With NHL 19, EA leans into online play in effort to attract new players

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With NHL 19, EA leans into online play in effort to attract new players

EA Sports’ long-running NHL series of hockey video games may not be stuck in a rut per se, but it’s still trucking through mud rather than gliding smoothly on ice. Although the franchise has recovered from its poor debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One back in 2014, it hasn’t regained the standing it once had with critics and fans.

This year, developer EA Vancouver is taking a different tack in its attempt to expand the series’ player base. In addition to the perennial drive to refine gameplay mechanics — which is getting a particular emphasis with a companywide technology upgrade — there’s a focus on online play.

Marketing ‘spyware’ caught in PC games but makers reject that label

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Marketing ‘spyware’ caught in PC games but makers reject that label

About 20 PC games — including The Elder Scrolls Online and Conan Exiles — have removed a piece of third-party spyware tracking users’ activity outside of the game, and dozens more are said to still have it more than a week after it came to light on Reddit and Steam forums.

Called Red Shell (yes, it’s named for the Mario Kart item), the spyware sells itself as a means for video game makers to “uncover where their players come from through reliable attribution.” It “matches” whether players with Red Shell installed on their games visited a market’s campaign, whether Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, a web page or others.

Valve suspends some trading in CS:GO, Dota 2 to comply with Dutch loot box law

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Valve suspends some trading in CS:GO, Dota 2 to comply with Dutch loot box law

Valve has restricted trading in two of its games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, in an effort to comply with the Netherlands Gaming Authority’s rules governing loot boxes. The move disables the option for Dutch players to trade items in those games.

In a statement to customers, Valve said it stopped trading in CS:GO and Dota 2 for Dutch players in response to two letters from the Netherlands Gaming Authority (aka the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit), which said that “loot boxes” in those games violate the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act.

Mojang’s Scrolls goes free-to-play and gets a new name

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Mojang’s Scrolls goes free-to-play and gets a new name

Scrolls, the collectible card game from Minecraft maker Mojang, is going free-to-play, the developer announced, and it’s also getting a new name.

Going forward, the game is now Caller’s Bane. A post from Mojang did not explain the reason for the name change, cryptically mentioning, “Perhaps we just didn’t like the sound of ‘Scrolls.’

PUBG Mobile update adds first-person, arcade mode and Royale Pass

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PUBG Mobile update adds first-person, arcade mode and Royale Pass

Tencent and PUBG Corp. have announced the latest update to the extremely successful PUBG Mobile game, which will include a new perspective, new mode and new ways to earn rewards in the game.

The biggest addition in this new update, called patch 0.6.0, is the first-person perspective, which is coming to PUBG Mobile for the first time. PUBG Mobile is also getting the new Mini-Zone Arcade game mode, which drops all 100 players into a smaller than normal circle with triple the number of weapons, making for a faster and more intense game.

Why are game companies so afraid of the politics in their games?

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Why are game companies so afraid of the politics in their games?

Game publishers are lathering their productions with the stark imagery of modern political divisions, while at the same time denying any topical intent.

Their strategy, according to industry sources ranging from developers to publicists, is to profit from emotive societal divisions, while ducking difficult conversations about what their works might signify. Their games garner publicity and a sense of cultural relevance, but the companies avoid the challenge and expense of controversy.

Death Stranding sleuths decode hidden musical message in E3 trailer

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Death Stranding sleuths decode hidden musical message in E3 trailer

Hidden messages and cryptic imagery are not unfamiliar when it comes to Hideo Kojima’s games. The previous Death Stranding trailer had fans analyzing every last detail and coming up with theories. For instance, the strand of numbers along Norman Reedus’ character’s suit is thought by some fans to correspond to a controversial Biblical verse.

But one of the mini-trailers for Death Stranding that was sliced from the longer trailer shown at Sony’s E3 press conference — the reveal of Lindsay Wagner’s character — and the subsequent character poster that Sony released has stirred up a particularly complex hidden message analysis.

Crackdown 3’s original co-developer and series creator are no longer on the project

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Crackdown 3’s original co-developer and series creator are no longer on the project

When Crackdown 3 was announced in 2014, Microsoft emphasized the return of series creator Dave Jones and his new company Cloudgine, which provided a cloud computing service to help power in-game destruction that would otherwise be impossible on a baseline Xbox One. In an interview with Kotaku around that time, Xbox head Phil Spencer, now executive vice president for gaming at Microsoft, said, “[Jones’] Cloudgine company is doing a lot of the technology behind Crackdown.” But earlier this year, Fortnite creator Epic Games announced it had acquired Cloudgine. Jones left the creative director role at the project’s co-developer Reagent Games, and with it Crackdown 3, to take the role of director of cloud and esport strategies at Epic.

The move raises questions about Microsoft’s plans for the game’s big multiplayer destruction. The initial description of the destruction sounded almost futuristic. “Unlike other games, this wall has compute power and memory on demand,” Jones told GamesTM magazine. “Each single bullet will take away a little bit of the geometry. And everything is physical. In true Crackdown style if I want to be at the top of a building, any building, and create a little sniper nest and shoot my friends from there so they can hardly see me, then that’s pretty exciting. That’s the kind of thing we can do.”

Cyberpunk dev would appreciate if you’d stop asking about The Witcher’s Ciri, please

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Cyberpunk dev would appreciate if you’d stop asking about The Witcher’s Ciri, please

Polygon’s interview with the team behind Cyberpunk 2077 was the very last one that CD Projekt Red had scheduled for this E3. Co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński and game director Adam Badowski looked pretty well spent. They were also just a bit stressed out, since Hideo Kojima was on the other side of the wall seeing their 50-minute hands-off demo for the very first time. But eventually, I had to ask the question that was on everyone’s minds.

“So,” I said, “when should players of Cyberpunk 2077 expect to bump into Ciri?”

Fist of the North Star makes its bloody return to the West

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Fist of the North Star makes its bloody return to the West

Your familiarity with Fist of the North Star — the classic, post-apocalyptic and extremely violent Shonen Jump series — likely varies depending on your age.

In North America, the manga has been out of print for several years; 36 episodes of the anime were dubbed into English, with the remaining 116 available only with subtitles. But if you were reading manga in the late ’80s, there was a good chance you both had access to and read Fist of the North Star. The same is true if anyone watching fansubs back then, or who managed to catch the English run in the late ’90s. In that case, you recognize that the sci-fi series is a gruesome mix of fantasy action and profuse gore. There were also a few games that made it over here, including those for NES, Game Boy, Master System and Genesis, and, more recently, Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors-style Fist of the North Star games.