Blizzard's official professional esports league for Overwatch continues to round into shape, and today announced two more franchises have been purchased. That puts the count at nine teams total, including the two announced today with one in Los Angeles established by Stan and Josh Kroenke (a family that already holds ownership stakes in the LA Rams, Arsenal Football Club, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche). The other goes to Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne, whose company already operates ten esports teams, including one for Overwatch.
Google, apparently tired of trouncing human players at Go with its DeepMind AI, set its computer intelligence up with Blizzard's video game Starcraft II last fall. It seems that was more than a stunt: Today, Google announced it has built a whole research environment around training its AI to play the space-age strategy game -- and it's publicly available. Anyone who wants can tinker with DeepMind's new toolset, SC2LE, to facilitate their own AI research.
There are a ton of initiatives to help kids (and adults) learn to code these days. Google has lessons for teens to code animates scenes starring Wonder Woman, Apple has the kid-friendly Swift Playgrounds and a partnership with Tynker, and even Facebook has a program that suggests learning gadgets and other resources to help encourage the next generation of coders. Microsoft has now launched a series of free Xbox and PC game development classes, held at its "flagship" stores in New York and Sydney. The classes will begin on August 20th and September 25th, respectively.
Ron Gilbert has had his fingers in quite a few adventure games over the years, including Lucas Arts' Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, along with Hothead Games' Penny Arcade Adventures, Death Spank, and Dobule Fine Productions' The Cave. He also spent some time at Humongous Games, making educational titles like Blue's 123 Time Activities and Spy Fox in Hold the Mustard. Gilbert's latest genre entry, in collaboration with longtime partner Gary Winnick, is Thimbleweed Park, funded on Kickstarter back in 2014. Released to Windows, Mac and Xbox One in March, the title is coming to PlayStation 4 on August 22nd and Nintendo's Switch sometime in September.
If you want to preview upcoming Xbox One user interface changes, you need to be an Xbox One Insider. The tiered program also allows members to check out early alpha and closed beta games on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy to move between tiers or even really know what you were getting in each one. Microsoft is aiming to fix this issue with a much clearer tier-naming system along with an easier way to opt-in to the different tiers.
AMD wants to ensure you always have something unique to play with new graphics card. The new AMD4U program is a partnership with publisher Square Enix exclusively featuring games from the publisher's "Collective" initiative for indie developers. Folks who buy and register their GPU are eligible for up to three free games (PDF) including Tokyo Dark (above) and Black the Fall. The benefits here are twofold: you get free, unique games with your graphics card and smaller developers get their wares in front of a new audience.
If you're a die-hard Myst fan, you've probably at least heard of Obduction, the new game from Cyan. You may have even supported its Kickstarter. Today, CEO Rand Miller took to the PlayStation blog to announce that the game will be available for the PS4 on August 29th; it will include a PS VR update, though that may not be available at launch time. You can preorder it now.
Who bothers to check gaming news on their Switch when there's this little thing called Twitter? Well, Nintendo may have finally figured out a way to put its news feed to good use. It turns out, it's using the Zelda: Breath of the Wild channel to offer hands-on tutorials, with free in-game items. To start with, the gifts are pretty boring. Instead of dishing out something cool, like horse armor, all that's available right now are meat and apples. But that's not to say the items won't get better over time.