When I heard that Virginia Tech students were performing an opera in Minecraft, my reaction could be described as befuddled dissonance. My logical brain thought: What the hell, a Minecraft opera? And the part of my brain that knows and loves the internet thought: Of course, there is a Minecraft opera. Besides that, we don’t quite know what to think. You be the judge.
By Eric Fridén at
With the Xbox One safely on store shelves, writer Eric Fridén takes a look at the plans Microsoft has for our increasingly convergent future.
By Jason Johnson at
Yesterday Tech Crunch published a corporate profile on the new wave of uber-successful mobile games coming out of Finland, including the popular Clash of Clans, and a game I forget the name of—something to do with miffed red canaries? In any case, the key to success for these filthy rich Fins, says Supercell’s CEO, was that they do it for the love, not the money:
“What I like about the local scene is that most people do not work in games because they want to make money. Instead, they want to make great games. Ironically, I think that is the right approach to take, and will also maximize the financial returns in the longer run.”
This is really hard to take seriously considering that it’s coming from the CEO of a company that’s valued at 3 billion dollars. It’s true that Clash of Clans is a pretty great game, and definitely some love went into it. But it’s also a product of something more lucrative: money. If you’ve played any of these newfangled “free” mobile games you know that everything funnels you towards an additional surcharge. They can move unbearably slow unless you pay up. This is like saying we don’t care about money while making games that are built at their core around making money. The whole thing makes an interesting comparison to the economics of the Nordic region, where, although socialism is the rule, billionaires are ubiquitous.
By Zack Kotzer at
How videogame-y can a single piece of music be?
By Jason Johnson at
With the stylish and Swedish-made Rymdkapsel coming out for the PC, its composer Salkinitzor found it the right opportunity to release a (very) limited edition cassette of the game’s 30 minute soundtrack. It’s a nice-looking tape and a listenable album. If you’re wondering why a cassette, this is a trend that we’ve seen emerging in music over the past couple of years, with musicians releasing new recordings on outdated media. Some claim that certain types of music like drone sound better on tape, but mostly it’s an effort to make the listening experience tangible again, now that everything that isn’t Eminem is digital.
While people have been quick to call the fad hipsterish, there have been those who argue that perhaps what we crave when listening to music is more than the music itself. Writing an op-ed on the merits of Cassette Store Day, Nick Sylvester of Pitchfork countered:
There’s no format more human than the cassette. No format wears our stain better. I have not encountered a technology for recorded music whose physics are better suited for fostering the kind of deep and personal relationships people can have to music, and with each other through music.
This is a truth that those of us who love games have known forever. Gaming invites a rabid type of collector, but even the less-materialistic among us have to admit that there is a certain charm to the physicality of removing a game from a paper box; of snapping together the plastic case of a Gameboy cart; of the strange futuristic design of bygone systems. No, these extracurricular objects and activities aren’t a necessity and games can be enjoyed without fawning over a format, but maybe it makes our experiences somehow more valuable.
By Jason Johnson at
The Call of Duty single-player campaign throughout the franchises’ history could be described as a series of increasingly ridiculous events, culminating in the scene in which a German shepherd takes down a helicopter in Ghosts. Stupid shit like that just doesn’t happen in a secure and well-oiled organization like the nation’s army. Does it?
Not so fast. According to a nice piece of digging by Ars Technica, for twenty years during the Cold War era, the password for launching every single US-owned LGM-30 Minutemen nuclear missile was simply 0000000, that’s eight zeros in a row, which for the record, is even easier to crack than the passkey for my phone. Keep in mind that these are intercontinental ballistic missiles, meaning they can travel over 3000 miles. Any low-ranking yokel, lost child, or sinister infiltrator from the Kremlin could’ve activated one of these puppies and triggered the ending to Dr. Strangelove.
Now, when I think back to the ending of Black Ops 2 (ahem, spoilers, I guess), when you see the drone army rising like a dust storm on the horizon off America’s glistening coast, it makes perfect sense. It could be that the password to all of them was 0000000. This could really happen!
By Jason Johnson at
DARPA—the research wing of the Department of Defense, who makes insidious trilling robots like these—has developed a grab bag of games that actually debug important military software as you play them. Typically this is a sticky job for engineers, but videogame players could take their place, and have fun doing it.
Eh, we’ll see about the latter. This isn’t exactly Candy Crush Saga, with is glistening pieces of mouth-watering candy, after all. However, they are free, and available to play on their webpage. Basically, the code for the critical software is given a gloss that at least makes it look fun. This is visualized in the form of, currently, five different puzzle games which involve complex pattern recognition. The algorithms, which is just a nerdy word for computers doing what they do, churn the numbers in the background. The software is even capable of creating new math prob..., ahem, puzzles for you to solve based on the system’s current needs.
Depending on your proclivity for protein folding, these games may or may not be for you. Also, there is always an ethical question involved in games like these, where you'd actually be aiding an agency of war. But it’s nevertheless fascinating how mass resources of people can be pooled together on a network to solve errors while doing something similar to relaxing. As these games that replace rather boring occupations advance, I imagine one day we might not know the difference between playing Halo and curing lymphoma.
By Stephanie Carmichael at
We talk to the developers—and to Ware himself—to explore this fascinating artistic intersection.
CLICK TO SKIP IN 4 SECONDS
By Jason Johnson at
Is it just me, or has there been an excessive number of ads on YouTube lately? Well, it turns out that’s because a legion of pro esport players like Matthew “OpticNadeshot” Hague are making big bucks off our hits.
“I have a couple of different revenue streams,” he told VentureBeat in an descriptively-titled article, How the players, developers, and leagues of e-sports are making money. “I monetize ad content on my YouTube videos. I also do that on my live-stream. I have multiple [sponsors] that pay me to represent their products. There’s a lot of different ways to make money if you know what you’re doing and you know how to brand yourself correctly.”
Hauge is a champion in an array of esports from Call of Duty to League of Legends, but most of his income, which tallies over 100 grand, comes from shooting videos of himself playing these games, rather than taking down rival teams in the semi-finals. Seriously, could these guys jobs get any better.
But as Hague describes it, its more PBR than rosé. “It’s very stressful, because if I take a day where I don’t upload a video, I know that day I’m not going to be making any money. . . If you’re having a bad day—if you’re sick and you can’t get anything done—you’re not going to make any money. It’s something that you need to stay focused on.”
While great for fans, this is like Russell Westbrook setting up a webcam in his driveway and shooting hoops on his days off so he can pay rent. It goes to show that although professional gaming has made strides in terms of viewership, the various leagues and teams aren’t completely there yet when it comes to supporting individual players financially. Hopefully one day these great players will get more respect.
HAVE A CIGAR
By Jason Johnson at
As we mentioned yesterday, ID@Xbox isn’t only the email address of my dreams. It’s also Microsoft’s initiative to get low-cost developers’ kits in the hands of the little guys. It turns out some of the little guys aren’t so little.
Today, Microsoft revealed the first batch of developers who are approved to develop games through the program. Of course, there are the names you’d expect; established indie developers with a reputation for quality. (That includes Vlambeer, Nicalis, and Capybara.) But then in the mix with them are established professional studios, (such as Inis of Elite Beat Agents, Double Fine, WayForward, Crytek).
While this nucleus will undoubtedly produce an amazing corpus of games, you have to wonder if the indie spirit is being commodified, with the peppy nonconformists wedged in with the business class. We’ll trot out our go-to comparison of the music industry, where indie musicians of the late 90s like Nirvana and Soundgarden were quickly subsumed by quasi-indie record labels like Sub Pop. Even Pavement, the quintessential “indie” rock band, was on the Matador label alongside some pretty big names.
Games, like music, are of course a consumer business, but the problem is that, with Microsoft’s service, the small teams that emerged from Xbox Live Indies, such as Ska Studios and Radiangames, are sadly being left out.
(img via John Sisson)