Monday, September 15, 2014

News Filter: Microsoft to Mojang: "I heart you $2,500,000,000 much!"

  • Time for some blockquotes. First, Phil Spencer from Microsoft:
Today is an incredibly exciting day for our team as Mojang and the Minecraft franchise join Microsoft. Minecraft is one of the most popular video games of all time, with more than 100 million downloads, on PC alone, from players since its launch in 2009. Minecraft inspires millions to create together, connects people across the globe, and is a community that is among the most active and passionate in the world.

Our relationship with Mojang began when we initially talked to the team about bringing Minecraft to the console. Minecraft quickly became the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. That working relationship set the ground work for other opportunities. We’ve long seen the incredible potential of Minecraft.

At Microsoft, we believe in the power of content to unite people. Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC.

The Minecraft community is passionate and diverse, ranging across all ages and demographics. We respect the brand and independent spirit that has made Minecraft great, and we’ll carry on the tradition of innovation to move the franchise forward. Our investments in cloud, Xbox Live and mobile technology will enable players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect with the Minecraft community.

We’re excited to confirm that MINECON will continue next year. We’ll look to create even more ways for the vibrant community of YouTuber’s, innovators, bloggers and players to connect with each other – both in person and online. We will have much more to share in the coming months.

The Minecraft team’s unique vision, creative energy and innovative mindset make them a perfect fit alongside our other global studios. Microsoft Studios includes 343 Industries, Turn 10 Studios, and Lionhead Studios just to name a few. These industry-leading game studios within Microsoft that have had great success with beloved games and massively popular franchises like Halo, Forza, and Fable. We’re excited to welcome Mojang to the Microsoft family and we are thrilled to support the success and longevity of Minecraft for years to come.


  • Next, Notch:
I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world. Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either. It’s certainly flattering, and to gradually get thrust into some kind of public spotlight is interesting.

A relatively long time ago, I decided to step down from Minecraft development. Jens was the perfect person to take over leading it, and I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work. I wasn’t exactly sure how I fit into Mojang where people did actual work, but since people said I was important for the culture, I stayed.

I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them.

I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.

  • It has been easy to see that running a massive company was making Notch profoundly unhappy. Here's hoping over a billion dollars makes things a little easier for him.

  • I don't have much commentary to add. Minecraft is one of the foundational games (much like Doom was in the 1990's). As such, it would be a shame if Microsoft killed the golden goose. But the game is much bigger than Notch now. It's bigger than Mojang, certainly. Let's all hope for the best.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Random Shots: Gamer

  • I self-identify as a gamer and I have zero regrets doing so.

  • It's currently not in fashion to say so. What with how people have attacked Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, and Anita Sarkeesian. With how people have attacked various online services. With the protests about integrity in game journalism. With how Kotaku and Polygon are reacting to their employees usage of Patreon. So it's open season on gamers because several of them are awful, emotionally stunted monsters. Great.

  • But it seems like I can't turn around on the internet today without being told to toss aside the gamer label. Because what we call ourselves is the issue, right? Because identifying myself too closely with games is the issue, right? As if all we are is consumers, right? As if how I live my life is not up to your standards, right? Right?

  • One of the things I advocate in any online community I participate in is that we have to police our own. A community doesn't get to pretend that the bad actors don't count. We are how the world sees us. And the overall gaming community has a problem. We need to own up to the hatred that is being spread and speak out against it. Passivity makes us complicit.

  • So if I have not made this clear before, let me say it now: there is no place for hatred in gaming, or in the world in general. This is not how we should be treating people. We should be sharing our love for the medium, not excluding those we disagree with. Gaming could be so much better with more, varied people in it, not less.

  • I'm a gamer. I love games of all kinds. I may share this space with a lot of terrible people, but it has also brought me some of my closest friends. And there is room for many more.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Random Shots: The War In Ferguson, Missouri

  • Being a gamer, I cannot help but examine the situation in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, from a design perspective. What are the sides? What are the rules? What are the win conditions? On one side, you have the police, tasked with keeping the peace and protecting their power, primarily through the threat of their military arsenal. On the opposite side you have the agitators, attempting to stir up chaos through property damage and violence. And in the middle you have the protesters, the people of the town how are fed up with being terrorized, putting themselves between two terrorist groups to prove their point. But since the police and the agitators have no problem putting the protesters in the meat grinder to further their cause, their only win condition is to survive.

  • There have been several times over the course of the week that I have tried and failed to get a grip on what is happening. The police absolutely have to insure the safety of the community. And since the night time protests act have cover for black bloc agitators to assault the police, vandalize, and loot, the police do their very favorite thing: wield indiscriminate power against the citizenry. The police rule not through trust, but through intimidation, and that is what they are doing every night.

  • The agitators' end game is more nebulous. Who knows if they want an uprising or if they just want to see the world burn? So although many think they want a straight up confrontation with the police, I fear there is something more sinister. I fear that what they really want is for the police to expose the depths of their violence and start killing the protesters.

  • My wife asked me why, with all of this going on, do the protesters keep doing it? I couldn't answer her then, but I know now. As soon as the protests stop, the eyes of the world turn away. The police get to sweep this all under the carpet, no one is ever charged in the killing, and life returns to normal, as horrible as normal is to the people of Ferguson. And then Michael Brown is nothing but a footnote in a history book America would rather forget anyway.

  • This is too important to forget.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

News Filter: The Latest from Gamescom 2014

  • There has been some interesting news coming out of Cologne for 2014's Gamescom.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider becomes an Xbox exclusive - I woke up yesterday to a twitter feed full of incredulous reports that Tomb Raider had gone exclusive. Of course, the word "exclusive" has been twisted to so many dark purposes that no one understood what just how exclusive this exclusive was. Of course, it's not Phil Spencer's job to explain what other platforms the game might launch on. And Crystal Dynamics doesn't want to undercut the deal they made to launch on Xbox by confirming they would eventually launch on other platforms. Since then, the Xbox team did reveal that the exclusivity was for a fixed duration, but the internet is already on fire. About a game that won't be out for more than a year. Yay.

  • Bloodborne hands-on demo - If there is any game on the horizon that makes me glad I chose the PSR over the XB1, it is Bloodborne. There are people playing it right now and I'm not one of them. I am so jealous! Even though I can't be there, it has been exciting to read about how it differs from the Souls games.

  • The announcement of Silent Hills - Hideo Kojima. Guillermo Del Toro. Norman Reedus. A playable teaser demo under the name "P.T." to reveal the return of Silent Hill. We don't get very many surprises in the video game world. I'm so happy they pulled this off. I've never played a Silent Hill game, but I almost want to buy this to reward their audacity. Maybe I'll try that demo first and see if I survive...

  • In the middle of a pretty horrific week, it is good to have something to reminding that not everything is terrible. Did you hear anything from Gamescom that got you excited?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Played Lately: Tomb Raider (2013)

  • It has been a windy road that lead me to finally playing Tomb Raider, the modern, gritty reboot of the classic franchise. I first played the opening hours when my brother brought his Xbox 360 copy along for a visit. I liked it, right up until I screwed up several quick time events. Eventually, I put the game in my Amazon wish list because I thought it would fun to play on my new PS4. Then around my birthday, I bought a new computer and started reinstalling Steam games. As I was combing through my library, I discovered that past me had the foresight to pick up a copy during some sale. I thanked past me for looking out for me and installed the game.

  • I'm not one of those people who are sick of gritty reboots. In the hands of a deft storyteller, I like the new Lara. I like how she overcomes her challenges because she knows she is the only one who can. I like watching this woman discover that she is extraordinary. (I don't like the much too real death animations, but they don't seem to linger as much as I remember.) It hit me when we (Lara and I) reached the top of the radio tower. This woman does not believe in herself, but she's willing to do the hard work anyway. And as she goes along, she builds in confidence until she is ready to take charge of her situation. It's actually a very subtle change that happens over the course of many hours.

  • One concession to playability I made was to turn the combat difficulty down to easy. The last thing I want to do is replay multiple firefights when the exploration and story are what I'm really looking for. I cursed that there was no difficulty setting for the quick time events, but they seemed a little easier in this PC version. At least, I only died needlessly several times instead of the relentless cavalcade of horrific murders my slow fingers committed over and over again.

  • When it's at its best, Tomb Raider makes you feel like you are exploring a neatly crafted, if fairly linear, puzzle-like world. The back story establishes why the enviroment can differ so much from level to level. Unlike the Assassin's Creed games where you hold your stick in a direction and your avatar climbs, traversal feels like an active process. Various clues inform you of which actions to perform without flashing button prompts on the screen.

  • I did not one hundred percent the game, but I came away satisfied. The ending was intense, and there was no massive boss monster to overcome. Tomb Raider is likely to be one of my favorite games of the year.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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