starbucks logo

Hello once again NAGilks, and thanks for joining me once again for This Week In Gaming. This time around we have some bad news for a couple of irate birds, some inspiring news from the maker of the Unreal engine, developers rally against hateful internet commentary and EA is hoping a coffee expert can turn around their crappy image. Then on the gaming side we have a mature response to criticism from Saint’s Row’s creative director, a game is migrating from Xbox One to PC (and noone cares), a Google hacker creates a tool to exploit Hearthstone and Sega does something awesome for fans of Rome 2: Total War. Then there’s a bunch of videos, some highlights from the week and other things you may have missed out on. Check that out, after the jump.

Console/Developer News

Rovio’s CEO has stepped down after the Angry Birds studio saw its yearly profits drop a significant 50%. He’s going to be replaced by former Nokia exec Pekka Rantala; presumably because Nokia is the poster-boy for successful companies that maintain success.

No, wait. I think I’ve got that all mixed up.

Anyways, Rovio made a paltry 26,9 million Euros in profit, which is frankly just disappointing. It’s almost like people have gotten bored of playing the same game with a different skin year after year.

While we’re on the topic of staff changes, EA has hired Chris Bruzzo as their new marketing chief – the man who was “the architect” of Starbucks’ digital presence.

The publisher says their hope is to improve communication with gamers, something which isn’t hard to see needs some pretty drastic improvement. Can a tech-savvy barista change that? I’m not exactly convinced, but at least they’re trying.

It''ll take a whole lot of coffee to bounce back from this.

It”ll take a whole lot of coffee to bounce back from this.

A company that doesn’t need much help at improving their image is Epic, developers of the Unreal Engine. But, they’re improving it anyway.

The developer has decided to give schools and universities use of their engine, for free.

“This new initiative sets up the academic community to take advantage of everything game engine technology has to offer and be a part of game development in its purest form,” the developer said.

“Nothing is stopping students from honing the skills needed to enter the range of fields using Unreal Engine technology, from entertainment software and film to visualisation, healthcare simulation and military training,” said Unreal Engine general manager Ray Davis. “Students who know Unreal Engine technology have a huge advantage when it comes to job placement.”

Look, I’m not going to pretend that producing a bunch of students trained on the Unreal Engine isn’t good for Epic, but this is a classy move by them nonetheless. This will go a long way in making the industry more accessible, and encourage universities and schools to introduce programming into their curriculums.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen some pretty disgraceful behaviour from the video game community. More specifically, we’ve seen some really over-the-top, hateful and harassing remarks and posts levelled at various critics, commentators and developers – particularly women.

This was something discussed briefly on Episode 7 of the NAG Online podcast, where we agreed that this is more a general problem with internet users and people in general than specifically gamers.

However, in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a couple of gaming-specific incidents, where obviously those who play those games have more emotional buy-in, and are thus the outspoken majority.

This has led to an open letter being signed by more than 1400 developers, asking gamers to take a stand against hateful, harassing speech.

Ms Sarkeesian is the most recent example, but certainly not the only one.

Ms Sarkeesian is the most recent example, but certainly not the only one.

The contents of the letter is as follows:

“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened,” the letter reads.

“It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish. If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites.

“If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in. Thank you”.

Simple, and to the point. Cut the bullshit everyone.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, CVG, Eurogamer, CVG

Gaming News

Anita Sarkeesian’s critical piece, Tropes vs Women in Video Games, caused a big stir in the video game community (and a lot of backlash).

It wasn’t all bad, however, as Saints Row series creative director Steve Jaros has said he regrets how he portrayed women in previous franchise entries.

In an interview with The Escapist, Jaros said, “I think that we shouldn’t be portraying senseless abused women and I think that if I could go back and hop in a time machine I would have done things differently [in the first game].

“I think that there’s some things Saints Row does better than other games, and I think that there are other things that we could have done better. I think that every time that we’ve done a Saints Row game we’ve gotten better at it.”

It’s pretty big to take a harsh criticism on the chin and admit you were wrong, and I have to respect him for it. In Jaros’ own words, “I think it’s fair to be called out on your shit. I think that it’s a sad man that can never be self-reflective.”

For a series like Saints Row, as ridiculous and bombastic as it is, to be able to portray women in a positive way is evidence that the industry really can have its cake and eat it too.

Errr, maybe they weren't ALL tastefully dressed.

Errr, maybe they weren’t ALL tastefully dressed.

Now for one of my favourite pieces of news from the week, Sega has announced a “remastered” version of Rome 2: Total War, entitled Emperor Edition.

The new version will feature a DLC campaign pack, as well as “overhauled building chains, a redeveloped and more impactful politics system, improved campaign and battle lighting”.

Now, given my attitude towards these kinds of remasters you have thought I was being sarcastic about this being my favourite bit of news, but here’s the kicker – the Emperor Edition is 100% free to those who already own Rome 2.

This is what I like to call, “doing it right”. Nice job, Sega.

Google’s anti-abuse research team made waves at the Defcon 22 hacking conference back in August, where they revealed a tool that made playing Hearthstone a helluva lot easier.

According to creator Elie Bursztein, the tool “uses data analysis to find undervalued cards and exploits game structure using machine learning to predict your opponent’s deck”.

Now, following a lengthy discussion with Blizzard, Bursztein has conceded not to release the hack publicly, saying, “[Blizzard] were very concerned that our real time dashboard that can predict your opponent’s deck will break the game balance by giving that person (that is, whoever has the tool) an unfair advantage.

“They also expressed concern that such a tool makes the game less fun by taking away some of the decision-making from the player.”

Bursztein said it was a tough decision, but he agrees. So we’re safe for now, but that is one less excuse I have available when Rick de Klerk beats me.

Rick's the big green monster, and I'm basically that ginger dwarf over there.

Rick’s the big green monster, and I’m basically that ginger dwarf over there.

In a last bit of news for the week, the PC version of Ryse: Son of Rome is launching on 10th of October this year – don’t all jump out of your chairs at once.

The Xbox One release title experienced a somewhat luke-warm reception, and Crytek is hoping to find a better response from PC gamers.

The Minimum Specs aren’t too outrageous either, citing 4GB of RAM and a DX11 video card with at least 1GB of memory.

Personally, I couldn’t be less excited. Still, those with 4K screens might be pleased to hear it’s compatible, and knowing Crytek it’ll probably be pretty as hell.

Sources: Escapist, CVG, CVG, Eurogamer

Videos

We kick things off with an interesting little title called Firewatch, stylised as a “single-player, first-person exploration mystery”. No idea what that means? All the more reason to watch this trailer then.

Next up we have a new Assassin’s Creed Rogue trailer, the title alluding to the protagonist which turned on the Order to become an assassin hunter. Why? Check out this trailer for some answers.

Destiny hype is fully under way, and lest you forget, Bungie have released another trailer – this time a live-action clip where a few guardians explore some of the planets. Destiny releases for all platforms on Tuesday.

Last up we have a bit of Call of Duty: Kevin Spacey action, this time a meaty chunk of multiplayer gameplay. It’s the online action that will make or break a CoD title, so have a look at this and see if it’s worth your time.

Best of NAG

The NAG Online podcast! There’s a two-for-one special this week, with Episode 6 being delayed to an audio bug and thus dropping at the exact same time as Episode 7. Aren’t you lucky? You can find those episodes here and here respectively.

Speaking of the podcast, this Wednesday saw the introduction of a new podcast challenge – play a somewhat odd game for a week and write about it. I kicked things off with my experience over seven days with Peggle – it didn’t go very well.

Then, of course, we have the latest issue of the NAG magazine. By the time you read this it’ll be out everywhere, and if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, head over here to find out why you should.

Finally, we have an excellent opinion piece from hardware man Wesley Fick, who puts his shiny toys down for a while to discuss the recent violation of celebrity privacy, in which stars such as Jennifer Lawrence had their private photos distributed on the internet. It’s a more measured, well-balanced approach than you likely would have seen elsewhere, and is definitely worth your time.

More stuff like this: