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One man's journey from LucasArts to a bicycle to Telltale Games to interactive radio drama

In the early 90's, after several years at LucasArts working on now-legendary adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, Dave Grossman traded his desk job for a bike."I was burning out both kind of personally and professionally in about 1994," Grossman told Polygon. "And I went on a bicycle ride from here to Canada, which is probably about 1,500 miles, I would say. It was kind of like a, 'Let's figure out what's really important to me about what I do and how I actually want to do it.' By the time he rode back home, he'd found his path. No matter where he was going, the tug of narrative would guide him. "And then I came back and quit my job and took a lot more writing gigs and that kind of thing. I was mostly interested in this whole area of...
Opinion
34 Comments

There's no way any game is wackier than GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT

Warning: GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT contains oodles of offensive internet memes, so the gameplay video comes with a strong content warning. Made in 7 days, for the 7DFPS game jam — where creators are encouraged to make interesting, introspective and/or outrageous games using (or subverting) first person shooter mechanics — GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT is a sort of postmodern parody shooter. Its full name: GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT vs xxXilluminatiXxx [wow/10 #rekt edition] - Montage Parody The Game, sort of says it all. Created by Melbourne-based developer Andy Sum, it's a giant parody of FPS culture, consumerism, gamer culture, and ridiculous internet memes. It combines bro-shooter, hyper masculine empowerment tropes with weed and memes, and its stages are littered, literally,...
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Super Mario, minus the jump: the making of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an experiment for Nintendo. It's an upcoming 3D puzzle game for Wii U, spun off of the "Captain Toad" levels from last year's acclaimed Super Mario 3D World. It's essentially a puzzle-platformer in the Mario vein, with one radical change: There's no jumping in the game. It's a new approach for Nintendo EAD, the developer of acclaimed main-series Mario titles Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World. When you think about how central Mario's jump is to this kind of game, and to a Mario universe title specifically, you begin to get an idea of just how different this is. From Super Mario 64 to Captain Toad Recently, Polygon had the opportunity to speak with the game's producer, Koichi Hayashida, and director, Shinya Hiratake,...
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14 Comments

Playing That Dragon, Cancer is an intensely emotional experience

I am not entirely clear, in my mind, if playing That Dragon, Cancer upset me as a result of its game-ness, especially. Perhaps it was the poetry of love and loss that is threaded through the experience. Maybe it's the heart-breaking sound-files of a child playing with his family. Or it's the mere knowledge that this is a true story about a little boy, Joel Green, who died of cancer and left behind people who love him very much. That Dragon, Cancer is an intense game-world, an experience, a narrative and a poem. It was originally envisioned as a game about hope. When development began, Joel was still fighting the cancer that had blighted his short life. His father Ryan, mother Amy and family friend Josh Larson decided to make a game about this fight, about how it changed their lives,...
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24 Comments

Battlefield Hardline is shaping up to be more than just another gung-ho shooter

Back in the spring, I visited Electronic Arts to look at Battlefield Hardline, the newest iteration of the company's first-person combat franchise.EA showed me a forgettable multiplayer map, set in an American city, in which cops and robbers chased one another and shot lots of people to death. Battlefield Hardline was basically Battlefield, the high-tech war movie, re-imagined as Battlefield the overblown cop fantasy. It was all vaguely unimpressive. Following negative reaction to that reveal, Battlefield Hardline was delayed so developer Visceral could work on addressing some of the concerns raised by the media and the public. "Maybe we underestimated the audience appetite for something different," says creative director Ian Milham. "We were worried about pissing off Battlefield...
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Halo gets serious about eSports with the Halo Championship Series

343 Industries and Microsoft are serious about making Halo a legitimate player in a growing eSports landscape. So serious, in fact, that they're forming an official eSports league for it. Dubbed the Halo Championship Series, it will see 343i partner with Twitch, the ESL and other entities to form an advisory body to tournament organizers in a quest to add structure, tension and momentum to the shooter's multiplayer community moving forward. The HCS is intended to see its full form when Halo 5: Guardians releases in 2015, but competitors will see its effects much sooner. 343i is launching their new league with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and the Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer maps it contains. The HCS's inaugural season will run from this month through March 2015, and will allow...
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Brianna Wu is confident a death threat harasser will be caught and jailed

Since she announced a plan to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of any of the people sending her death threats, including tweeting a picture of a jail cell (above), one thing has changed in Brianna Wu's life.The death threats have stopped. At least for now. Wu is the founder of Boston-based developer Giant Spacekat, best known for its sci-fi adventure Revolution 60. A vocal critic of GamerGate, she has been the target of online harassment and death threats from people using the GamerGate hashtag. Other women in the game industry, such as developer Zoe Quinn and critic Anita Sarkeesian have faced similar harassment. She forwards all threats to her local police officers, who have visited Wu's house to investigate the harassment. Now she's offering $11,000 for...
Halloween
39 Comments

Ghosts in the machine? Using the Kinect to hunt for spirits

The room is completely dark, save for the soft light of a computer monitor. A solitary man stands in the middle of the old, musty foyer, surrounded by an audience of several ancient pieces of furniture. The silence is oppressive. Through the computer monitor, another man — another paranormal investigator — watches a stick-figure representation of his colleague. At first it's just the one body, a fluorescent green collection of sticks meant to represent human legs and arms. Then without warning, a second, smaller figure pops into view. The man in the room is still alone, but this second tiny figure moves across the screen, seemingly reaching out to touch the man's own, corporeal figure. Then it blinks out of existence. If you've seen the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, you've seen...
Halloween
6 Comments

The science of fear: How to measure scares in gaming

From the lackluster scares of Resident Evil 5 to looping dread of P.T., fluctuations in the quality of horror games have made the genre a notoriously unreliable venture. But what if you could ensure your video game would feature genuine scares? As part of a preliminary push toward finding an answer to this question, British game studio Supermassive Games is experimenting with technology originally used to measure stress levels in children with epilepsy. Throughout the development of Until Dawn, the studio's first step into the horror genre, the game developer is using electrodermal sensors to test the effectiveness of its scares. Can you measure fear? "We can only really tell whether we're achieving what we set out to achieve when we put it in the hands of players for their first...
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Ebola scare drives sharp rise in Plague Inc. downloads

As 24-hour news channels devote their coverage to the Ebola outbreak, a game about infectious diseases has seen a dramatic spike in downloads.Downloads of Plague Inc., a free game which simulates the spread of a deadly worldwide virus, have risen 50 percent in the last two weeks, according to developer James Vaughan. Vaughan, who runs one-man studio Ndemic Creations, said that the game has spiked in the past, usually as a result of updates, but its recent climb up the mobile play charts is all down to interest in Ebola, which has so far killed an estimated 5,500 people. Plague Inc. is an intelligent strategy game that looks at how infectious diseases can spread. "This is the first time something in the real world has has an effect on the sales charts, especially since Ebola came over...
Good Game
3 Comments

These filmmakers want to put you inside a horror movie

Despite what I'm told repeatedly, heart attacks are likely not going to be caused by this latest experiment with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.But that doesn't make a foray into immersive horror film creation any less tantalizing. If backed through crowdfunding, Hell Mountain will be the world's first feature-length horror movie that can be watched from inside the film with the Oculus Rift. Viewers won't just passively sit and view the scares unfold in front of them; they'll be able to look over their shoulder as they run from nightmares, stare down at their body as the horror envelops them. The project, seeking $100,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has attracted a clutch of horror film aficionados. Hell Mountain will be produced by Warren Zide, the man behind the Final...
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This game predicted war in Syria and Ukraine

Steve Grammont, co-founder of Battlefront.com can’t actually see the future. But he and his business partner Charles Moylan have come unnervingly close not just once, but twice in the last decade. Battlefront has accurately predicted the last two major international armed conflicts — the wars in Syria and Ukraine.In 2007 Battlefront.com published Combat Mission: Shock Force, a hardcore military simulation in which a NATO force went up against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Their game had been on sale for years before Syria was swept up by a civil war, but they essentially called it well in advance. So prescient was their scenario that Foreign Policy Magazine used it to draw conclusions about the risks of sending in U.S. troops. "People ask us what's next... My answer is, 'You...
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82 Comments

What is happening with YouPorn's eSports team?

Earlier this year, pornographic website YouPorn announced plans to sponsor a professional eSports team. Now, marketing director Braden Burns tells Polygon that the video-sharing site is close to sealing the deal with a team, with plans to go public very soon. YouPorn made waves in the eSports community in July after putting out feelers to find Dota 2, League of Legends or Hearthstone eSports teams interested in sponsorship from the free, video-sharing porn site. "Do we have any competitive LoL, DOTA2, or HeartStone [sic] players following us? What do you think about YouPorn sponsoring a team?" the official YouPorn Twitter account (NSFW) tweeted. YouPorn received hundreds of submissions from the eSports community The staff of YouPorn are avid gamers, Burns tells us, "many of whom...
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300 Comments

The man who made that Hatred trailer says the game is all about honesty

Is Hatred a cynical and gratuitous work of stunningly poor taste? Or is it an honest and uncorruptible take on the shooter genre, shorn of all unnecessary flim-flammery?These were just a few of the questions raised by the release of the Polish game's trailer yesterday. The game features a protagonist who despises humanity and wants to kill as many people, indiscriminately and gleefully, as possible. It was a clear departure from other violent games in which the narrative point is something other than merely murdering people for fun. The trailer was criticized by some for its brutal portrayal of a mass-murderer delighting in the slaughter of innocents. Others saw it as an opportunity to reignite the dying embers of a debate about freedom of expression, despite the fact that no one of...
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15 Comments

Using virtual reality to desensitize troops

A group of clinicians who began treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with virtual reality are now developing a system that could better prepare combat medics for battle. Using augmented reality, the Virtual Reality Medical Institute hopes to be able to harden troop's physical and emotional response to the stress of combat. The end result would be soldiers who are better prepared to endure the combat environment, and are more effective at saving the lives of their comrades while under fire.The Virtual Reality Medical Institute began life nearly 20 years ago. Its first few experimental methodologies used VR therapy to treat patients with a fear of flying. Using VR goggles, realistic airline seats and a surround-sound speaker system, they were able to gradually expose patients...
Opinion
87 Comments

I played Far Cry 4 for five hours, and here's what I think of the game so far ...

Giant tortoises and C-4 explosives rarely make for a good mixture, but life is full of exceptions.Take Far Cry 4. When Ubisoft Montreal was looking for inspiration for its latest fantasy, it stumbled across exploding tortoises and found inspiration. Turns out, certain players of Far Cry 3, which takes place on a tropical island, were posting videos of themselves finding creative ways to murderize the game's tortoises. Strapping explosives to the creatures and watching the results holds a deep fascination to a particular manner of mind. After a few seconds you know you're in a Far Cry game "There was one guy who was just running around blowing up tortoises with C-4," recalls Far Cry 4 executive producer Dan Hay. "He was talking to them while he was blowing them up. Like 'hey turtle.'...
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