Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Building thousands of tiny interactions into Hidden Folks

“We were overwhelmed by this desire for everything to be interactive. It took us maybe a whole year to understand how we could shape the game in a way that that no longer was a problem.” …


Gamasutra News

Level design lessons learned building Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s Prague

Sylvain Douce has spent years working on Deus Ex games at Eidos Montreal, and at GDC today he shared some of what he’d learned as a senior level designer on last year’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. …


Gamasutra News

Blog: Building a scalable online game with Azure, part 1

In this blog series, I’m walking you through the basics of getting your gaming backend up and running in the cloud and storing your player data in a scalable cloud storage. …


Gamasutra News

Evil Geniuses CEO Peter Dager On Playing For, Building, And Managing An eSports Team

In this month’s issue of Game Informer we dove into the world of eSports, detailing how players, teams, and sponsors work with each other to make sure people who excel at games like Street Fighter, Halo, and more can make a living off their skills. Here at Gameinformer.com, we’re also taking a look at some of the periphery aspects of eSports vital to understanding the world of competitive gaming.

Peter “ppd” Dager is one eSports’ most recent success stories. What began as a few excursions in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Heroes of Newerth tournaments eventually became something more when, in 2014, he signed up with Evil Geniuses’ Dota 2 squad. While on the team he helped elevate the North American Dota scene and scored a million-dollar paycheck when he won Dota 2’s The International tournament in 2015. Since then, he’s gone from captain of his team to CEO of his company, trading competitive glory for a quieter (but busier) lifestyle.

We recently caught up with Dager and talked to him about his early career, what it takes to pick the right lineup in a game like Dota 2, and why he made the transition from player to executive.

Game Informer: When did you first start playing video games?

Peter "ppd" Dager: My big first dive into video games was Mario 64 on the N64. I took it very seriously.

What was the first video game you became really competitive in?

I’ve always been an incredibly competitive person when it comes to pretty much anything, but as it pertains to video games I would probably say Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. My buddies and I would have LAN parties and compete on [online tournament website] GameBattles until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. 

Your first big venture into eSports was in Heroes of Newerth (HoN). What drew you to that game?

I had played Dota and enjoyed it. My friend Ben pushed me into Heroes of Newerth because it was identical to Dota, except with a couple new heroes and much better graphics. It was a compelling game, just as Dota was, but was current for the time.


Ludwig "Zai" Wåhlberg

HoN was where you met [fellow EG teammate] Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg, correct? How did that happen?

Zai was just another player on another team when we met. We became friends near the end of our time in HoN, as we both had aspirations of switching over to Dota 2 sooner rather than later.

What prompted your move from HoN to Dota 2?

I was no longer the top dog in HoN and saw an opportunity to start competing in some lower-tier Dota 2 tournaments. Eventually I couldn’t split time and stopped playing HoN to go back to college while I spent my free time learning Dota 2.

Everyone recognizes you as an EG player, but do you have a major accomplishment from the early days on teams like Dignitas, Stay Free, and Super Strong Dinosaurs?

None in Dota 2 really. With Stay Free we managed to find ourselves playing against some top teams and were casted by some of the premium casters, which was cool.

How did the move to EG happen? Why was the team first branded under the S A D B O Y S moniker before being unveiled?

EG went after Arteezy and pitched the idea to him about building a team with Fear. FluffNstuff, Demon, Universe, Zai, and myself were the tryouts. I was chosen for my in-game leadership and rapport with the guys through in-house leagues. I also said I wouldn’t play on the team without Zai (not that he wasn’t strong enough to make it on the team on his own merit).

What do you think it was about that initial roster that catapulted it into a tier-one team?

The idea of playing around a polarizing player like Arteezy made a lot of sense to me. I managed to come up with some cool ideas and convince my team to believe in them, and we ended up changing the way people played Dota 2 entirely.

You’re well-known as one of the best drafters in all of Dota 2. What do think goes into creating a good draft? Why do you think you’re so good at it?

It’s all about giving your team an opportunity to win. I’ve been blessed to have such skilled teammates the last few years that if I can give us even a 40-percent chance to win a game through the draft they’ll make up the difference. I think I’m okay at drafting because I think big picture. I also care enough to work at it, and a lot of my skill comes from my desire to win. Drafting well helps you win!

Similarly, what makes for a good captain?

I think I have a good idea of how to facilitate both communication and ideas. My Dota 2 skill plus the skill of my teammates should be enough to win any game, but if you can’t organize those ideas you won’t go anywhere.

How much communication is going on during a pro match among teammates? Is it very talkative, or do you all know what you’re doing and give each other minimal instruction?

Communication is everything. Sometimes it’s talkative, other times it's not. It depends on what is going in the game.

As soon as someone wins The International, it seems like they start falling off. But EG has staved off that curse and is still one of the highest-rated teams around. What do you think causes that decline? Did you feel you had to make a conscious effort to avoid it?

When we won [The International] 5 I don’t think we ever felt like we were the best team, we just won a tournament that happened to be the big one. We play numerous double-elimination tournaments every year, and TI is just another tournament but with a much bigger prize. I think after winning what was your loftiest goal it makes losing a lot easier. We brought in Arteezy [Artour “Arteezy” Babaev left Evil Geniuses in January of 2015 then signed on with them again in August of that year. - Ed.] and still had the drive to win but losing wasn’t that big of deal, which prevented us from playing 100 percent, in my opinion.

On Page 2, we talk about the Amazon/EG split and Dager's switch to executive.


www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Building a game around a hint hotline in The Beard In The Mirror

“It’s a callback to the old 900-numbers you used to be able to call if you were stuck in a Sierra or LucasArts game.” …


Gamasutra News

How Developers Are Creatively Building Silent Interactive Stories

This article originally appeared in Game Informer issue #285.

Mindless humanoids march in single file, shoulders hunched forward and heads bowed down. A young boy sneaks into this systemic traffic of beings, mimicking the others’ movements while an overhead spotlight watches his every move. Without dialogue or text to contextualize the situation, you begin to wonder: What brought him here? Why is he being hunted? Is he running away from something, or towards it?

Playdead’s Inside tells an ambiguous story about an oppressive, Orwellian world. Speaking volumes without a single word, the narrative creates an emotional connection through its nightmarish atmosphere and leaves the rest up for interpretation. A loneliness creeps over you as you move from one rundown environment to the next; and it’s especially effective because of its perpetual silence.

Inside is far from alone in this feat. Several game developers are creatively ditching words, giving their games a more ambiguous story, or one that isn’t spoon-fed to the player. It can increase the player’s engagement as they try to piece together a story, or it can create a more atmospheric experience. Games such as Inside, Hyper Light Drifter, and Virginia are turning heads by leaving words behind altogether, and use creative approaches such as distinct character body language and minimalist stories to build sophisticated and engaging words.

A Creative Constraint

There are several reasons behind tackling a wordless game. For tight-budgeted indie developers, it can be an economical solution, as voice work can be expensive and time consuming. For the developers at Variable State, however, ditching dialogue altogether for Virginia was a pragmatic approach so that other aspects of the game could be focused on more closely. While this was most practical, it also became key to building the complex story they wished to tell.

“We knew we wanted to make a game that would in some way be about storytelling, but we embarked on some different concepts initially, things that were perhaps more simulation-based. Those were too ambitious,” says Jonathan Burroughs, co-founder of Variable State.

Variable State was founded about three years ago by Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny. Both had worked at large triple-A studios, with Burroughs previously at Electronic Arts and Rare, and Kenny had worked on the Grand Theft Auto series at Rockstar as an animator.

“With Terry’s background as an animator, we knew we wanted to have a large cast of characters, and I think we just got a little daunted by the idea of doing dialogue as well,” Burroughs says. “I think for practical reasons, we shied away from doing dialogue. Although ultimately, I think it proved to be a useful decision for creative reasons as well, and kind of fed into the ambiguity of the storytelling.”

Virginia tells the story of FBI agent Anne Tarver, and the story goes through the motions of betrayal, depression, and mystery without saying a word. Taking major influence from Twin Peaks and other David Lynch works, Virginia feeds off the idea of putting faith in the player to interpret and piece together an ambiguous narrative. Without words to affirm players’ theories, it meant they would have to search for their own answers, even if those assumptions aren’t spot on.

While a wordless narrative is far from easy to tackle, Burroughs doesn’t recall the act of writing Virginia’s story to be the most challenging. Instead, it was connecting pieces of the puzzle, such as animation, visual cues, and highlighting subtle story beats to the player, that required the most patience to get right.

“We knew the storytelling would have to be very visual,” Burroughs says. “[For example], the scenes you’d be entering – you’d often have to find the characters either just after a conversation had occurred or before one was about to begin. I think it felt far more like a useful creative limitation.”

Looking away at the wrong time, or not catching even the slightest hint of body language, can make you feel like you missed an entire cutscene in Virginia. Variable State put huge emphasis on animation, so players have to pay attention to the subtlest of details to comprehend the tale.

“I think one thing I remember [Terry] saying is he had never in his career up to that point had to animate anything as precise as someone removing and putting on a wedding ring,” Burroughs says. “There are a lot of animations like that, very subtle, particularly the facial animations, that would require quite a bit of iteration. Terry would put together a performance, and we would play it through, and it just wouldn’t read in some instances and you would have to go away and do that again. That process is very time-consuming.” 

While these challenges were difficult, adopting the wordless narrative concept was decided early in development, where the team wanted to create a story “as broad and unconstrained as possible.”


www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Blog: Building your world, your way

Here’s why and how I went about decoupling Game Makers Room Editor from the production of my game, Orb, and ended up creating my own in-game editor. …


Gamasutra News

Super Mario Maker For 3DS: Building Levels Brick By Brick

When Super Mario Maker was first teased, it
seemed like a dream come true. Players could finally make their own platforming
levels using aesthetics from four quintessential Mario games. The game wasn't
anchored to the ruleset of those original titles, allowing for creations that
bordered on bizarre or frighteningly difficult.

This smash hit is finally going portable on the
3DS. I got to play a few levels of this port, which played just as smoothly as
they did on the Wii U, even if a few features from the console version didn't
make the cut.

The big draw here is new challenge levels
Nintendo has cooked up for this port. These new courses come with medal
objectives that, if met, allow you to customize the level you just beat. This
seems like a great stepping stone for those who want to dip their toes into
making their own courses rather than jumping in with a blank slate. All the
features from the post-release Wii U patches that added checkpoints and keys
are available, so players can create complex levels easily.

There are some things that don't carry over from
the console version, particularly deliberate online sharing. Instead of relying
on the cumbersome course ID system which required you to enter a long
alphanumeric code to play specific stages, the 3DS version uses StreetPass to
allow players to share their designs locally. Sharing can also be done via
local wireless and levels shared can be edited by multiple people. So while you
can't share your levels with people across the world, friends are now be able
to play each other's courses more deliberately. Stages that were uploaded to
the Wii U version will be playable on the 3DS, though the only search function
shown so far is for recommended courses.

Some of the key features that made the Wii U
version shine are notably absent from this port. Besides the online sharing, Amiibo
support was also dropped leaving this version a little toothless by comparison.
These figures gave access to the Mystery Mushroom which would transform Mario
into other Nintendo characters. With over 88 Amiibos supported in the previous,
the lack of the extra content will be felt by anyone who used the Wii U
release.

Whether you want this game or not will come down to
its portability. This version of the game is for people who have inspiration
strike while they're on the go, whether it's traveling by plane or just being
in a different room than your TV. The engine used to create levels is the same
as the Wii U, simplistic yet allowing for nearly endless customization.
Unfortunately many of the bells and whistles from the console aren't making it
to this port, but the base game that captivated so many people is still intact.
Being able to create courses anywhere should result in some awe-inspiring level
design.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Super Mario Maker For 3DS: Building Levels Brick By Brick

When Super Mario Maker was first teased, it
seemed like a dream come true. Players could finally make their own platforming
levels using aesthetics from four quintessential Mario games. The game wasn't
anchored to the ruleset of those original titles, allowing for creations that
bordered on bizarre or frighteningly difficult.

This smash hit is finally going portable on the
3DS. I got to play a few levels of this port, which played just as smoothly as
they did on the Wii U, even if a few features from the console version didn't
make the cut.

The big draw here is new challenge levels
Nintendo has cooked up for this port. These new courses come with medal
objectives that, if met, allow you to customize the level you just beat. This
seems like a great stepping stone for those who want to dip their toes into
making their own courses rather than jumping in with a blank slate. All the
features from the post-release Wii U patches that added checkpoints and keys
are available, so players can create complex levels easily.

There are some things that don't carry over from
the console version, particularly deliberate online sharing. Instead of relying
on the cumbersome course ID system which required you to enter a long
alphanumeric code to play specific stages, the 3DS version uses StreetPass to
allow players to share their designs locally. Sharing can also be done via
local wireless and levels shared can be edited by multiple people. So while you
can't share your levels with people across the world, friends are now be able
to play each other's courses more deliberately. Stages that were uploaded to
the Wii U version will be playable on the 3DS, though the only search function
shown so far is for recommended courses.

Some of the key features that made the Wii U
version shine are notably absent from this port. Besides the online sharing, Amiibo
support was also dropped leaving this version a little toothless by comparison.
These figures gave access to the Mystery Mushroom which would transform Mario
into other Nintendo characters. With over 88 Amiibos supported in the previous,
the lack of the extra content will be felt by anyone who used the Wii U
release.

Whether you want this game or not will come down to
its portability. This version of the game is for people who have inspiration
strike while they're on the go, whether it's traveling by plane or just being
in a different room than your TV. The engine used to create levels is the same
as the Wii U, simplistic yet allowing for nearly endless customization.
Unfortunately many of the bells and whistles from the console aren't making it
to this port, but the base game that captivated so many people is still intact.
Being able to create courses anywhere should result in some awe-inspiring level
design.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Q& A: Ocelot Society on building Event[0] around an AI chatbot

“The game was supposed to be survival horror. We iterated on it, and after playtesting, it became apparent that we should just focus on our core chatbot mechanic and build everything else around that.” …


Gamasutra News