Indigenous groups seek games company to tell endangered stories

Inspired by media interest in a game about Alaska Natives, indigenous groups around the world are seeking ways to bring their own cultures to video games. E-Line Media, Upper One Games and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council are putting the finishing touches to Never Alone, a game that draws heavily on the Inupiat culture of rural Alaska. Following heavy publicity for the game, including NPR and the Los Angeles Times, other groups that represent indigenous communities are looking to tell their stories through games. Both E-Line and CITC have set up a new operation called World Games that will release games based on cultures that have hitherto struggled to find a voice. Interest has so far come from Hawaii, Azerbaijan and Siberia. "It's really resonating to the point where other...

Dwarf Fortress will crush your CPU because creating history is hard

Like much of the collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art, Dwarf Fortress is a baffling, inscrutable mess. But with proper interpretation, even the most intimidating forms can provide for moments of admiration. Polygon sat down with one of the creators of Dwarf Fortress, Tarn Adams, to talk about his work. We wanted to take just a piece of the whole — world creation — and unpack it. To make it digestible. And in the process we found a whole new respect for the game. The opening cinematic of Dwarf Fortress. I met a traveller Dwarf Fortress has been made over the last decade by Tarn and his brother Zach. Version .40 was just released a few weeks ago and the focus of the game is, as it has always been, enabling players to lead a small colony of dwarves in building a fortress. But...

The studio that made Tony Hawk's Pro Skater closed, here's its billion-dollar story

The year 1999 was crowded by a slate of big-budget, high-profile video games like Mario Party, Shenmue and Silent Hill. Nobody expected a skateboard game made by a 12-person team to be one of the biggest titles of the year. In the following nine years, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater established itself as a billion-dollar franchise. But its formula for success would bring an ironic end to its developer.Neversoft Entertainment, the Woodland Hills, Los Angeles-based studio, made Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in a year. Joel Jewett, Mick West and Chris Ward formed the studio in 1994. The team took any work it could find. "The industry felt like a bunch of frat houses trying to make video games," Jewett says. Few studios actually knew what they were doing. With the belief that they could do better than...

Endless Legend seeks the perfect imbalance to keep players exploring and exterminating

Most game designers strive for a state of perfect balance, a happy occlusion in which all parts of a game come together in a tight fit.But for Amplitude Studios, the opposite is true, at least for its turn-based strategy game Endless Legend. The Paris-based outfit wants to make sure that its game is in a constant state of imbalance, so that its players inhabit a universe that is constantly surprising. "I can guarantee you that the game will never be 100 percent balanced," said lead designer Romain de Waubert, in an interview with Polygon. "That is the nature of true asynchronous gameplay. It is always fascinating to see people playing a new way, a new strategy, to beat the game or another player." Endless Legend is a hex-based top-down 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate)...

Nostalgia is a powerful drug: How is growing beyond a back catalog

Let’s say that you’re trying to play Dungeon Keeper, a game that came out in 1997. That piece of software was designed to work with a version of Windows that is seven generations old. There’s no earthly reason it should play on a modern computer. And yet there are people out there who can make it work. Scattered across the internet, devoted fan bases secret that kind of information away. One team in Poland is constantly reaching out to these communities and soliciting their rarified knowledge, collecting and digesting their expertise so that other gamers don’t have to. All in the quest to automate the process, so that older games can be played just like new ones; with a single click. "If someone is in the community for a game that was released 15 years ago," says Magda Oracz-Chomiuk,...

What is the Dota 2 Compendium?

In early 2013, Valve announced a two pronged-attack for helping a community of gamers engage with the often mystifying world of massive online battle arena game Dota 2. Step one would be a system that lets viewers compete against each other in addition to watching professional gamers compete tournament-style. Step two would be a way of creating a sense of ownership by allowing fans to help fund Dota 2's tournament prize pool. The result is the Dota 2 International Interactive Compendium, which is now in its second year. It's a virtual book that costs $10 and allows owners to sync up with other viewers to play rounds of Dota 2, make them eligible for special virtual item drops throughout the duration of the tournament, vote on tournament player awards, make predictions of winning teams...

The Warsaw Uprising: How a forgotten chapter of WWII is inspiring Polish game devs

I have been to many war memorials around the world, but only one has ever moved me to tears.It has stood on a corner of Bonifraterska Street, next to Poland’s Supreme Court, since 1989. The imposing, 30 ft. tall black bronze sculpture takes up a city block. It is dedicated to a battle I’d never heard of before visiting Poland — the Warsaw Uprising. On August 1, 1944 the remnants of Poland’s Home Army, with the support of hundreds of thousands of the citizens of Warsaw, launched the single largest civilian insurrection of World War II. And they failed. The monument portrays a group of Poles, wielding a mix of captured Axis and scavenged Allied weapons, heroically running from the cover of a collapsed building. The armed men, women and even children in the scene are throwing themselves...
Good Game

$10 million computer game championship highlights the evolution of eSports

What started out as a computer game publicity stunt four years ago has quickly become one of the largest professional gamer competitions in the world, this year selling out tickets to a 12,000-seat arena in less then one hour and rewarding nearly $11 million in prize money.The grand finals for The International, an annual Dota 2 championship hosted by game creator Valve Corporation, kicks off this week in Seattle and is set to deliver the largest prize pool in eSports history. "For almost all of these things, like The International or a specific feature in the game, it's hard to figure out who came up with it," said Valve's Erik Johnson. "I'm sure it was in a meeting." In Dota 2, like most strategy games in the popular multiplayer online battle area genre, two teams of five...

Payday 2 lead leaves AAA to start indie studio

After almost two years with Payday developer Overkill Software, Payday 2 game director David Goldfarb has left to make his own independent studio in Stockholm, he tells Polygon. "I have decided to move on," says Goldfarb. "It's all on good terms and I think [Overkill] is well positioned to succeed. They're doing great. They'll continue to succeed as the last Steam sales indicate. Super smart people over there." The designer's career history in various AAA studios stretches back 15 years. Goldfarb first joined Overkill in 2012 after a period with EA Digital Illusions CE where he worked on Mirror's Edge and Battlefield 3 among others. After over a decade in the trenches of AAA development, he tells us he is looking for the kind of creative freedom that a studio of his own can offer. '...

How chess shows that gender segregation in eSports might encourage more female leagues

Last week, an eSports organization came under fire after introducing a male-only qualifier tournament for Blizzard's digital card game Hearthstone — a decision that, at the time, organizers maintained was based on standards of real-world sporting events which similarly segregate by sex. For many members of the eSports community, institutionalized gender discrimination is one of the primary reasons that female pro-gamers are so few and far between. But there are compelling arguments some make as to why these rules could actually help grow a much more active culture of female pro-gamers. Take for instance similarly non-physical competitions like chess. Chess historically has featured gender-segregated tournaments; This has nothing to do with differences in skill levels between the...

Madden NFL 15 wants to teach you about football to make you a better Madden player

For as much as simulation sports games strive to replicate a particular real-life sport, having expert knowledge of the sport in question doesn't necessarily translate to success in the game. And you don't have to know a ton about football to be a good Madden player.Madden NFL 15 developer EA Tiburon is hoping to change that this year. The studio is expanding the Skills Trainer mode that debuted last year in Madden NFL 25, adding new drills that are meant to teach players basic football concepts and strategy in an effort to make them better at playing Madden. And the Skills Trainer is now paired with a mode called Gauntlet that puts that training to the test, to see how long players can last through a set of increasingly difficult challenges. This initiative to educate Madden players...

The reason for Rime: a near fatal accident

The notion for Rime came to Raúl Rubio Munárriz while he was drowning. It was his own fault, really. On vacation with his girlfriend, they had dared each other to swim out into the Mediterranean, a mile and a half or so, to a buoy. He knew she was a strong swimmer but he wanted to impress her. They made it to the buoy. He was exhausted. He feigned only a little tiredness. He told his girlfriend to swim back to the beach, while he caught his breath. "The buoy was slippery and I could not hold on," he recalls. "I thought, I will try to get back to the beach slowly and calmly. That lasted for 30 seconds. I had a panic attack. I tried to swim and I remember that my body said, it is over, and I started to drown." It was in those moments that he discovered something surprising,...

How summer camps are using Minecraft to hook kids on science and engineering

This week the kids at Camp Combe YMCA will have the chance to explore the great outdoors in the beautiful wooded hills of upstate New York. Or at least they will, if they have any time left after spending a week and a half inside the world of Minecraft.Camp Combe is a facility that serves over 500 kids a day during the summer months with traditional activities such as swimming, archery, high ropes courses and nature walks. Just an hour outside New York, NY a group of third through fifth graders have begun the camp’s first ever MinecraftEdu session. "We have enormously long wait lists," says Camp Combe YMCA’s executive director Thad Gifford-Smith. "There’s probably 30 kids on the wait list per session." It’s a phenomenon that TeacherGaming, the makers of the educational version of M...

Virginia seeks to bring human faces to the narrative game

Narrative games that are heavy on plot and discovery, but light on mechanics, are bringing a new definition to the notion of video games. They tell evocative stories in atmospheric worlds. But they often lack the intimate human connection of present characters; dominant in most forms of fiction. In the best of its kind, the player moves through the story, gaining a sense of real people, often without seeing them. These games seek to tease complex emotions out of players, without asking them to break down the kinds of challenges and puzzles generally associated with games. In this sense, they sit close to story-based entertainment, like novels and movies, than twitch-based arcade games. Still, they are very much video games. Until now, they have tended to keep human characters out of...

No permission needed: behind the scenes of an all-girl game development camp

The main library at Northern Illinois University is empty. The college students have mostly gone home for the summer. Card catalogs have been powered down and thousands of books wait, collecting dust. The only movement is out the window. There in the long, flat distance you can see the endless cornfields of Dekalb, Illinois waving in the breeze.But as you clear the stacks on the third floor you can begin to hear signs of life. They get louder as you draw near. In a converted storage space, at the end of a bank of cubicles, a tiny room is exploding with voices. Inside a group of young women are learning to make their own games. Ranging in age from 10 to 15, they are here for the University’s third annual Girls Video Game Camp. And today, their last day, they have a very special guest...

Gender hypocrisy in online games

As a boy, I'd visit my grandparents' house each summer. We'd watch epic tennis games from Wimbledon. This was the 1970s, when top tennis players were big personalities.My grandparents were delighted by boisterous, emotionally hostile male players like John McEnroe, forever hooting at umpires and taunting opponents. In the women's tournament, they preferred mellower players like Chris Evert, over those who seemed more outwardly aggressive, like Martina Navratilova. My grandparents' attitude was not unusual. Very few people found anything odd in this generally accepted hypocrisy. On those rare occasions when women sports professionals actually mattered (tennis, athletics, swimming), the most popularly accepted were 'lady-like,' as my Nan would say. The world of entertainment has changed...
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