industry

Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode departs from Blizzard to form new game studio

Without a doubt, one of the most vivacious and well-loved personalities at Blizzard Entertainment has been Ben Brode. The Hearthstone game director injected a lot of his fun-loving personality into all of the videos and appearances that he did, which is why it’s going to crush many to hear that he has decided to leave the studio after 15 years.

“I have made the incredibly difficult decision to embark on a new journey,” he announced on the forums. “Man, that was a hard sentence to type.”

Brode had spent a decade working on Hearthstone, and in his farewell letter, he states his pride in both the game and the team. “I have loved the silly memes, engaging in spirited debates, or even just being held accountable to our shared high standards for the game. We try to be highly available on social media, and I think our team helped push the envelope in this regard,” he said.

So what’s next for Brode? He’s helping to start a new company that will “probably make games.”

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Dutch Gaming Authority calls out four games as violating its lootbox policies

If you had expected the Netherlands to be leading the fight against lootboxes, you may be more clairvoyant than the rest of the population. After investigating 10 games, the Dutch Gaming Authority has found that four of the games tested feature lootboxes that violate the Better Gaming Act. That may not sound too serious until you consider that the offending games have eight weeks to make changes to the lootboxes to comply with the law.

Failure to do so can result in fines or just straight-up forbidding the games from being sold in the Netherlands. That’s a pretty big deal.

While the DGA did not specifically name games, the Dutch paper reporting on the situation cites FIFA ’18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League as the offending titles. The remaining six titles are not in violation of the law but were still sharply criticized for the lootbox implementation, which is said to target younger players and encourage gambling. It’s also worth noting that each of these violations specifically pertains to tradeable items for real money, which just squeaks in as a gambling option.

Source: NOS, VG24/7

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MOBAs provide a template for the future of the battle royale genre

So where will battle royale games be in another five years? We don’t know just yet, but from a purely business standpoint we can extrapolate some ideas. GamesIndustry.biz has an analysis up suggesting that we can look to the last overnight genre explosion in the form of MOBAs as a good indicator of what will happen with future battle royale entries, scrambling to pick up the scraps not already picked up by Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Why? Well, the entrenched playerbase has already been established in those games, which means that slight tweaks to the formulas are unlikely to cause player shifts, and by the time these competitors are released most players will already be committed. In short, it’s many of the points we raised in a piece about trend-chasing on Wednesday, just applied more specifically to this genre. So if you’re hoping that the next battle royale game will be the one to dethrone the ruling powers, you might not want to bet too heavily on that.

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Sea of Thieves does blockbuster sales in the UK while former artist criticizes its lack of depth

Rare has a reason to rejoice this week, as Sea of Thieves has sailed to a number one spot on the sales chart in the UK. The studio has only done this twice before, with Rare Replay (2015) and Banjo-Kazooie (1998). There are no specifics on how many titles have been sold, although this is a good indicator that the multiplayer pirate sim has enjoyed a strong start.

It’s going to need it, though. Sharp criticism has emerged from both players and even one past artist on the project of the game’s shallow repetition and meager content offerings.

Former Sea of Thieves artist Rob Beddall said that warning signs were popping up years ago internally, but Rare did not address them: “A lot of internal people voiced their concerns that the game was insanely repetitive and shallow. This was about a year a go before I left. I guess nothing has changed.”

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Vivendi has sold its stock in Ubisoft, giving up on its hostile takeover

Winners never quit, we’re told. So what does that mean in light of Vivendi divesting itself of Ubisoft shares? The investment in Ubisoft (well-known for The Crew, The Division, and other titles we don’t really cover here) was long seen as the start of a hostile takeover attempt, which means that selling the 27 percent that Vivdeni (well-known for formerly owning Blizzard) owned represents the company, well, giving up on that plan.

It’s not entirely clear why Vivendi abandoned the hostile takeover attempt, but as part of the sales agreement Vivendi cannot buy any stock in Ubisoft for the next five years, which means that it appears to be well and truly ended. So, good news if you don’t want Vivendi to be in charge of Ubisoft, bad news if… you did want that? Corporate antics are always a thrill a minute.

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Hate groups are getting deleted from Steam… if they’re overt enough

It’s fair to say at this point that Steam is an enormous part of the PC gaming market. It’s also fair to say that Valve has demonstrated very little interest in moderating the platform in any way, preferring algorithms to actually walking in and stopping review-bombing efforts (among other abuses). There’s no real way to program in algorithms to prevent hate groups forming, but it does appear that Valve has gone through the Steam Groups and done one of its most aggressive banning passes to shut down hate groups.

Successful? Well, you won’t find a bunch of hate groups by searching for “school shooter.” You can, however, still find them; you just have to work a little bit harder at it. At this point, it seems that the only way these groups are really going to be removed from the platform altogether is if Valve really makes an aggressive project of moderating the platform, and that seems unlikely. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Source: Kotaku

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GoVenture World takes the MMO to business school

After you’ve put in a long day in your cubicle working for The Man, why not come home, kick off your shoes, and unwind by playing… an intensely detailed business simulator MMO? Hey, it takes all types, especially the types that feel like they need some virtual success to compensate for real-life stagnation.

Meet GoVenture World. This is an online business MMO in which players run their own startup companies and try to make it big in a simulated global economy. While the time frame and systems are streamlined from their real world complex counterparts, GoVenture World claims to offer an authentic business experience that includes supply, demand, stocks, legal issues, shipping, and on-the-job training. There is also a mobile app tie-in that allows the game to function as a pseudo-augmented reality title.

Also, we want to hear if anyone takes up GoVenture on this suggestion: “The experience is so real, so authentic, that you can add your in-game achievements to your real resume to help you get a job, or further your career, or launch your own startup.”

There is a lot of options and plenty to wrap your head around here, so get a high-level overview of GoVenture World in the video guide after the break.

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Citadel Studios and Nexon are recruiting talent

If studio job postings get your blood pumping with the thoughts of what could be, here are a couple of tantalizing tidbits that perhaps hint at future development.

Legends of Aria developer Citadel Studios posted a job listing for both a digital marketing specialist and a game programmer. By the way, if you happen to be testing Aria right now, you should know that the NDA was lifted earlier this week.

Nexon — which you may have heard of — put out a notice with the hopes of recruiting a game director for its Nexon OC Studio. The specific game in question was not mentioned, although the description does ask for candidates that have worked on previous AAA titles.

If that last post sounds a little familiar, perhaps it is because you are remembering that former WildStar and World of Warcraft developer Stephen Frost went to work as a game director at Nexon OC last year.

Source: Gamasutra, Legends of Aria. Thanks Pepperzine!

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Rumor: Disney eyes Ubisoft and Activision to take over Star Wars video game IP

Raise your hand if you’re a little tired of Electronic Arts’ handling of the Star Wars video game franchise since its acquisition in 2013. One… two… yeah, a few of you.

Well, there might be A New Hope in the future for a new handler. Rumors are emerging that Disney is eyeing two different publishers to take the reins of the Star Wars IP in the video game market, especially in light with the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco last year.

Cinelinx has the possible scoop: “From what I’ve heard Lucasfilm is upset as well and looking for other options. I’ve had a couple sources reach out to me about the current state of Star Wars gaming. According to them, Disney/LFL higher ups pulled EA to the ‘principal’s office’ to talk about what’s going wrong (which is what others have reported as well). Moreso, they’ve apparently reached out to both Ubisoft and Activision about developing Star Wars games.”

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Black Desert’s Kakao Games enjoys $131.6 million in investment

It’s all coming up Kakao Games these days.

The Korean studio received a large investment package recently that totals $131.6 million. The bundle comes from five external companies, including China’s Tencent, South Korea’s Netmarble, Bluehole Studio, Premier Growth-M&A PEF, and Actozsoft.

So what does Kakao plan to do with its newly laden pockets? The studio has its eyes on global expansion and the acquisition of other studios.

Over in its signature product Black Desert, Kakao and Pearl Abyss are preparing to roll out a new PvP server called Arsha that provides incentives for player conflict. The game is also half-off ($5) on Steam right now through February 19th.

Source: Games Industry, press release

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Steam terminates its relationship with MMO company Insel Games over alleged review manipulation

It’s really unusual to see publishers outright booted off of Steam, but Valve has done exactly that to Insel Games following reports of review manipulation. It started with a Reddit post yesterday posting an alleged email from the company’s CEO lamenting the lack of a proper review score for Wild Buster and asking all employees to purchase a copy of the game along with leaving a positive review on the game page. Apparently whatever Valve found behind the scenes was enough to convince the company that the accusations were legitimate and terminate the relationship.

Players who already own copies of Wild Buster, Guardians of Ember, or any other Insel Games titles will still be able to play the games, and they can still be purchased through other sources, but new copies cannot be obtained through Steam. We’ve reached out to Insel Games for comment on the matter and will update this post with any response we receive. [Update: We’ve included the statement made to MOP via email below.]

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Amazon’s New World seeks a software development manager

Despite coming onto the scene with a flurry of prospective titles, Amazon Game Studios has yet to really make a great impression on the game genre. The studio is down to only two known prospective titles on the horizon: Crucible and New World.

It’s this second game that’s of particular interest to MMORPG players, as a lot of hopes hang on Amazon to wield a robust, big-budget title in this day and age. Recent alleged trailer leaks have kept the buzz going, and while we wait for more solid official information, we can at least take solace that the studio continues to hire for the project.

Amazon’s career page has a listing for a software development manager for New World, a position that will “work within the game team and collaborate with external technical teams to affect the future of online gaming.” It’s not an overtly thrilling listing, to be sure, but it is kind of neat to see the studio state the elevator pitch for the game and to see hints that development continues.

Source: Amazon Jobs. Thanks Zan!

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Western gamers start petition to save Paragon while Chinese players await info

It shouldn’t really need to be said, but Paragon has fans. You may not love it yourself, but there are a lot of fans who are really upset about the shutdown announcement. So the fans have turned to that time-honored tradition in the wake of an unwanted shutdown, a petition for Epic Games to keep the lights on at the bare minimum.

The petition was aiming for 25,000 signatures and as of this writing has almost hit that number, so it’s clear that a lot of people are willing to write in to support the game at least remaining online even if the updates grind to a halt. Of course, petitions to avert shutdowns do not have the most positive track record; nevertheless, if you are sad about the game shuttering, we encourage you to throw your name onto the list.

Don’t think a petition is going to work? You could always join the folks playing on the Tencent-backed Chinese version of the game, which reportedly either isn’t sunsetting – or hasn’t been told yet.

Source: Petition; thanks to Kinya for the tip!

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