Gaming is an ever-changing and ever-adapting world. Some games are a flash-in-the-pan and fizzle out before really reaching their full potential and others live in the hearts of gamers as classics. Yet there has never been a more successful video game to keep its players engaged like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft has left such an impact on the world of gaming that it’s transcended the requirement to become a classic while simultaneously giving constant updates and evolving. Back in 2004, there already were several games in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game (MMORPG) genre. Everquest and EVE Online predate Warcraft by a few years and at around the time of its release there were many more MMOs alongside it. Every MMO to come out after it is still community-labeled as “the next WoW killer.”
The game providers did what very few things in the fantasy genre can claim — they made fantasy easy enough for everyone to join in and cool enough to draw non-nerds in. World of Warcraft never played like the standard fantasy game where you need to be heavily invested in fantasy to get what’s going on. World of Warcraft makes the game simple enough that a kid could grasp the concept and challenging enough to engage mature players, whereas other games just simply toss the player in and hope for the best.
There are many draws to World of Warcraft but one of the key selling-points is the enticing story. Even when you start out as a low-level paladin, your character feels like they’re now apart of this massive ever-changing world. Each quest your character takes on along the way feels like the stakes have organically risen from the days of killing boars in the forest. Before you know it, it will truly feel like you’ve earned being the world-saving paladin.
The previous games in the franchise, Warcraft, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III, all place an equal standing for the two opposing factions — the Alliance and the Horde. The moment a new player comes in and picks a side, they’re unknowingly drawn into a massive player base that sees themselves as the good guys and other players as their enemy, despite both being just regular players. Other MMOs either put every player on the side of good or they clumsily made a war that didn’t feel grand enough.
This feeds into the player’s identity that is felt throughout their time playing. Feeling like you’re actually this great Dwarven Paladin or fierce Undead Warlock keeps you hooked into staying into the game. While many players have multiple characters to choose from, they feel an attachment to their main character far more because of the first time they played through the storyline.
Each expansion pack released after launch has managed to carefully take on a threat just slightly more intimidating than the last. The stories always continue and give you a sense of “this is the bad guy — fear them” before you eventually take them down with your friends. Generally, new major pieces of content are added to the game every other month or so (with content admittedly winding down just before the next expansion) so there’s always plenty of gameplay.
Not only are players able to take on the actual story, but each other. Players are able to skirmish each other at every opportunity they come across. If you feel like attacking a lowly player of the other side, go for it. If you want to band together with scores of other players of your faction to attack the enemy capital city, go for it. The player-versus-player is fun and rewarding. But if you didn’t want to fight other players and just enjoy yourself, that’s fine too.
Another aspect that keeps many fans coming back is the sense of community. Players can form parties to clear dungeons with their friends and guilds to clear raids on the previously mentioned baddies. The guilds form a close knit bond that eventually becomes year-long friendships with people you’ve never met before.
World of Warcraft is coming on its fourteenth year since the servers went live and the next expansion based on the faction war is about to be released in early August. As long as Blizzard keeps up the good work, players may be around for another 14 years.
One of the struggles that many returning, wounded veterans face is trying to find a new normal after a horrific incident. What was once a simple pastime, like playing a quick round of your favorite video game to relieve stress, is taken away from someone who has lost the ability to hold and operate a controller as they once did.
This is what Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed to alleviate. And any little thing that can help give our wounded brothers and sisters a better chance at living a comfortable, normal life should definitely be counted as a win for the veteran community as a whole.
AbleGamers has founded many Accessibility Arcades to give gamers with disabilities a space with a wide variety of modified controllers.
(USDA photo by Bob Nichols)
The disabled gaming community has had to find ways to compensate for many years, going to either extremely costly or very frustrating lengths to do so. If a gamer with disabilities isn’t able to successfully adjust the way they play to fit their condition, they have to abandon the game, wasting cash and taking a hit to morale as they have to say goodbye to their favorite titles.
And then came the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires tech companies to outfit all forms of communication, including laptops, smartphones, and video game consoles, with accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since the CCVAA’s passing, nearly all tech giants have taken steps in the right direction, introducing many text-to-speech features for the visually impaired and other accessibility options, like color-blind support settings in most major game titles. Then, Microsoft moved leaps and bounds ahead of the wave when they announced a partnership with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space.
The engineers at Microsoft began working on a versatile prototype controller that can interface with all types of external input devices, allowing for an adaptive remapping of inputs. There are 19 ports on the back of the controller that can be connected to joysticks, standard controllers, buttons, switches, or whatever other type of device is most accessible to the gamer. If need be, any Xbox game can be played with one hand and a foot, one hand and a shoulder, one shoulder and a foot — whatever allows the gamer to play most comfortably.
The controller has been released to the public — and at a reasonable price. Our friends at Operation Supply Drop were given many adaptive controllers to be deployed to military hospitals around the world. The chief medical officer of OSD, Maj. Erik Johnson, has long been a supporter of using video games as a therapeutic tool for wounded troops.
With these controllers, many more wounded veterans will be able to bring gaming back into their lives.
Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.
In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.
When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.
Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.
In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.
Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.
This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.
It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.
Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)
All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.
Marine Corps veteran and amputee video game streamer known amusingly as “ToeYouUp” has been making headlines as of late for his win in the uber-popular battle royale game, Apex Legends. The Marine Corps vet lost his arm in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24 but hasn’t let it affect his love for video games.
For those of you who have played Apex Legends (one of the humble 25 million to enjoy its February debut), you know how difficult it can be to get a single kill in this game, let alone a win. However, ToeYouUp managed to get a win in the game — using one hand, one foot, and a run-of-the-mill, ol’ Playstation 4 controller.
He’s also opted to forego any modifications on his controller. Instead, he uses his left hand to press the controller buttons, move, and aim his character. Then, he uses his toe to fire. Just look at that trigger discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
How fitting then, for a Marine, that he specializes in first-person shooting games. Specifically, he alternates between Apex Legends and Battlefield V. You can take the boy outta the Marines, but you can’t take the Marines outta the boy.
It’s also important to note that ToeYouUp’s channel is a blast to watch independently of his amputation. It’s actually allowed him to develop a play style that is far more watchable than a lot of his two-handed counterparts — because it’s unique. His motions tend to be far more linear, and he surveils the landscape far more than most top ranked Apex Legends players, so what could initially be looked at as a “limitation” is actually quite the opposite — it makes for more creative play.
On a website full of thousands of people who can play a game well, it’s far more entertaining (and refreshing) to see someone who can play the game with their own style and approach. Twitch users are noticing, too — he’s jumped up thousands of followers since his Apex Legends win went viral.
You can join the masses and watch the vet drop some virtual bodies on his Twitch channel below.
Microsoft’s Xbox One is losing to Sony’s PlayStation 4 — badly.
With nearly 80 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the wild, Microsoft’s Xbox One is getting trounced. Estimates put Xbox sales number somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 million — Microsoft stopped reporting hardware sales numbers some time ago.
But don’t count Xbox out just yet.
Between its Netflix-like Game Pass service, the company’s game streaming ambitions, several new studio acquisitions, and the brilliant decision to add backwards compatibility, Microsoft is building a strong foundation for the future.
Here’s a look into the future of Xbox, straight from Microsoft’s Xbox leader Phil Spencer:
1. Creating the Netflix of gaming with Game Pass.
For $10/month, Xbox Game Pass offers access to over 100 games. That includes every first-party game that Microsoft makes, loads of indies, and — as of very recently — some heavy-hitters from third-party publishers like Bethesda Softworks.
Instead of streaming the games, a la Netflix, you download each game to your Xbox console. As long as you’re paying for Game Pass, you keep all the games you download.
Best of all, any new Xbox One games that come out from Microsoft are included with Game Pass.
When “Forza Horizon 4” arrives this fall, you could drop $10 on a Game Pass subscription to download and play the game — a whopping $50 savings over the normal $60 price of a new game. Microsoft’s betting that you’ll like the arrangement so much that you’ll keep paying for the service every month, like Netflix.
“We’re finding people in Game Pass actually play more games,” Xbox leader Phil Spencer told me in an interview in June 2018, at E3, the annual video game trade show in Los Angeles. “And they’re trying some franchises where, if they had to buy the franchise — even if they’re $30, $60, whatever the amount might be — it’s way easier for them to be invested at $10/month.”
In the long term, Spencer said the goal for Game Pass is offer a safe platform for potentially risky, creative games.
“I want it to be a place where creators feel like they can take risks in things that they wanna do, and know that they have an audience of people who are already invested in the service, such that the marginal cost for them to click on the next icon and give it a try is very, very low.”
The comparison to Netflix becomes apt once more. Netflix funds lots of creative, bizarre stuff because it can afford to fail — with millions of paying subscribers, Netflix has a sturdy financial foundation from which to experiment. It also has a large platform to surface content that otherwise might get lost in a digital storefront.
2. Building a platform to let people play games anywhere, whether you own a game console or not.
On a stage in the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on June 10, 2018, Xbox leader Phil Spencer offered the clearest picture yet into Microsoft’s vision for the future of the Xbox brand.
“Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console-quality gaming on any device,” Spencer said. “Not only that — we are dedicated to perfecting your experience everywhere you want to play. On your Xbox, your PC, or your phone.”
It’s an echo of sentiments he’s expressed previously, but it’s the most definitive testament to Microsoft’s plans for the future of gaming.
“There are 2 billion people who play video games on the planet today. We’re not gonna sell 2 billion consoles,” Spencer told me in an interview following his stage presentation. “Many of those people don’t own a television, many have never owned a PC. For many people on the planet, the phone is their compute device,” he said. “It’s really about reaching a customer wherever they are, on the devices that they have.”
That said, logic dictates that the ability to stream “console-quality gaming on any device” depends on some pretty major upgrades to internet speeds around the world. It also faces hurdles like the uncertain future of net-neutrality laws and consumer internet data caps.
In the meantime, Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform offers an infrastructure that few other companies have. “Fifty data centers in different parts of the planet? Billions of dollars of investment in building that out? It allows us to accelerate our growth in this space,” Spencer told me.
3. Building the next Xbox.
In a surprise move, Spencer outright announced Microsoft’s work on the successor to the Xbox One.
You read that correctly: Microsoft has already announced the next Xbox, after the Xbox One.
“The same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles,” he said on stage on June 10, 2018. “Where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.”
Of note, Spencer said “consoles” — as in Microsoft is apparently working on more than one future console. Perhaps a smaller, less expensive, streaming-focused Xbox, in addition to a more traditional, larger, $300 to $400 Xbox?
Spencer didn’t specify, but did offer more information on the announcement during an interview with Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann in June 2018. “Everybody knows what’s happening,” Spencer said in reference to Sony and Microsoft making new consoles. “It’s this kind of unsaid thing, of, like, ‘Well, they shipped Xbox One X. They didn’t lay off their whole hardware team. What do you think they’re doing?'”
He said the announcement was a means of easing potential concerns of longtime console buyers: “It’s not tomorrow, but I didn’t want people to think that we’re walking away from that part of the brand and the business, because it’s really important to us.”
In terms of what that console (or consoles) will actually be, Spencer isn’t offering any major details just yet. From the sound of things, we’re still a few years away from new consoles.
4. Buying several game studios to build new franchises.
If there’s one thing Microsoft is lacking, it’s major first-party game franchises. Even if such franchises existed, Microsoft only owns so many studios capable of producing blockbuster games.
“Halo” and “Forza” and “Gears of War” are all important franchises — to say nothing of “Minecraft,” still one of the biggest games on the planet. With the exception of “Minecraft,” many of these franchises are suffering from franchise fatigue.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Switch, meanwhile, are getting huge first-party games — games that can only be played on their respective consoles — like “God of War” and “Super Mario Odyssey” that re-invented staid franchises.
And that’s why Microsoft just announced the acquisition of five studios. “We know that we want to create new franchises,” Spencer told me. “We really thought we needed five or six new teams, and products that we really believed in.”
“We are committed to building an industry-leading first-party studios organization,” Spencer said on stage. “And we are making one of our greatest single year investments in teams by adding five new creative studios.”
Why not buy one big publisher, like EA or Activision, with a bunch of major game franchises? It’s complicated, but here’s Spencer’s answer: “I couldn’t find a collection out there in one entity to do it.”
5. Multiplayer gaming that crosses Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC, and mobile platforms.
Microsoft’s been banging the drum for interoperability between competing game consoles for awhile now. Ever since announcing the “Better Together” update for “Minecraft,” which allowed players on all “Minecraft” platforms to play the game together, the entire game industry has begun moving toward cross-platform multiplayer.
It makes a lot of logical sense if you think about it: Games like “Call of Duty,” “Overwatch,” and “Minecraft” are functionally identical across platforms. Why shouldn’t I be able to play “Overwatch” on Xbox One with my friend on PlayStation 4?
The reason, of course, is business.
Sony’s in the lead by a large margin, and has no real incentive — financially — to work with Microsoft on getting cross-platform play working between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That’s become a less defensible position for Sony to take as more and more huge games offer cross-platform play, such as “Fortnite” and “Rocket League.”
In sort, it makes Sony look like the bad guy for not offering players a choice that the competition is championing.
“I just get stuck in who this is helping,” Spencer told me. “It doesn’t help the developer — the developer just wants more people to play their game. It doesn’t help the player — the players just want to play with their friends who also play games on console.”
It’s hard to argue with his logic, even if it is easier for him to say from second place.
If you’ve never heard of Max Uriarte, you’re in for a treat. He’s the Marine, writer, and artist best known for his comic Terminal Lance, which pokes fun at the Marine Corps from a grunt’s point of view. Now he’s teamed up with The Call of Duty Endowment to create the Call of Duty: “Night Raid” PlayStation 4 Dynamic Theme.
The Call of Duty Endowment “helps veterans find high quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets bring to the workplace.”
All proceeds from the sale of the Night Raid theme ($2.99) go directly to the endowment to help vets get jobs after service. The Call of Duty Endowment has placed over 57,000 veterans thus far. Their new goal is placing 100,000 veterans into high quality jobs by 2024.
Check out some of the awesome artwork below:
Call of duty Endowment night raid dynamic theme tier 3
Uriarte deployed to Iraq twice with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. In 2007 he operated as a turret gunner out of Fallujah and in 2009 he was a combat photographer out of al Asad. His second deployment left a lasting impact on his civilian career as an artist — or, to be more specific, a Combat Artist.
“Combat Art is the act of capturing beauty in places you wouldn’t normally find it. It…exists solely for the purpose of creating art on the battlefield. When events are filtered through an artist’s eye, they capture things that maybe a camera does not, such as the feelings and emotion of the place or subjects. A photograph is objective — it shows reality. A sketch or a painting is subjective, it shows what the artist interpreted and what the artist saw that maybe no one else did (or could),” Uriarte told Fletcher Black of Activision.
U.S. Marine Max Uriarte (left); ‘Terminal Lance’ Marines Abe Garcia (right)
‘Terminal Lance’ strikes true with Marines — and vets from all branches — who’ve dealt with some of the…color…military service has to offer. The comic makes light of the tedium and nonsense that come with the job.
But Uriarte also has a serious side. His graphic novel, The White Donkey, was based on his combat deployment in Fallujah. His upcoming graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, promises to be a visceral examination of the effects of war on an Afghanistan province.
Who better to design art for the Call of Duty Endowment than a combat-experienced Marine with an artist’s eye and a creator’s hand?
Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4: C.O.D.E. Jump Pack
You can also support veterans by grabbing the new Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4 – C.O.D.E. Jump Pack, which includes a special wingsuit, parachute, and trail. 100% of the proceeds will go directly toward helping veterans get jobs after their military service.
Check out both the Jump Pack and the “Night Raid” Dynamic Theme on your PlayStation!
Over 6,500 soldiers are already hoping to be part of a new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide in an effort to attract potential recruits.
“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the budding team.
About 30 soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first positions could be filled summer 2019. Only active-duty and Reserve soldiers are currently allowed to apply.
Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is headquartered.
More than 6,500 Soldiers have already applied to join the Army esports team, which was created to boost recruiting efforts in the gaming community.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)
While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in learning about the service.
Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.
Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.
Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.
In August 2018, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about 5 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers — roughly the same number of those who watched 2018’s Super Bowl.
“It’s something really new and it’s been gaining a lot of steam,” Jones said.
While on the team, soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a soldier. They will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.
“Outside of that, there will be esports training,” Jones said. “So whatever game they’re playing in, they’ll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better.”
The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.
“Esports is like traditional sports,” he said. “Nobody can just walk in and expect to play at a competitive level.”
The Army, he said, already has talented gamers out there who can compete in events.
in January 2019, a few soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.
A few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community Jan. 18-20, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)
In one of the events, a Street Fighter V tournament, two soldiers placed first and second.
“This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only to the Army, but to the civilian populace and the esports industry that we also have what it takes,” Jones said of the events.
Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.
There are plans to do the same at the PAX East exposition in Boston in late March 2019.
As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may have about the Army.
Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same passion is also a bonus.
“For a lot of soldiers, to include myself, it’s like a dream come true,” Jones said. “This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation.”
Making a video game based on historical events often means navigating the fine line between creating an experience that’s consistently engaging to the player without trivializing the gravity of the real event. This is especially true of military conflicts.
Battlefield 1’s single player campaign did a terrific job of this, giving the player the warning of, “you are not expected to survive” before tossing them into the grim reality that is WWI trench warfare.
Other games, however, use the backdrop of the invasion of Normandy as yet another arena in which players can “360 No Scope” each other.
Then, you have Atomic Games’ controversial Six Days in Fallujah, which was slated to be a highly accurate representation of what the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines encountered in November, 2004, during the Second Battle of Fallujah. Shortly after it was announced to the public in 2009, it was dropped by its publisher and is now nothing more than a “what if” of gaming.
The developers at Atomic Games took their project very seriously. Every aspect of the game was created based on interviews with over 70 individuals, including the U.S. Marines who fought there, Iraqi civilians, war historians, senior military officials, and even former Iraqi insurgents.
The game was a far cry from typical first-person shooters that reward players for sprinting around the map, spraying bullets at the bad guys. Instead, it was said to have been more like a survival-horror game. Every minor decision made in the game would have lasting effects on player’s experience. Additionally, the game was built on an astounding engine that allowed for a 100% destructible environment — bullet holes left in walls from a previous skirmish would exist into perpetuity.
The game’s director, Juan Benito, told GamePro Magazine that giving players a taste of the horror, fear, and misery experienced by real-life Marines in the battle was a top priority.
“These are scary places, with scary things happening inside of them. In the game, you’re plunging into the unknown, navigating through darkened interiors, and ‘surprises’ left by the insurgency. In most modern military shooters, the tendency is to turn the volume up to 11 and keep it there. Our game turns it up to 12 at times, but we dial it back down, too, so we can establish a cadence.”
In Six Days in Fallujah, you would’ve followed a young Marine who was attached to the 3/1 Marines. Throughout the game, you’d encounter factual skirmishes that involved actual Marines and insurgents that were present at that given moment, based off accounts from those who were actually there. The Marines to your left and your right in those skirmishes were to be the actual Marines — which also meant that those who died in real life would die at the same moment in game. This, as you can imagine, was met with extreme controversy.
The game was being created to honor their fallen service members, but public condemnation proved too great and too universal, so it was dropped within the month by Konami — for very valid reasons.
After the publisher dropped out, the game’s director quietly left along with much of studio’s staff. The remaining assets were hobbled together to create the the sub-par Breach in attempt to recoup on the time invested in the doomed title. The president of Atomic Games promised that Six Days in Fallujah would eventually see the light of day.
Cases can be made for and against the game, but one thing is for certain: it would’ve offered something vastly different to gamers. In 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released and multiplayer lobbies were filled brim with screaming pre-teens. It was just five years since the Second Battle of Fallujah, which might’ve been too soon, but it definitely would’ve been a grim reminder of the true horrors of war in an industry too-often trivialized it.
The gaming community has matured vastly in the last decade. Games like Valiant Heart and This War of Mine have all been based on the realities of war. Games like Arma III and Rainbow Six: Siege have all taken mature, realistic approaches to how modern shooters should play out.
If or when the game does eventually find its footing and a pathway to release, it’ll likely find support withing the military-veteran community — as long as the game doesn’t, even for a second, make light of the seriousness of the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Kojima Production’s “Death Stranding” has all the makings of a video game blockbuster. It’s an experience three years in the making, the product of a visionary director launching a new franchise from an independent studio.
But after three years of mounting anticipation, it’s still not totally clear what players can expect from “Death Stranding.” Sony gave critics an early chance to dive in and see what “Death Stranding” is about, and the reviews have brought back rather mixed opinions.
There’s no question “Death Stranding” is a clear departure from Director Hideo Kojima’s last game, “Metal Gear Solid V.” While “Metal Gear Solid” is a military-focused franchise starring a super soldier, “Death Stranding” puts you in control of a lone deliveryman in a desolate, post-apocalyptic that’s wide open for exploration.
Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” plays the game’s protagonist, and a handful of recognizable actors offer photo-realistic performances for the game’s cinematic cut scenes. The story wasn’t particularly celebrated among reviewers, though some said the cutscenes were well-acted.
Reviewers ultimately found that the experience would vary depending on the player, since “Death Stranding” takes dozens of hours to complete. Critics noted that the game’s first 10 hours can be particularly challenging or outright boring depending on your play-style, but the game changes rather dramatically after the long introduction.
Last year’s best-selling game, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” had a similar reception — the game’s campaign took 40 or more hours to complete and left reviewers with a mixed impression of the game’s massive open world. “Red Dead Redemption 2” was still well received by fans for its immersive gameplay and thoughtful storytelling.
Here’s what critics are saying about “Death Stranding” so far:
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
The visuals of “Death Stranding” are impressive by any standard.
“So much work has been poured into every inch of every model and it’s almost unbelievable to see this much detail – even in an era where most games already feature highly detailed characters. Put simply, the bar has been raised.” — John Linneman, Digital Foundry
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
‘Death Stranding’ is more about survival and exploration than action and combat.
“There’s no automatic parkour or physics-defying cliff climbing here. Every step I take needs to be intentional, or I might end up taking a serious tumble. When I overload my pack I have to use the left and right triggers to balance my weight, or else I risk falling over, damaging my goods.
It’s equally engaging and frustrating as I topple over after twisting my ankle, forcing myself to restack all my belongings. Death Stranding is a walking simulator in the truest sense.” — Russ Frushtick
(“Death Stranding” Kojima Productions)
Exploring doesn’t mean you’ll always be alone though.
“Violence is a last resort, and ‘Death Stranding’ is best experienced in a careful and stealthy fashion, but when the time comes for the silence to break and explosions to ring out, it’s powerful.” — Heather Alexandra, Kotaku
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
“Death Stranding” is a long game that requires a personal investment from its players.
“It’s not a game that makes itself easy to enjoy. There are few concessions for uninterested players. It’s ponderously slow, particularly in the early chapters, which largely consist of delivering packages over staggering distances. Early conversations are filled with phrases and words that will be incomprehensible to the uninitiated — and, honestly, much of it remains a mystery after the credits roll.” — Andrew Webster, The Verge
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
‘Death Stranding’ left many critics excited for the game’s release so they could compare their experiences with other players’.
“I came away from the game exhilarated, confused and wanting to find others who have played it not only to put together the missing pieces but to commiserate about the experience. In a clever meta twist, Kojima has created a game that begs for a larger discourse, a connection for all those who have played it to share.” — Kahlief Adams, The Hollywood Reporter
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Adapting a video game into a film or television series is always a difficult task. Even when you’re working with well-written source material that has a pre-established, dedicated fan base, converting a story from one medium to another comes with a huge number of challenges.
Some video-games-turned-movies have worked out well enough. The Tomb Raider movies (both from 2001, starring Angelina Jolie, and 2018, starring Alicia Vikander) gave fans a little more about Lara Croft without trampling over established motifs. The first Mortal Kombat film was fantastic because it gave fans of the series more of the over-the-top action they wanted. Even Warcraft was a hit because of the ravenous legions (sorry, we had to) of existing fans — but none of these films were released without meeting a bevy of criticism.
Other video game adaptations, however, like Bloodrayne (and basically anything else directed by Uwe Boll), dragged once-beloved characters through the mud, flopped hard, and left a permanent stain on the source material.
The recently announced Halo series that’s to air on Showtime has fans filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Despite the overwhelming belief that it will never meet audiences’ expectations, we firmly believe it isn’t an impossible task to make this show great.
First and foremost, the biggest pitfall the creators of the show must avoid is going too deep into the psyche and history of series’ primary protagonist, Master Chief.
Master Chief, in the games, is an anomaly. We’ve followed him since 2001 and yet we know nothing about his past — or even what his face even looks like. That mystique will be thrown out the window if he’s the main character of upcoming series. If the show does feature him, he must be treated as if he’s the stand-in for the audience, just as he was in the short film Neil Blomkamp made a while back.
Instead, the series must be filled with countless other characters that the audience has never played. The Halo universe is rich with unique personalities, environments, political struggles, and futuristic weaponry. We’ve rarely been given a glimpse of what it’s like to not be the guy who’s single-handedly winning the war. We want to see the side stories of the other Spartans. We want to see battles from the perspective of the regular ODST guys.
It doesn’t need to be a flashback or so far removed from the plot of the original games — if the series takes us to a world built on lore and story lines we, as the audience, already know from fighting as Master Chief, things could get interesting.
Halo 3: ODST was beloved by fans because they took this approach — pitting the player in a secondary yet crucial battle. If that’s the basis of the show, we’re ready and waiting.
After a week-long controversy and accusations of censorship, Blizzard Entertainment responded late Oct. 11, 2019, to say China did not influence its decision to ban a professional gamer from Hong Kong for supporting anti-China protests. But the gaming community has been reluctant to accept Blizzard’s latest explanation of the move, and many are still planning protests at the company’s upcoming conference, BlizzCon.
“Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung, wore a gas mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on Oct. 5, 2019. Blizzard initially responded by banning him from competition for one year, and saying that it would no longer work with the two commentators who conducted the interview.
The punishment was harshly criticized by fans and U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of censoring free speech to protect its relationships in China, a massive and highly lucrative market with strict laws that require companies operating in the country to censor or remove content at the government’s request. Players threatened to boycott Blizzard’s games in response and a small group of Blizzard employees staged a walkout to show support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
After staying silent for several days, Blizzard Entertainment President J.Allen Brack pushed back against claims that Blizzard’s business in China influenced the company’s decision in a statement published Oct. 11, 2019. The company reduced the suspension of Blitzchung and the two commentators to six months and reinstated Blitzchung’s prize money, but Brack reiterated that Blitzchung had violated the rules of the competition.
“There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” Brack wrote in a statement.
Blizzard’s reduced punishment didn’t do much to change public perception
Critics remain skeptical of Brack’s claim that China had no impact on Blizzard’s decision, and many suggested that Blizzard should have lifted its suspension of Blitzchung and the two competitors entirely.
Others accused Blizzard of trying to minimize its concession by making a statement on a Friday evening, a common tactic used to diminish negative press in a weekend news cycle. Former Blizzard producer Mark Kern said the company used the same strategy while he was working there.
Protesters upset with Blizzard’s lack of support for Hong Kong are planning to show up at the company’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, on November 1. One group of protesters planned to form picket lines outside of the event and interrupt BlizzCon panel discussions with questions about Hong Kong. The same group is demanding that Blizzard make a public statement in support of Hong Kong, apologize and reverse the punishment, and create a special protest costume for the Chinese “Overwatch” character Mei.
Ultimately, Brack’s statement did little to change the perception of Blizzard’s punishment of Blitzchung, though the “Hearthstone” player said he accepted the company’s stance on the situation. Blizzard will have to wait and see if time will heal the company’s public perception, and hope the situation doesn’t escalate further with planned protests in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Recruiting officials hope that soldiers who compete in these gaming tournaments will help the service connect with this specific, but growing, segment of the American youth population.
Roughly 35 percent of American males ages 21 to 35 participate in this market, which is estimated to be worth id=”listicle-2625430237″.9 billion, recruiting officials say. They often play multiplayer, first-person shooter games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty on systems ranging from personal computers to PlayStations, both on their own and in tournaments sponsored by civilian gaming leagues.
Capt. Ryan Lewis talks to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones and @twitch.tv shout caster James “jchensor” Chen during the Army Entertainment Esports Street Fighter V tournament 11 August 2018, at the Alternate Escapes Café at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
(U.S. Army 2nd Recruiting Brigade)
Young soldiers are part of this subculture, according to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Esports Team.
“Soldiers are showing a want and desire to not only play gaming … but also be in competitive gaming, and we understand that is a really good connection to our target market,” he said. “These soldiers will actually be hand-selected, so what we are doing is grouping them together and — based upon the title and platform that they wish to compete in — having them scrimmage within those groups to find out who are the best we have.”
Jones has been gaming since he was five years old and has a “custom-built PC, a Nintendo Switch, PS4 Pro and an Xbox One X. So if there is a game, I normally play it,” he said.
Part of the screening process will include ensuring that candidates also meet Army physical fitness, height and weight standards.
“Those soldiers will be screened from there to make sure that not only can they compete, but [they] are the top-quality soldier that we are looking for in order to move here to Knox to compete,” Jones said. “We want those soldiers, when they go to these events, to be able to articulate to the public.”
Team members will serve 36 months at Fort Knox and travel to tournaments, supporting the Army’s recruiting efforts at high schools and colleges, he said.
Many applicants who aren’t selected for the team could still be involved in the effort, Jones said.
“There are a lot of soldiers that just want to be a part of the community and want to help out even outside of competitive play,” he said. “We do have soldiers who have applied to the program and said, ‘I know I’m not competitive; however, I wish to help grow this.’ “
These soldiers can still participate on their off time, doing exactly what they already have been doing, Jones said.
“The difference is we are giving them a platform to play together … whether it be participating in online tournaments or just playing together and showcasing that to the American public,” he said.
“Essentially, soldiers are already playing video games,” Jones said. “We are just bringing to the light what is already in existence.”
The eSports world is widely shared on “Twist TV and all of these streaming services,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.
“We know that there is a large [portion] of the population out there that is watching these video game tournaments and watching people game, and this is allowing our soldiers who are already doing this and competing in these tournaments to get out there and connect with that large population,” Dodge said.
“So with this, we can touch a huge number of people and tell our Army story and help get them potentially interested in wanting to serve,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In late 2001 an economist called Edward Castronova made tsunami sized waves in the world of economics when he published a paper claiming that an isolated place called Norrath had a currency stronger than that of the Japanese Yen — an especially bold claim considering Norrath had less than a million inhabitants, had only existed for about two years and didn’t exist physically. Yes, Norrath was entirely virtual and populated exclusively by players of the video game EverQuest.
Released in 1999, EverQuest is an immensely popular and influential massively multiplayer online role playing gaming (MMORPG). Set in the magical fantasy world of Narroth and boasting an impressive (for the time) near half million subscribers at the apex of its success, EverQuest came to the attention of Castronova at first much in the same way it came to the attention of anyone — he just thought it sounded like a fun game to play.
The original box art for ‘EverQuest’
However, as he became more familiar with the game, he noticed some rather fascinating things about how the virtual economy had developed within the game. This all culminated in him publishing on the Social Science Research Network a humorous but excellently researched, and ultimately groundbreaking, paper titled, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. By his own admission, Castronova stated, “I thought maybe seventy-five people would read it and that’d be great.”
Instead, it quickly received over 16,000 downloads (and today is sitting at closer to 50,000). While this might not seem like much, let’s remember context here — this was an academic paper published on an online academic journal. Needless to say, that number of downloads made it the most downloaded paper in the history of the Social Science Research Network, which at the time featured almost 50,000 academic papers, including many dozens written by Nobel laureates.
Why was this paper so fascinating to the world of economics? As economist Yanis Varoufakis noted, “Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s. But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”
What Castronova had stumbled upon was essentially an economist’s dream — virtual worlds the researchers could use to analyze in a scientific manner various concepts in their field using large data sets and real people populating those worlds. Or as Washington Post journalist Brad Plumer succinctly stated, in virtual worlds, “The data is richer. And it’s easier to run economy — wide experiments in a video game — experiments that, for obvious reasons, can’t be run on countries.”
In short, economists in academia were intrigued with Castronova’s paper and its implications for future research.
So what did Castronova find? After painstakingly pouring over the available data surrounding the world of Norrath, he was shocked to discover that in real world dollars Norrath had the 77th highest GNP per capita, placing it squarely between Russia and Bulgaria at the time.
The world of Norrath
How was this possible for a virtual world with only virtual currency?
At the height of EverQuest’s popularity, sale of in-game items ran rampant and at one point in time a player could pretty much buy anything they wanted in-game, regardless of how rare or powerful it was, so long as they could flash the cash to make it happen.
Although Sony, who published the game, would make several attempts to quash this practice, claiming amongst other things that all of the items for sale were their intellectual property, as well as outright banning players they caught doing this, the sale of in-game items and avatars became a thriving industry on sites like Ebay.
In fact, former child actor Brock Pierce (perhaps best known as a kid for his roles in Mighty Ducks and First Kid, and as an adult for his work in crypto currency) even started a surprisingly successful company, Internet Gaming Entertainment Ltd (IGE), which dealt in these virtual goods in exchange for real money. The company maintained a rather large staff of low-waged workers who worked in Norrath and the real world, doing things like meeting to exchange goods, as well as building up avatars and acquiring virtual goods for future sale.
In any event, Castronova analysed over 600 illicit sales outside the realm of Norrath on sites like Ebay and then simply compared this to the value of the item in-game in the principle currency of Norrath- Platinum Pieces.
When he did this, Castronova discovered that the relative value of a single Platinum Piece compared to the US Dollar was .01072. While this may not seem all that much, as Castronova pointed out, at the time, “its value exceeds that of the Japanese Yen and the Italian Lira.”
With this value in hand, Castronova was then able to roughly calculate a number of other interesting things about the economy of Norrath. For example, it turned out the average citizen of Norrath earned around .42 per hour (or about an hour today) when taking into account the value of the items and in-game currency they could realistically acquire during normal play per hour on average.
Combining this with the estimated time extreme players sunk into the game (according to data gleaned by Castronova in surveying over three thousands players), Castronova calculated:
Many users spend upwards of 80 hours per week in Norrath, hours of time input that are not unheard of in Earth professions. In 80 hours, at the average wage, the typical user generates Norrathian cash and goods worth 3.60. In a month, that would be over id=”listicle-2633077434″,000, in a year over ,000. The poverty line for a single person in the United States is ,794.
Looking at players of every time commitment level, Castronova determined that, despite the game being extremely new, the average player of EverQuest already had over ,000 worth of sellable goods locked up in the game.
But we’re not done yet because Castronova was then able to roughly calculate the gross national product of Norrath based on the value of the (entirely virtual) goods it produced in 2001. His final number? About 5 million.
While, again, this may not sound like much, divided amongst the estimated total number of Norrath denizens, that meant the GNP per capita of the virtual kingdom was ,266 — a figure that, as previously mentioned, theoretically ranked the computerised state the 77th highest on Earth at the time.
Naturally, this information peaked the interest of Castronova’s fellow economists, as did other observations he made about the virtual world and economy he was studying.
For example, according to Castronova one of the more curious things he noticed during his research was that, despite every effort being made by Sony to give everyone an equal footing when the game began, financial inequality was quickly rife amongst the denizens of Norrath.
Additionally Castronova also observed how, much like in the real world, the wealthiest players would often hoard their wealth and use their vast resources to pay poorer characters to do all of the pointless busy work they didn’t want to waste time with, in effect becoming pseudo-employers who kept the lion’s share of any profits made via the work of the plebeians to themselves.
Anecdotally, Castronova would say of his own time in-game as a low level player with no resources: “My problem is that I am under-equipped. I have been basically naked, carrying only a simple club, a caveman in a world of cavaliers. My poverty is oppressive – no amount of rat fur is sufficient to buy even a simple tunic at the ludicrously high prices of the merchant biots.”
Screenshot from EverQuest featuring a combat involving a sand giant.
Naturally, as the game evolved, the whole “initial equality” thing also died off for some, thanks to those markets where players who had disposable income in the physical world could simply buy whatever they wanted for real money and enter the game vastly more powerful and capable than a player without this option.
Since Castronova’s paper, and partially as a direct result of his work studying virtual economies, the one time self professed “academic failure” and “schmo at a state school” managed to leverage this to level up in real life — securing a tenured position at Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of Telecommunication and Cognitive Science, as well as coming to be known as the “founder of the field of virtual economics”.
And as many other virtual worlds with complex virtual economies have likewise sprung up, economists and other scientists continue to study them, as they make great petri dishes to observe how various variables result in changes in economy and human behavior.
Going the other way, gaming companies like Valve have taken to hiring economists to help them manage their virtual worlds. As economist Robert Bloomfield notes, “If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system so that it doesn’t spin out of control.”
As for Castronova, he concluded his ground breaking paper by waxing poetic about the potential virtual worlds could have with the application of new technology, stating
The impact on Earth society is hard to overestimate. With the development of voice technology, communication in Virtual Worlds will move from cumbersome chat to telephone-like conversation, thus greatly enhancing the Virtual World as a place of social interaction. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky.
To trade items they’d bought illegally via Ebay and the like, Castronova observed that players would generally sell the item online first and then agree to meet in a designated place in-game, at which point the seller would then trade the item to the buyer for an item of trivial value they had in their possession. Castronova was amused to learn that, much like in real life, many of these illicit trades took place in abandoned buildings and dark alleys.