami and other locations. Ng has been in touch with these groups, lending his support and offering advice, even setting up a charity game against the Houston crew set for mid April. It’s all done in a spirit of friendship, camaraderie and philanthropy, with the groups hoping to give back to the communities in which they reside.
And what does the future hold for the Five Deadly Venoms? The crew hopes to expand its core members, perhaps even open up multiple viewing locations and grow alongside the league. Currently, all OWL matches are played in Los Angeles, but it will expand to a home-away format, a change rumored to be coming by 2020 latest. The supporters club is excited, with members already discussing how great it would be to pack Madison Square Garden or travel to other cities for road-game invasions.
As this past weekend’s match against LA came to a dramatic conclusion, with rip tires blaring and last-second triple kills securing the victory, the packed crowd at Waypoint erupted in wild cheers and applause, a “Go New York, Go New York, Go!” chant rising from the back rows. If you didn’t know any better, you’d have thought Aaron Judge had just smacked a grand slam at Yankee Stadium.
Ng just smiled.
“Remember how the knock on online gamers used to be: But they’re not your real friends?” he asked. “Well, look at us now” — he pointed at the crowd — “because these friends are real, and it’s amazing.”
Thanks to Brexit, UK residents won’t be able to access BBC iPlayer or native Netflix programming when traveling around the EU. Rules just passed to let customers “carry” their copyrights with them while traveling, but that will end next year, as spotted by Politico. Currently, if you live in the UK and visit France, you can only access the French version of Netflix. New EU legislation, however, will allow you to access the library that you would normally find in your home market. Brexit, though, means Brits will lose out on these benefits starting March 29th, 2019.
Broadcast TV will be affected too. UK-based networks will have to “clear rights” with every member state of the EU where the signal lands, if they’re to serve viewers. That goes both ways, and will affect EU broadcasters as well. Music streaming will be affected too. That’s in addition to recent news that the UK will potentially be excluded from the Galileo GPS satellite program. For more info on what’s at stake when the UK exits the European Union, hit the source PDF below.
Source: Europa (PDF), Politico
The next game in the Dragon Quest franchise will arrive in North America and Europe on September 4th for PS4 and PC only, but the previously-rumored Switch version won’t be coming in 2018. Dragon Quest XI came out in Japan last summer for the aforementioned consoles and the 3DS, and sadly, the game’s maker Square Enix decided not to localize the game for Western owners of Nintendo’s handheld, according to IGN.
PS4 and Steam players will get to experience the franchise’s eleventh game with a few improvements over its Japanese version. Aside from an English voice over, it will also feature the hard mode Draconian Quest, a refined UI, better character and camera movement and the ability to sightsee landscapes and monsters.
The Switch version is in development but won’t be coming out this year and could end up being released “much later,” a Square Enix spokesperson told IGN at an event. Those interested in the PS4 version can pre-order Dragon Quest XI on PSN today.
Source: PlayStation blog
In 2016, the debate over whether manufacturers should aid law enforcement officials in unlocking criminals’ phones became very heated as the FBI took Apple to court over its refusal to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. At the time, the agency said Apple was its only shot at getting access to whatever was stored on Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c but it later used an outside vendor to crack the phone and get to its data. Now, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has released a report that says the FBI didn’t do everything it could to find a solution before seeking a court order against Apple.
According to the watchdog’s report, the main issue was miscommunication throughout the agency — certain factions that had knowledge of a potential solution weren’t properly approached and those helming the search for a fix didn’t adequately emphasize the need to find one. Namely, a lack of communication between the FBI’s Cryptographic and Electronic Analysis Unit (CEAU) and its Remote Operations Unit (ROU) delayed the approach of outside vendors and led the FBI to determine that there were no potential solutions other than assistance from Apple.
The report notes that the ROU chief knew of a vendor that was nearing a solution to the issue at hand. However, he said that he was never approached by the CEAU chief to aid in the search for a way to get into the phone and a long-standing separation between using tools for national security issues and criminal cases led him to remain uninvolved in the search for a solution. It wasn’t until the chief of the Digital Forensics and Analysis Section — which houses the CEAU — asked “anyone” for “any kind of solution” that the ROU chief reached out to the vendor, which he did the day before the FBI’s court filing.
Overall, the Office of Inspector General determined the lack of communication between units and unclear language regarding how far the FBI was willing to look for a solution led to a delay in finding one. ” We believe better communication and coordination at the outset among the units in OTD would have helped to ensure that this had taken place,” the report said, referring to the FBI’s Operational Technology Division, which the ROU, CEAU and DFAS are all a part of.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have maintained that phone encryption is a massive hindrance to public safety and recent reports claim the Trump administration is considering a renewed push for legislation that would require phone companies to provide a way for law enforcement to access encrypted data. Critics of such legislation have said that introducing these means would impair the security of mobile devices overall.
Source: Justice Department
Adobe and NVIDIA are partnering up to power up the former’s cloud-based AI endeavors with the latter’s GPUs. Each new update for software in Adobe’s suite leans more on its artificial intelligence toolkit Sensei to improve editing features, and it makes sense to tap NVIDIA’s chips to ensure those run smoothly.
For instance, Adobe added Sensei to products like Lightroom last year and, in recent updates, implemented it to auto-edit photos. Optimizing Sensei for NVIDIA GPUs will ideally improve Adobe’s service for Creative and Experience Cloud customers and developers, especially as the software company builds out its multi-platform cloud-hosted editing and storage features.
The partnership could also lead to new business opportunities for NVIDIA’s ecosystem of developers, according to a press release. The pair could offer GPU-boosted versions of Adobe’s services for creative mediums like mixed reality, next-gen rendering and ‘other new immersive experiences.’
Hyundai’s Kona is a great little crossover and it’s starting to look like the Kona Electric will follow in the gas-powered vehicle’s footsteps.
At the New York Auto Show, the Korean automaker announced more details about its upcoming electrified SUV. The biggest news about the Kona electric is that the production vehicle will have an estimated range of 250 miles per charge. That’s more than Chevy Bolt and the regular version of Tesla Model 3.
The front-wheel-drive vehicle will ship with a 64kWh battery that can be charged to 80 percent via DC fast charging (which is standard) in 54 minutes. Level two charging will take nine hours and 35 minutes which lends itself to overnight charging.
That battery pack powers a single motor that outputs 201 horsepower and 291 pounds of torque. That means it’s producing more horsepower (26 more horsepower) and torque (a whopping 96 more pounds) to the wheels than the 1.6-liter turbo found in the upper trim levels of the gas-power Kona.
While most of the styling is similar, the EV Kona does away with the traditional front grill and replaces it with a cross-hatched surface. Meanwhile, Hyundai has placed the charging port on the front of the car. If you drive an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, you know that sometimes the parking space you get to charge your car might not always line up with the side of the car the port is on.
Hyundai also announced that the car would be available in California in late 2018 with availability expanding to coastal regions and the rest of the country after that. The high-range EV market is getting crowded and for consumers, that’s a good thing.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from the 2018 New York Auto Show.
Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down for an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes at Lane Tech College Prep today. The same high school hosted Apple’s education-themed event on Tuesday.
The full interview will be part of a TV special titled Revolution: Apple Changing the World that will air Friday, April 6 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on MSNBC. However, reporters in attendance have shared highlights from the discussion on Twitter.
Cook started by sharing his view that “education is the great equalizer of people.” He said “if you look at many of the issues in society today, you can find the root in people who don’t have access to quality education today.”
“We all have to get comfortable with notion that education is lifelong. Jobs will be cannibalized over time and replaced by others.”
While he believes that technology plays a key role in modern education, Cook noted that Apple doesn’t believe technology can replace teachers. “Our products are tools,” he said. “They help people — not replace people.”
“Teachers want to have technology to deliver their lessons. Most all teachers want a level of coding for their classes,” said Cook.
On the subject of Apple’s new entry-level iPad, $299 with education pricing, Cook said that price point becomes “a very reasonable expenditure” since students, teachers, and school districts “don’t have to buy a new iPad every year.”
“I want America to be strong, first and foremost. And one base for that is that everyone needs to learn to code. Coding is a way to express yourself. It’s a language,” said Cook. “It’s not our expectation that everyone becomes a software programmer. But it’s important that people learn the basics,” he added.
“We need to get more people interested in coding. We have to reach out to women and unrepresented minorities that have been too low in coding.”
United States and Jobs
“We know that Apple could only have been created in the United States,” proclaimed Cook. “This company would not have flourished in any other country in the world. This is our country and we want to create as many jobs as we can in the United States. We don’t need any political pressure for that.”
While the iPhone is assembled in Asia, Cook said that many parts are manufactured in the United States, like the display glass from Corning in Kentucky.
On the subject of job retraining, Cook said “we should not all sit around waiting for government to tell us what to do.” He added that “this should be something that government and business are working together on.”
Cook emphasized the importance of lifelong education and job retraining given that robots will replace humans for certain tasks. “There’s an element of what each of us do, which will be automated over time. That’s not bad. But we need to think about training for the jobs for tomorrow, which will be software-based.”
A roundup of Cook’s other comments:
- “Businesses should be more than just building revenues and profits. They should be building people.”
- On the subject of Apple’s planned new campus, which appears to be a slight dig at Amazon’s HQ2 search: “We’re not doing a beauty contest thing, that’s not Apple … It sets up a win lose situation and that’s not something I want Apple to be a part of.”
- “The DACA situation is one that I am personally, as an American, deeply offended by. The DACA situation is not an immigration issue. It’s a moral issue.”
- “I don’t see this as a partisan issue, this is about America, it’s that simple. I am very disappointed with both parties … I’m personally lobbying Congress on it.”
- On the subject of regulation: “The best regulation is no regulation is self regulation. I do think that it is time for a set of people to think deeply about what can be done here.” … “Regulation can have unexpected consequences, but I think we’re beyond that,” says Cook, regarding Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal
- On the subject of privacy: “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if the customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”
- “We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. I think it is an invasion of privacy. Privacy to us is a human right, it’s a civil liberty and it’s something that is unique to America.”
- “I think it’s creepy when I look at something and it chases me all the way across the web… I don’t like that.”
- On the subject of what Cook would do if he was Mark Zuckerberg re: Cambridge Analytica: “What would I do? I wouldn’t be in this situation.” … “We curate. We don’t want porn on our App Store. We don’t want hate speech on our App Store. We don’t want the ability to recruit terrorists on our App Store. We’re looking at every app in detail. Is it doing what it is saying it is doing?”
- “The only way to protect your data is to encrypt it. …if I were you I wouldn’t do business with a company that isn’t doing that.”
- On the subject of Apple-FBI dispute following San Bernardino shooting: “You should not be able to compel someone to write something that is bad for civilization.”
- On the subject of allowing NRATV app on Apple TV: “Public discourse is an important part of democracy. Do I like their tactics and positions? Obviously, no. But their point of view, it’s important for the public to hear that.”
- On the subject of what Cook would tell his high school self: “I would tell myself, the joy is in the journey. And on finding your purpose: Your purpose is to serve humanity.”
We’ll have more in-depth coverage of Cook’s comments shortly.
Tag: Tim Cook
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