Game dev harassment remains as bad as it was a year ago

It's been a year since a new kind of threat to game development seemed to reach a fevered pitch: Fans harassing the people who make the games they so love.Last year, Polygon spoke to developers, both named and those who wished to remain anonymous, about the increasing regularity of that harassment and how, for some, it was the reason they left the game industry. The problem was so pronounced that the International Game Developers Association was weighing the possibility of creating support groups. So what difference has a year made? Not much, it seems. Developers are still harassed, the IGDA decided against support groups but are creating a special interest group to investigate mental health. It is also looking at ways to train gamers to be more polite in their interactions with...
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Video games trick you into thinking you're in control, and that's bad

I can give you control of this story by simply writing five words: A man enters a room.Instantly your mind is racing, giving substance to that room, life to that man. Perhaps it's a wood paneled room with plush velvet carpeting and a roaring fireplace, or it's bitterly cold in a castle keep, or the room is sheets of riveted steel, soulless, lost deep in space. The man is 20. No, he's 90. He's missing a leg. He's blind. He's wearing a tux. But drop into the digital skin of that man, a specific soldier in a battle standing in a forest in Call of Duty: Ghosts, and that sense of control is gone, gone despite the very real control you have over him with a gamepad. You see, video games expect a lot of you, but deliver very little actual agency in return. In fact, without you at the gamepad...

'Guardians of the Galaxy', women writers and kicking down doors

Guardians of the Galaxy has enjoyed critical success, with 92% "fresh" on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and incredible commercial success, as it's destroyed August box office records. It was also co-written by a woman: Nicole Perlman. Guardians of the Galaxy is the first Marvel Studios movie to be penned by a woman screenwriter. Perlman is only the second woman to have a major writing credit on a Marvel property's big screen adaptations (the first was Jane Goldman, on X-Men: First Class). Here's why she's getting so much attention. Perlman Perlman has always been interested in science and science fiction, and studied screenwriting at NYU. She gained serious interest when her script about the Challenger mission, written on spec, hit the prestigious Blacklist. She was invited to a sort...

Depression Quest launches in spite of high-profile suicide and online threats

Depression Quest, a game created by Zoe Quinn, was released on Steam a few days ago. It just so happened to be the same day that actor Robin Williams took his own life. The decision to release that day was difficult for Quinn. She wrote at length on her personal blog about the decision to launch the game, the decision to make it free and about how threats and harassment influenced her design.Depression Quest is a text-based role-playing game, written in a simple yet versatile software tool called Twine. It puts the player in the role of a person suffering from severe depression. Polygon's Colin Campbell has written about Depression Quest before, placing it among a new breed of empathy games, a kind of gameplay experience that goes beyond the well trod fantasy and science fiction tropes,...

Tomb Raider's Xbox exclusivity likely means more sales, higher profits

Fans of the Tomb Raider series were upset when it was announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox exclusive upon release. Why would Square Enix turn its back on PlayStation 4 customers? Why are they walking away from making the game a hit by limiting its potential audience?The outrage from fans, and the very real sadness of PS4 fans who may not play the game now, is real. Here's what's hard for gaming fans to do: We need to stop looking at these deals purely through the lens of someone who wants to play the game. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics are companies that pay its employees and stay in business by making profits on video games. They don't necessarily think about success as units sold. They have to think of it in terms of profit. This deal was not made by the...
One eSports competitor said, "We can exploit the hell out of this."

Pick 13, Exoskeletons and you: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer hands-on

After 45 minutes with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's multiplayer, I'm thinking most about rugby. Well, not quite rugby. I'm actually thinking about Uplink — one of Advanced Warfare's two new gameplay modes. In Uplink, there are two glowing spheres on the map, one red, one blue, and a satellite uplink module. The goal of Uplink is to take the uplink module to the glowing sphere assigned to your team in order to hack the enemy's satellite signal. The team with the most points at the end of the time limit wins. But let's be clear: the uplink module is a ball — it's even shaped like one. Each uplink point might as well be a net without a backboard. You can pass the module to a teammate with the left trigger, or throw it with the right trigger. Throwing the module through your uplink...
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Fixing chess: One game developer's redesign of a 1,500-year-old game

The weekend's chess matches with my father ended as they always do, but with a twist.I lost, mostly, but it wasn't to a checkmate. Instead it happened four times when he managed to get both of his warrior kings across the board's midline. That last midline crossing happened despite my defensive line of elephants, wild horse and pawns. This is Chess 2, a chess variant created by MIT grad and famed game designer David Sirlin and given computer game life by developer Zac Burns, to correct what Sirlin views as major design flaws in the original board game. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of chess variants like Chess 2 in the world. Creating new rules for one of history's oldest games is a popular exploration for the cerebral sport. Sirlin's own take on chess was inspired by...

CM Punk returns in WWE 2K15's latest historical mode

For two years running, history has served as a key pillar of the WWE video games. That focus is continuing in WWE 2K15 with a new mode, 2K Showcase, that highlights two major rivalries from the past decade or so of WWE lore: Shawn Michaels versus Triple H, and John Cena versus CM Punk.Yes, you read that correctly: CM Punk may have abruptly retired from professional wrestling earlier this year and left WWE on poor terms, but he's one of the cornerstones of 2K Showcase. Asked about Punk's presence in WWE 2K15 during a conference call with the media last week, executive producer Mark Little acted as if there were nothing notable about the situation, and didn't even mention Punk himself. Instead, Little pointed out that Shawn Michaels, who retired in 2010, is in the game. "Shawn currently...

Super Win is bringing the classical age of NES back to life

Super Win The Game from Minor Key Games' co-founder J. Kyle Pittman is a hymn to all things NES.But to call it yet another exercise in childhood nostalgia would be to sell the project short. It's not just about recreating videogaming's past, so much as understanding what made those years so special and so influential on game design today. Pittman previously created You Have to Win the Game, a side-project that celebrated the very early years of PC gaming. He and brother David make up Minor Key Games, which scored a critical hit last year with Eldritch. Super Win the Game will be available Oct. 1, on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux priced at $12.99. Anyone who played NES games will immediately feel at home with Super Win; its colors, sounds and feel. Pittman is trying to make a game...

Free mod turns Quake 2 into a VR masterpiece

The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 is both newly released and a bit rough, but some amazing experiences are already being released.One of the best and most impressive uses of virtual reality to come from the community is a mod that adds full DK2 support to one of the truly great first-person shooters: Quake 2. Getting everything set up is only moderately tricky. You need to find a copy of Quake 2, it's available on Steam, and then pick up the mod files. If you've ever installed a Quake 2 mod before, you'll find the rest of the instructions to be old hat, it's just moving files from one place to another. There's something funky in the DK2 SDK that causes judder if you don't disable Aero in Windows, so do that as well before you get started. When you launch the game with the Quake2VR...

Dwarf Fortress is changing how the MOMA preserves art

Below New York's Museum of Modern Art a colony of dwarves is waiting patiently for their next chance to see the sun.In 2012 the MOMA added a series of video games to their collection, including Myst, SimCity 2000 and the less succinctly named Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter 2: Dwarf Fortress. The collection of these and other "born digital" works created multiple philosophical and logistical problems for the museum, issues they are still grappling with today. Polygon talked with MOMA staff to find out how video games are taking their place alongside other mediums of modern art. "If somebody bombs the Dwarf Fortress team tomorrow, we would be the one sure repository of everything that has been made thus far." Deep within the bowels of New York's MOMA is a vault. Only a portion...

The Oculus Rift DK2 is a hot mess (and that's OK)

The Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 is kind of a mess. The hardware itself is a vast improvement from the original. The fit and finish is better, the screen offers a higher resolution, it uses fewer cables when connecting to your PC. The new IR webcam tracks the lights inside the headset to allow you to move your view freely as you play. You can now lean forward to take a closer look at something in your games, or even straighten up to see over obstacles. By leaning forward and looking left or right you can peek out of windows, or stick your head into a chimney to look up the flue. This greatly adds to the illusion of being inside the game, much more than the improved screen. Which, we now know, was taken off a phone. The hardware is amazing, and my evenings have been spent blissed out...

Zelda fans debate Sheik's gender, but here's Nintendo's final word

Shiek's gender identity is a surprisingly hot debate among Nintendo fans. But now the definitive word has come from the company behind Zelda. Is Sheik — the mysterious character first introduced in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time — a man or a woman? The debate has begun again after Nintendo's reveal that Sheik will be a playable character in the upcoming Hyrule Warriors. This is easy stuff, right? Sheik is Princess Zelda wearing traditionally male clothing. Zelda considers herself a woman. Sheik is a woman. Case closed. For reference, and so we get this right, the GLAAD media reference guide defines cross-dressing like so: "To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were...
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Ulysses as video game could make it more approachable, but not replace it, scholars say

An award-winning Irish filmmaker and animator just received crowd-sourced funding to kickstart his work turning James Joyce's Ulysses into a virtual reality video game.The concept is to immerse players in Joyce's stream of consciousness by dropping them into the shoes of the work's two protagonists Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Eoghan Kidney writes on funding site FundIt that his in Ulysses project will allow users to "inhabit the characters of Ulysses and experience the density of Joyce's language in a fun and accessible way." On the most basic of levels, Ulysses narrates a day in the life of Dublin through the thoughts, travels and actions of Dedalus and Bloom. But Joyce's stream-of-consciousness writing, layered with allusion, reference and parody, attracted a massive...

A 91-year-old hero of Stalingrad returns to a video game battleground

Stepan Anastovich Mikoyan was still in his teens when he climbed into a fighter plane in 1942, and prepared to participate in the nastiest battle of the 20th Century.A son of a Politburo grandee, he learned to become a skilled fighter and pilot. After the Nazis had been booted out of Stalingrad, after the war was won, he became a test pilot for a new generation of jet fighter planes. He was recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union. Now, in his nineties, he still takes an interest in all things aviation-related. His most recent project has been as adviser to 1C Game Studio, the Moscow-based creator of flight sim IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad. As a survivor of the Battle of Stalingrad, a moment of deep significance for his country, he is well known. He recently visited 1C's...

Why it costs at least $5,000 to release an indie game on Xbox One

Developer Jamie Fristrom was put in the weird position of asking Sony and his Kickstarter backers for permission to delay his upcoming game Energy Hook so he could release Sixty Second Shooter Prime on the Xbox One.Both groups of people were fine with it, and Fristrom moved ahead with the project. The game has since been released, and Fristrom has opened his books to show what it costs to create a game for the Xbox One on the smallest budget possible. This candor gives us an interesting look at operating on the Xbox One, and is even more evidence that creating and releasing games is much more expensive than you think. The real costs of porting a game "Now, I'm one of the cheapest game developers I know. I've been indie for almost nine years now and am still in the red, so I've gotten...
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