Player choice is an important part of narratively driven games like Life is Strange, but the upcoming sequel makes some pretty significant changes to the way those choices affect the game.
Unity CEO came to to give everyone an update on the world’s most popular game engine. You might not be aware that most of the games you’re playing, especially mobile games, are built using Unity. For those not familiar with game engines, Riccitiello started by describing game engines very clearly. Back in the days, “[game developers] would write out a game program that had lots of art assets, lots of animation, lots of sounds. But they also had to write a rendering engine, to write a system for animations, to write a system for sound, to write a system for physics,” he said. It’s pretty much half of all games period. John Riccitiello And when you wanted to port your game to another platform, you basically had to start over. Unity works on 30 platforms, including Windows, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Oculus Rift, etc. Unity competes with Epic’s Unreal Engine, the game engine behind Fortnite and many games on the PS4 and Xbox One. There are also less popular game engines from Valve, Amazon and others. The biggest game developers behind AAA franchises (think Battlefield or Assassin’s Creed) have their own in-house engines. But it’s clear that Unity has captured a huge chunk of the market. According to Riccitiello, every month, people download 2 billion copies of Unity games. People tried at least one Unity game on over 3 billion devices. In the past, Unity said that run on Unity. But it turns out Unity now also powers a lot of games on gaming consoles and computers. “It’s pretty much half of all games period. We have different market shares, depending on the platform. But more than half of all mobile games built for there are built in Unity. More than 60 to 70 percent — depending on the platform — of everything built for machines for virtual reality or augmented reality or any of the XR platforms are built in Unity,” Riccitiello told interviewer Lucas Matney. “And then, about a little over half of all the games built for Nintendo’s platforms are built in Unity, a little bit less than that for Xbox and Sony. But in aggregate it’s more than half.” One of the reasons why Unity became so successful is that its pricing structure is developer-friendly. Game companies don’t have to give a cut of their revenue to Unity, they pay Unity per seat on a subscription basis. Other companies sometimes ask you to sign a revenue-sharing deal to use their engine. Even more important than numbers, Riccitiello thinks that Unity is all about enabling creators by giving them the right tools. “What powers Unity is a simple philosophy, which is the world is a better place with more creators,” he said. “We drive ourselves to put the most powerful tools possible in the hands of creators, small and large so they can realize their dreams.”
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Press Priority Station at Gris booth in PAX West 2018 When co-creator Mike Krahulik announced the first in 2004, he described it as “” A lot has changed since then. For one, the original PAX quickly outgrew its space in downtown Bellevue and has grown from a two-day event attended by around 3,300 people to a four-day show that spills out of Seattle’s biggest convention center and downtown theaters, drawing over 70,000 attendees. Over the last decade Penny Arcade has also launched additional PAX events of similar scale in Boston, Melbourne, San Antonio, and most recently a table-top gaming-focused show in Philadelphia. After so much growth, some are beginning to question whether PAX still lives up to its original promise of being a show primarily “for gamers.” Large swaths of space on the expo hall floor in recent years are dedicated exclusively to streamers. Staff at many of the booths jump at the chance to let yellow-badged media and streaming personalities cut in front of long lines whether they have an appointment or not. I personally experienced this at multiple booths when exhibitors saw my media badge and offered to let me skip the line to play their demo. (I declined.) Streaming pods like these seen in the hallway, Facebook Gaming, Twitch, and Gigabyte were all over PAX West 2018 I can’t believe I need to say this, but if you’re a streamer/influencer at and you cut lines to grab footage you’re showing your community how much more important you are than they are. If you’re a game dev and let this happen Im not buying your game — Logun (@Logun0) In a pair of on Reddit, attendees complained about a gamer being booted mid-demo by a streamer with an appointment at the booth for Gris, an upcoming artistic platformer being published by Devolver Digital. Key details about the exchange were misrepresented by the original poster on Reddit, but the fact that Devolver Digital had a dedicated “Press Priority Station” still rubs many PAX fans the wrong way. Press and streamers aren’t the only thing getting on PAXers nerves. In , gamers vented about exhibitors filling lines at other booths before the Expo Hall even opened to attendees. Every single day I was waiting in the queue line at 4:30-5am to get into the Exhibitor Hall to play Diablo 3 (for the pin) or Resident Evil 2 or Valve’s game Artifact… but no matter what I was always far back in line with everyone in front of me with Exhibitor badges. What’s the point of waiting 5 hours before the Exhibitor Hall opens if you get to wait another 2 because Exhibitor get priority access? If it was only for Friday… sure… but every SINGLE DAY it happened! How incredibly stupid and infuriating to deal with this! Then there are the pins. Penny Arcade , and for many PAX-goers collecting pins has become more important than playing games. Booths that were giving away pins for trying their demo had absurdly long lines that nearly instantly hit their cap… right up until they ran out of pins. After the pins were gone, lines would vanish and the booth would turn into a relative ghost town. See the ID@XBOX booth in the photo below for an example of what a previously packed-to-the-gills booth looked like once the pins ran out. Once the free Pinny Arcade pins dried up, booths like ID@XBOX became ghost towns. Really disappointed/frustrated with how has their booth set up at . I really would have liked to have played Pokémon this weekend, but the line was perpetually capped and full of people that just wanted to get a pin. — Longboy (@Gabers_) I stood at a different booth out of the way of foot traffic for three hours and watched Pokémon booths sit with nobody playing them. Everyone I talked to that was standing in line said they were just in line for the pin and didn’t care about playing Pokémon. — Longboy (@Gabers_) None of these trends are a new phenomenon in 2018, but they have been building over recent years, and may have started to affect demand for the show. Despite one of the smallest ticket price increases in recent years, this year was the first time since 2012 that passes didn’t completely sell out in a day. In fact all the way up through the start of the show you could still purchase passes for Monday—a first since 2009. Past ticket sales have been such a frenzy that the event and . PAX West ticket prices increased just $2 from 2017 to 2018 It was also surprising to see that fewer vendors were at PAX with booths this year. Spaces in the main Expo Hall that were occupied by smaller booths in previous years were used by larger vendors as storage space, and the entire third floor of the convention center didn’t have a single vendor. This could be due to increasing prices for vendors. One exhibitor showing board games on the second floor told us that the cost of their room at PAX has increased 33 percent in the last four years. from discussion . from discussion . Is PAX slowly evolving from a “party for gamers” into a party for streamers and pin-collectors? As a 13-year PAX-attending veteran, I still love PAX and I certainly hope it hasn’t peaked. I’ll keep coming to PAX to witness the spectacle of the Omegathon, pitch my goofy joke games at the Pitch Your Game Panel, discover fun new niche board games, and meet indie developers who come to show off their unique and creative indie games (look for a post about indie game highlights later today), but it’s difficult to deny that the show has a very different “feel” lately than it did back in the early years. (P.S. – ALL HAIL BALL!) We reached out to a PAX representative for comment about these issues and suggested fixes like extending media/creator early access hours, preventing booth staff from giving priority to streamers/media, and restricting cross-booth access by exhibitors. We will update this post with their responses if we hear back.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller finally launches today, bringing the world of gaming to a wider, more inclusive audience than ever before.
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Artifact is an online multiplayer card game from Valve, set for release in November. (Valve Image) There are only a few companies in the video game industry that have attained Valve Software’s position, where it can pretty much do whatever the hell it wants. Most first- and third-party developers have to be surprisingly careful about their projects, as every new game is a multi-million-dollar gamble. It forces even big companies to be surprisingly conservative about what they do and do not do, which is why a lot of the bigger names in the games industry tend to ride so hard on their go-to franchises. RELATED: Valve, conversely, built a business empire on the backs of games like Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal. Half-Life, thanks to the mod scene, led to Counter-Strike; Counter-Strike indirectly gave rise to the Steam digital storefront, as Steam began as an automatic patching service for Valve games; and Steam, as it is a virtually uncontrollable money geyser, has allowed Valve’s internal games development to slow to a relative crawl. Most other companies in the video games industry, if they had an intellectual property with the popularity and mainstream penetration of Half-Life, would be on the ninth sequel, second reboot, and at least one likely-disastrous attempt at a Hollywood film franchise by now, but Valve clearly feels no similar compulsion. It releases a game now and again, such as Defense of the Ancients 2, and Team Fortress 2 is still going strong, but Valve, as ever, works on . I’m only bringing this up because whenever I’ve talked to a video games enthusiast and mentioned that I’m writing about a new Valve game, they invariably ask if it’s the long-delayed, possibly nonexistent third chapter to Half-Life 2, which ended on a cliffhanger back in 2007. When I say no, it’s a card game set in the DOTA2 universe, everyone gets really quiet. That reaction is a bit of a shame, really. is a new project from Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering, who brought it to Valve because he wanted to build something from the ground up that was intended for a digital platform. It’s been in the works at Valve and elsewhere for four years, and actually only became a DOTA2 spin-off relatively late in its development process, when they were looking for a world to set it in. It’s a colorful, animated game that’s a lot easier to learn than it looks like it should be. It’s not the new Half-Life, however, so it’s already facing an uphill PR battle. (Expect a lot of annoyed forum posts/blogs/snarky op-eds about how “Artifact is [x], but where’s Episode 3?“) I sat down in front of Artifact on the first day of PAX West, the giant game convention taking place this weekend in Seattle. I started a new game, thinking I could figure it out as I went, but I soon realized that would not be happening. Artifact, at first glance, looks insane, like what would happen if you threw a deck of Magic cards in a blender with a and a backgammon set. I ended up getting walked through my first game by , a software engineer at Valve and a well-known DOTA2 esports commentator. How it works At the start of a game of Artifact, you and your opponent have three boards between you, or lanes. Each of your lanes has a tower at the end of it with 40 health. You can win the game by destroying two out of your opponent’s three towers. Once a tower’s been destroyed, you can directly attack your opponent’s Ancient, which has 80 health, and destroying that will also give you the win. One of the playable cards in Valve’s Artifact. (Valve Image) You can defend those towers by setting up blockades of friendly units in each of your lanes. You begin the game with five heroes, and can initially deploy three of them. Both players also receive a steady supply of expendable basic units, or “,” just as in DOTA2. You can position your heroes and creeps however you like in each lane, to block the progress of your opponent towards your tower. You also receive a supply of mana at the start of each turn with which to employ various special effects from cards. You begin the game with 3 mana, and gain one more for every passing turn, with no upper limit; therefore, cards with a higher casting cost, such as Mystic Flare (see left) are meant to turn the tide in the late game. Both heroes and cards come in one of four colors: blue, red, black, or green. You can only play a card in a given lane if you’ve got a hero in that lane with a matching color, and cards only affect the lane in which they were cast, unless the card specifies otherwise. A given turn works like this: you and your opponent get to play cards in each lane in order to try to swing the game in your favor, by dealing direct damage to enemy units, deploying more of your own units (a lot of the cards I saw involved whistling up a few extra creeps), buffing your team, or equipping heroes with new weapons, armor, or accessories. Once both you and your opponent have exhausted what you want to do in a given lane, you end the turn, and combat immediately takes place. Each opposing card inflicts damage to whatever’s in front of it, whether it’s an enemy hero, a creep, or if its path isn’t blocked, the tower behind them. You repeat that process for each of the three lanes. At the end of the turn, you get some gold depending on what you’ve managed to accomplish; killing a creep is worth 1 gold, while a dead enemy hero is worth 5. You can spend that gold in the between-turns “shopping phase,” where you can buy consumable cards with no mana cost, such as healing potions or new equipment for your heroes. Unlike Magic, any damage that you inflict sticks around for the next unless it’s healed. Also unlike Magic, there’s no “graveyard”; a hero that dies in combat is simply put out of play for a turn, and can be redeployed afterward. It’s got a lot of that MOBA feel to it, where every combat phase is a bloody exchange of fire that usually ends in multiple casualties, but the heroes just respawn and the creeps don’t really matter, so it stays explosive right up until the end. What Artifact says about Valve Rereading this, I’m making it sound more complex than it is. Once you’ve actually got your hands on Artifact, it’s reasonably straightforward. The biggest problem it’s got for a beginner is much the same as Magic, where there are a lot of passive and active abilities that are there to deliberately break even the most fundamental rules of the game. Heroes respawn after one turn… unless they’ve got a particular passive ability which lets them pop right back up. You can only play cards in one lane at a time… unless they’ve got a specific ability that says they’ll affect the entire board. If you’re a veteran of the CCG scene, you’re going to feel right at home, and if you’re already familiar with MOBA games, like DOTA2, Heroes of the Storm, or League of Legends, you’ll be on surprisingly familiar territory from the beginning. Even so, expect a learning curve. Artifact is slated to be released Nov. 28 for $19.99, with 280 cards to start with. It offers the ability to play against an AI or human opponent out of the box, and according to Carlucci, features a lot of incidental exploration — mostly through voice lines and flavor text — of the lore behind the DOTA2 universe. PAX attendees who make it through the line to play Artifact on the show floor will receive a swag bag that includes two codes granting access to Artifact‘s beta in October. What it really signals, however, in conjunction with , is that there’s really no way to tell what Valve’s going to end up doing next. Gordon Freeman could spend another few years dangling off that cliffhanger, or Valve could announce a release tomorrow. Carlucci mentioned to me as we were wrapping up my first game of Artifact that Valve never stopped developing anything, so whatever you’re hoping it might do next is probably already in the works. It’s just a question of when it’ll let the rest of us know. Editor’s Note: Half-Life 2 time frame corrected since publication.