Don't Miss: How Blizzard designed the immersive UI of Hearthstone

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User interface design is often neglected until the final stages of game development, but giving the issue even a modicum of consideration at the outset of your project can pay big dividends down the road.

Blizzard’s remarkably successful Hearthstone is a prime example; “our game is UI” exclaimed Hearthstone senior UI designer Derek Sakamoto at GDC 2015, where he took the stage to deliver a detailed breakdown of how the company went about designing, scrapping and redesigning the user interface for its breakout free-to-play digital card game.

It was a good talk, and the recorded version is worth watching for artists, designers and anyone who struggles with making their game more enjoyable to interact with. Now, you can watch it for free via the GDC Vault.

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

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

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Source: Gamasutra

Mobile game devs can now use Skillz to run cross-platform cash tourneys

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Heads up, mobile game makers: cash prize platform Skillz, which lets you accept and pay out real money, has rolled out support for cross-platform tournaments between Android and iOS devices.

While mobile games like Real Money Pool and Sink It! Real Money Beer Pong have been using Skillz’ tech to run real-money competitions for some time, developers may appreciate this new cross-platform functionality’s potential to bolster the audience and appeal of such competitions.

In a press release the company described this as the “first ever crossplatform multiplayer system” for mobile games and suggested it might significantly increase interest in mobile games played competitively, as eSports.

While that remains to be seen, it’s notable in light of the fact that the vast majority of game developers surveyed for the most recent GDC State of the Industry report said they now believe eSports are a long-term viable business.

Skillz seeks to style itself a leader in the mobile end of that nascent market, having raised $28 million as of last September as it seeks to position itself as offering “eSports for everyone” via mobile games with cash payouts. 

Source: Gamasutra

A look back at the dawn of video game DRM — and those who cracked it

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“Ironically, the most influential aspect of Dungeon Master, a hugely influential game on its own terms, might just be its fuzzy-bit copy protection. Various forms of optical media continue to use the same approach to this day.”

– Video game history buff Jimmy Maher reflects on the remarkable legacy of the DRM scheme implemented in the ’80s Atari ST game Dungeon Master.

Game developers have been struggling to keep software pirates at bay since the dawn of commercial video game development, with mixed results.

Various copy-protection schemes have been tried, and while the latest have been good enough to drive some pirates to forecast the death of game piracy, video game history enthusiast Jimmy Maher notes in a thorough post over on his Digital Antiquarian blog that seemingly unbeatable copy protection schemes have been fielded by developers since the late ’70s.

“Microsoft applied one of the earliest notable instances of physical copy protection to the disk [of Microsoft Adventure for the TRS-80, a development novel enough to attract considerable attention in its own right in the trade press,” write Maher. “One of the first if not the first to find a way to duplicate Microsoft Adventure and then to crack it to boot was an Australian teenager named Nick Andrew (right from the beginning, before the scene even existed, cracking already seemed an avocation for the young).”

Maher goes on to relate how Andrew successfully beat Microsoft’s anti-copying safeguards and then found a way to crack 1979’s Microsoft Adventure, then walks through the history of copy protection schemes for the Apple II version of Ultima III, the Commodore 64 version of Pirates! and Dungeon Master for the Atari ST.

The story of Dungeon Master (pictured), at least as Maher tells it, is particularly interesting because of how the game’s notorious “fuzzy-bit” copy protection drove many frustrated crackers to buy the game after playing it for a bit before being stymied by errors triggered by their crack attempt.

Dungeon Master still stands as one of copy protection’s — or, if you like, DRM’s — relatively few absolutely clear, unblemished success stories,” write Maher. “It took crackers more than a year, an extraordinary amount of time by their usual standards, to wrap their heads around the idea of a fuzzy bit and to find all of the checks scattered willy-nilly through the code (and, in the case of “graphics.dat,” out of it). After that amount of time the sales window for any computer game, even one as extraordinary as Dungeon Master, must be closing anyway.” 

Incidentally, Maher has previously written at length about how Dungeon Master was developed by two would-be chemists. For more on the topic of early copy protection schemes in game development you’d be well-served checking out the full article over on the Digital Antiquarian website.

Source: Gamasutra

Vivendi nets a cool $1.5B selling its last Activision Blizzard stock

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French media conglomerate Vivendi has earned $1.1 billion from the sale of its remaining stock in Activision Blizzard, roughly 5.7 percent of the company, to an unnamed buyer. 

As part of the deal Vivendi will also reportedly recoup a $400 million cash deposit, meaning the French multinational has netted roughly $1.5 billion.

It seems like a pretty good deal for Vivendi, which sold roughly the same amount of Activision Blizzard stock in 2014 for an estimated $866 million. In a press release announcing the sale, a Vivendi representative stated that “the decision to implement these transactions was taken in view of the evolution of the Activision Blizzard stock price,” which has risen significantly in the last year.

For its part, Activision Blizzard now appears completely separated (at least financially) from its onetime parent company, which it spun off from in 2013 after becoming an independent company through a stock buyback.

Of course, Vivendi maintains an interest in the video game industry, most notably through its recent acquisition of notable stakes in French game companies Ubisoft and Gameloft.

Source: Gamasutra

Get a job: Remedy is hiring a Lead Designer

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The Gamasutra Job Board is the most diverse, active and established board of its kind for the video game industry!

Here is just one of the many, many positions being advertised right now.

Location: Espoo, Finland

Remedy Entertainment, the creator of Quantum Break, Max Payne, Alan Wake and Death Rally and one of the leading independent game studios in the world is looking for a Lead Designer for a key role working on Remedy’s projects.

What we are looking for

We’re looking for an organized, people person with previous experience as a lead designer on a AAA project. As Lead Designer, you will be responsible for both the game‘s level and system design, where you’ll work alongside the Game Director and Creative Director to bring the vision from concept to a solid and entertaining end product.  

You and your team of designers will champion game features, working to ensure that everyone on the game team understands why they should be excited about the product (hello public speaking my old friend!) and work with them to create genre defining experiences.

Ideally, you will have experience in both system and level design on a AAA third person shooter. You care about story and how we as developers intertwine it into the experience, but won’t let it get in the way of the core moment-to-moment gameplay. You understand how games work and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty in helping build the experience.  

As a designer, you are able to provide constructive and easy-to-understand feedback to any team member. And last but not least, the ability to stay calm and collected under pressure is going to help.

So what’s in it for you then?

We offer you a chance to do something amazing, new and unique. Working as a key member of our talented and experienced team means you have an excellent opportunity to develop yourself and take your career to new heights.

We work hard but we also value a sane work-life balance, and we are committed to providing our team a relaxed working environment. Naturally there’s a competitive compensation package with health care & insurance waiting for you, and should you be moving from abroad we are there for you every step of the way.

About Remedy

The Remedy offices are situated in Espoo, Finland and relocation to the greater Helsinki area will be required. This is a permanent position.

Interested? Get started here. Are you a recruiter looking for talent? Post jobs here.

Source: Gamasutra

Activision sued by family of rebel chief depicted in Black Ops II

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Activision Blizzard is reportedly being sued in French court over what the family of deceased Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi claim is an inappropriate depiction of the man in Treyarch’s 2012 release Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Notably, this comes less than a year and a half after Activision prevailed in a very similar lawsuit filed by former Panamanian dictaator Manuel Noriega over his depction in the very same game.

That lawsuit was deemed “frivolous” by an L.A. Superior Court judge in California, but this new lawsuit is filed by children of Savimbi living in France against the French branch of Activision Blizzard.

“France has extremely strict laws on both defamation and a person’s rights of publicity – in other words, the right to control the commercial use of their likeness,” London-based lawyer Alex Tutty told The Guardian. “In cases such as this, where a well-known person is either depicted or has provided inspiration for a character, it is not surprising that someone aggrieved by it is able to formulate the basis of a legal argument.”

The family of Savimbi is seeking €1 million (or ~$1.09 million USD) in damages from Activision, which Savimbi family lawyer Carole Enfert alleged depicted the deceased rebel leader as a “big halfwit” in Black Ops II (pictured.)

Source: Gamasutra

Road to the IGF: Question's The Magic Circle

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As the independent game industry swells and developers in general grow more comfortable expressing personal experiences through their work, we’re seeing more games truck with the realities of game development itself.

Last year games like The Beginners Guide, The Writer Will Do Something and Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist afforded players a unique perspective on what goes on behind the scenes (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) of game development.

Among them, Question’s own The Magic Circle stands out for affording players an external perspective on a (fictional, heavily satirized) game project and prompting them to “fix” it by using a suite of mechanics to overcome in-game obstacles. It’s a darkly comedic tale of a game gone awry, one that earned a nomination for the 2016 IGF Excellence in Narrative award.

The game shares much in common with first-person immersive sims like Deus ExBioshock and Dishonored, unsurprising in light of the fact that Arkane expat Kain Shin and former Irrational devs Jordan Thomas and Stephen Alexander compromise Question’s core staff. 

In a recent conversation with Gamasutra via email, the trio explained where, precisely, The Magic Circle comes from, and how going indie to make a game about game development has changed the way they view themselves and the industry at large. 

What’s your background in making games?

Alexander: I started as an artist at a company called Incredible Technologies working on a game called Golden Tee Golf.  From there I got hired as a visual effects artist at Irrational games based on effects I had done for a video pinball game that never saw the light of day.

I was the FX artist for the first Bioshock which was where I first worked with Jordan.  On Bioshock Infinite I moved into the combined role of Lead Narrative Artist and Lead FX Artist and after we shipped Jordan and I started talking about branching out and starting our own company.

Thomas: Game journalism, then hired as a teen by Psygnosis to write copy. They paid well — but folded within a year. First real design gig was at Amaze, on Harry Potter for PC; I learned Unreal there. Then to Ion Storm Austin for Thief 3, where Randy Smith and Emil Pagliarulo taught me to be an actual game designer.

I made a scary level that some folks noticed, got promoted to Lead. ISA was shuttered in 2005, then I worked on all the Bioshocks – the second one was my first time directing a game, did pretty well. After Infinite, though — felt it was time to work for myself and partners. That’s Question.

Shin: I started out in 2000 working on casino games, and then got my first real game job at Ion Storm Austin working on Deus Ex: Invisible War followed by Thief: Deadly Shadows. After that, I worked at a few studios for a few years making sexy unannounced projects that remained unannounced until I became a Lead programmer at Red Fly studios on Mushroom Men.

I wanted to get back into immersive sims, and so I joined Arkane studios where I worked on several projects, the last one being Dishonored where I served as core AI architect and gameplay programmer until it shipped in 2012. After that, I left Arkane to work at Harmonix as a gameplay programmer on an unannounced project as well as a project that was announced (Chroma). I went merc in 2013 before officially merging with Stephen and Jordan in 2014.

What development tools did you use to build The Magic Circle?

Alexander: We made the game using Unity as well as a few pieces of middleware, notably A* Pro, SECTR, EasySave, and i2 Localization. On the art side I primarily worked in 3DSMax, Photoshop, After Effects, and Motion Builder for getting our Mocap scenes in the game.

Thomas: For writing, I used Adobe Story at first, because I owned it as part of a package of tools – eventually though, its limitations drove me back to Final Draft, money well spent. For the mocap scenes, we didn’t end up using it but: hilariously for a little while we had some mo-cap animation that was captured entirely on two Kinect cameras. It was… fugly. Too rough even for the joke framework to excuse, and we replaced it with pro work from the awesome folks at Halon. Pat, our sound guru, I think uses Pro Tools for effects and Vegas for dialogue.

Shin: PC builds of Magic Circle are developed in Unity 4.x, but we are developing the console versions in Unity 5.x. Visual Studio is my preferred IDE. Steam integration was done using the excellent Steamworks.NET library, and Stephen mentioned the rest of the middleware we used.

How much time have you spent working on the game?

Alexander: We started working on the game in Spring of 2013, and went into early access in late Spring of 2015.  All told it was about 2 years and change for development.

Shin: I started work as a part time volunteer on The Magic Circle right after I left Harmonix in August of 2013. I stopped doing external contracts and went full time with Question in July of 2014… about a year before shipping.

How did you come up with the concept?

Thomas: Stephen and I kicked around some assorted darker concepts first, but at the time, we had more than our fill of brooding and grim. Somewhere in that list was a thumbnail idea from me about the often snarky whiteboard graffiti that shows up in game studios. That was the idea, that you were the hero of an unfinished game that was still on a whiteboard.

Something lighter, self-mocking and more meta resonated most with Stephen, which was all I cared about. So TMC was born. Over time we moved away from a literal whiteboard and towards the idea of actually inhabiting the software as it was being altered in real time, and that liberated us to add sections like the ’90s-inspired “space dungeon”, complete with rendering artifacts of the era.

It ended up being the right choice, because we could show rather than tell (and ideally in some cases, literally play) the old discarded versions of the fictional game that our story claimed had been in development hell for 20 years.

What were the practical consequences of making a game that satirizes game development, both personally and professionally?

Alexander: On a personal level it was fun to be able to step back and present an exaggerated version of our  failures as people and creators. So much effort usually goes into appearing like you know exactly what you are doing that to shine a light on how false that often is was liberating in some ways. Professionally it has been mixed, in the sense that The Magic Circle doesn’t necessarily scream “mainstream entertainment”. As a result, our sales haven’t been as high as we would have liked them to be as it relates to putting Question in a comfortable place financially.  On the other hand, we have proven to ourselves that we can make a compelling game in a reasonably short amount of time, which gives us a lot more confidence going forward.

Making something that lived so completely in the “meta” space was a bit of an exorcism as well.  I think we all had an interest in and taste for those kinds of stories, and making a game that pushed that as far as we could has allowed me (I can’t speak for everyone) to no longer feel the need to operate in that arena for quite some time.  I’m psyched to make something more straightforward, at least as straightforward as Question can realistically be while still making something that excites us. We are fans of the weird and alien.

Thomas: Writing-wise it was a full 500 percent harder than I thought it would be. First, everyone and their mom’s dog assumed it was a screed against former colleagues, or a true confession with fake names – so we spent a lot of time rewriting in favor of more universal flawed-creator themes, sometimes at the cost of specificity. Secondly, we did run into a lot of terminology collision “which game, the real Magic Circle, or the fictional one? Who do the fictional devs mean when they say the Player?” et cetera.

The real suckerpunch was that the development cycle for TMC spanned one of the darkest times for gaming culture that a lot of people can remember, and so suddenly this light-hearted satire we set out to build was drawing influence from the very scary, too-real way in which creators and fans can come to blows. The conflicts that flare up over who really owns these worlds, what that says about their identity, and who they’re willing to share it with. And that topic was way bigger than we were; our little few-hour story became editorial Tetris with what felt like a gun to our heads. Trying not to let any one fictional dev or fan perspective be the clear “right” answer, letting the player be the reasonable midpoint between extremes, and so forth.

We could have tried to ignore it completely and stay breezy, but speaking personally, I couldn’t look away. I thought about it every day, maybe to a fault. During previous game culture quakes – like say, the Jack Thompson saga – I never had relatives asking me point-blank what is wrong with gamers like I did during 2014. Without naming the beast, that crisis was more about gender than TMC could meaningfully take on, so far into development. But that capacity for mob mentality among all of us … was in the creative mix whether I liked it or not. So for some of our audience it became more true than it was funny. We tried very hard not to let The Magic Circle succumb to cynicism, though. It ends on what I hope is a pretty sanguine note.

The one big upside of that heartache is that I’m not a career comedy writer, so TMC doesn’t entirely live or die by how well I landed a joke. Thank goodness the members of our voice cast are so naturally comic, they helped us course-correct in the moment and often saved my ass. The IGF nomination shocked me. I’m just glad that some part of it spoke to anyone.

Shin: Working on a game that shined a light on tensions within the creative process shined a light on our own process as we were making the game. Ish, Maze, and Coda all represent versions of ourselves at various points in our career.

We had each come from backgrounds working at studios full of hard hitting alpha game developers who were very good at their jobs and had extremely strong opinions about their aspect of the game. The concept of art ownership was a topic that really resonated with me when Jordan first told me about The Magic Circle. Tense environments full of passionate developers typically evolve into process-heavy cultures where meetings, A/B testing, and other methods of enabling consensus were required before taking any step forward.

“You want to add something to the game? Write up a task and make sure it gets reviewed by leads so that we can track it for you. The leads will discuss your proposal in the next leads meeting to let you know if you can add that feature. Don’t forget your time estimates.”

After many years of that, we essentially rebelled against that culture we were lampooning (color schemes needing approval before the game can have color) and totally went the other way of developing more like three wild west cowboys who really trust each other to do whatever needed to be done however we deemed fit. It worked well, for the most part. We failed often but recovered quickly. Still, that wild west method is not sustainable, and we are constantly refining our methods in order to get better at maintaining work/life balance. That experience of working in both extremes of the process spectrum gave us some much needed perspective on what we want the shape of our working days to feel like.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you’ve particularly enjoyed?

Alexander: I absolutely loved Her Story. Going into it I really didn’t think it was going to be for me, but was amazed with how robust the underlying system was, and how much freedom it gave me as a player.  The fact that it was FMV had primed me to expect the opposite, so it was a treat to have that expectation turned on its head.

Thomas: Catching up with several, and since Stephen took Her Story, which has made some long-term changes to the way I think about the “rules” of game storytelling… I’ll talk about Darkest Dungeon. Damn, Red Hook, I mean, take a bow. To have constructed something that good in Early Access, first of all – still way outside the norm. And then, with a relatively small studio, to combine elements of unforgiving permadeath roguelike stuff that I usually can’t go anywhere near, with the RPG growth systems that offer such comfort and continuity… all wrapped up in a lovably purple lovecraftian tone.

I mean, that narrator guy? I just want to hug him and hear him describe it like “THE ABYSS, WITH SIGHT INSENSATE, DRAWS ME NIGH – UNTOLD LIMBS, QUESTING BEYOND FLESH TO CLUTCH AT MY SECRET SOUL!”

Shin: I played The Beginner’s Guide and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s amazing how context can make such a difference when playing something that is broken by design, yet meaningful to anyone who has ever made something as an act of expression.

Source: Gamasutra

Don't Miss: How Capcom tackled Western fantasy with Dragon's Dogma

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In 2010, Capcom COO Haruhiro Tsujumoto told analysts that his company would pursue a new strategy — in which the internal development teams in its Osaka studio would forge ahead with new IP and Western studios would create titles under existing brands.

This strategy is currently in full swing with Resident Evil: Operation Racoon city, a shooter developed by Canada’s Slant Six Games, the team best known for its work on the SOCOM franchise for Sony.

Meanwhile, Capcom director Hideaki Itsuno and producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who last teamed up to helm Devil May Cry 4, are currently working on original fantasy action game Dragon’s Dogma while England’s Ninja Theory (Enslaved) tackles the latest iteration of Devil May Cry.

In this interview, Itsuno and Kobayashi discuss the thinking behind this move, what they hope to achieve with the game and how they intend to do it, and how moving into contemporary production processes have affected Capcom’s internal development studios.

I was wondering if you could give me a sense of your basic goal for the game — what you want to accomplish with this game.

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: The main thing we want to accomplish with this game is to create something that felt like you were actually having a real-life adventure.

It’s got a very hard-fantasy look with it — very realistic. Is that part of that goal, the art direction?

Hideaki Itsuno: Yeah. The goal for us was to try to create a fantasy world that looks believable and realistic. If fantasy were real, how would you react? What would you do when you’re in this fantasy world? We wanted people to imagine how it could become realistic for them, and then interact with that in a realistic way.

This is one of the first examples we’ve seen from Capcom of the new strategy of putting existing IP onto Western studios and creating new IP from within the company. Could you talk about that strategy, what it means, and why it’s interesting to you as creators.

HK: For us, we have the two strategies working simultaneously. There is, as you said, giving our famous franchises to other companies to see what they can do. We’re always looking for new challenges for us at Capcom, and one of those is creating new IPs — new franchises that will resonate with the fans. For us, we wanted to try something new, and that’s why we developed this title internally.

We look at the other franchises as our children: we grow them, we raise them, and then we send them out to other companies and see what they can do with them. That gives birth to things like the new DMC, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and such.

It’s interesting to see Capcom do that. It’s become increasingly rare — as it usually does over the course of a generation — to see new IP launching. We’re pretty far into the generation, so it’s interesting to see you pursue a strategy of working with new IP, I think.

HK: Yeah. (laughs) Like you said, I think it is kind of rare for companies to put out new IPs in mid-cycle of a console’s life. But, for us, I think this is the perfect timing for that because we have all of this experience making Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games. Now, we want to use that and show everyone what we can do. Because now you have a really good install base for those two systems, I think the time is right to bring out a new IP because now you have more people that can potentially get in on the ground floor of a new franchise.

In launching a new IP, the kind of investment that you have to make is very substantial. How did you arrive at the idea of Dragon’s Dogma and say, “This is it. This is where we want to go at this point”?

HK: I think that we were just blessed with timing and resources coming together. We knew that we wanted to make a new IP, and we had this dev team that was free to do that. Then the director, Itsuno-san, was free at the same time and looking for a new challenge, as well.

HI: The fact that the team itself became open and I, the director, was open — these things just came together in a perfect match because we as a company want to put out a new IP, but, as you said, the resources available for that and everything just came together at the right time for that.

What attracted you to doing a fantasy adventure game? It’s very much different aesthetically than your previous work — and it’s even different from Monster Hunter. It’s very grounded. What attracted you to that atmosphere and that style of gameplay as well?

HI: For me, personally, I’ve always been a big fan of The Lord of the Rings series. I think everyone in the world would be in agreement that that’s kind of the starting point, the prototypical fantasy storyline.

For me, it has always been a goal of mine to get as close to that as possible when creating a game. You can have your Monster Hunters and your Devil May Crys, and I think that they become their own genres, their own things; but for me to try and create something as close to a Lord of the Rings-type setting, that’s not something I usually have been involved with. I really wanted to get involved with something that’s like Lord of the Rings because I respect that series so much.

When I last spoke to you for Devil May Cry 4, there was a lot of discussion about doing extensive research trips for architectural reference, so I was wondering what kind of preparations went into this title.

HI: Yeah, for this game as well, we went all around Europe to actually get a lot of info, especially for the backgrounds and environments in the game. We did a lot of research in Europe that’s helped to try and recreate those in the game.

Are we talking architectural reference or natural reference? Did you actually do any photoing for textures and stuff like that?

HK: Actually, it was a combination of both. We looked at architecture and buildings and things of that nature and also just natural environments as well. We took many pictures, of course, and we tried to recreate those as closely as possible in the game.

HI: For us, if you just use what you have available in Japan, it’s going to feel Japanese in the game. We wanted to make sure we had that authentic feel for the game, and that’s why we went around in Europe and got all that as materials and tried to recreate them in the game.

I’m curious about the process and structure of the team since Capcom has had the most solid technical framework of Japanese developers this generation, thanks to the MT Framework engine, but Japanese studios have a very different structure to Western studios. I was wondering if the way the team is structured has changed from earlier in the generation to follow new processes in the way you develop games?

HI: Yeah. The structure of the teams has changed a lot from the beginning, on PlayStation and PlayStation 2. We’re working with five times the amount of team members as we used to. Compared to what we had on Devil May Cry 4, the number of members involved is just phenomenal. I think we have more line to production — more units — because there’s more things that go into the games now than what we were putting in before, so we have to do that.

Has managing that become the big challenge; or have you risen to the challenge, and is it going smoothly?

HI: I think more than managing the team itself is the fact that we’re dealing with a new IP, so everyone involved in the game’s production doesn’t really have a clear idea of what the game is going to be when we come out at the end.

Right now, I think the team is working well together. All of the wheels are greased properly, and they’ve got the motivation and the teamwork aspects down. It’s just the fact that, at the end of the day, what kind of game are you going to make is something that you can’t see until we get there. But as far as managing the team itself, I think that’s gone pretty well.

Source: Gamasutra

Valve greenlights sale of fan-made Half-Life game

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Half-Life 2 modder-turned-indie developer Richard Seabrook has begun taking pre-orders for Prospekt, a standalone Half-Life game made — with Valve’s approval — using official Half-Life 2 assets.

It’s a bit remarkable given that most game companies are typically reluctant to allow their work to be used by modders and developers in personal projects, even if those projects are non-commercial fan efforts.

In this case Prospekt is being sold on Steam as a $10 indie game, one that places players in the combat boots of U.S. Marine Adrian Shephard (the protagonist of Gearbox’s Half-Life: Opposing Force) and pushes them through some of the events of Half-Life 2

Speaking to GamesN, Seabrook noted that Prospekt was borne as a job application for Valve. When the company failed to respond (Seabrook evidently mailed it to them in a suitcase spraypainted with the Half-Life logo) he put the game up on Steam Greenlight instead, and saw Valve approve it for sale three days later.

Since then, Seabrook has reportedly been in contact with Valve representatives who put him in touch with contacts to help finish the game and prepare it for release next month. 

He gave no details about what sorts of arrangements, if any, he reached with Valve to secure Prospekt‘s use of Half-Life 2 assets, though Valve will presumably take its traditional cut of the game’s sales through Steam.

Source: Gamasutra

Law firm formally protests Sony's 'Let's Play' trademark attempt

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The McArthur Law Firm, which specializes in video game law, is making a show of formally protesting Sony Computer Entertainment’s recent attempt to trademark the term “Let’s Play.” 

The interesting bit here is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office actually rebuffed Sony’s initial attempt, but McArthur is claiming that it was for a weak reason — namely that Sony’s “Let’s Play” trademark was deemed too easily confused with similar trademarks, rather than that the term itself is too generic to be trademarked.

“In the Letter of Protest filed today by The McArthur Law Firm, we presented the USPTO with over fifty examples of how Let’s Play has become ‘generic,'” reads an excerpt of the firm’s blog post detailing its actions. “We believe that the USPTO will review the evidence we submitted and come to the same conclusion as thousands of gamers: that the term ‘Let’s Play’ is generic and that Sony should not have exclusive rights over it.”

The post goes on to claim that such a letter is part of a formal procedure that empowers a third party to submit additional evidence for the USPTO to consider before it approves and publishes a trademark. Though Sony’s initial effort has been rebuffed, it has six months to respond before a final refusal is issued.

It’s worth noting also that McArthur Law Firm was founded by Gamasutra blogger (and onetime contributor) Stephen McArthur.

Source: Gamasutra