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The Sports Desk – The Madden 17 Developers Answer Your Questions

Madden 17's August 23 release is fast approaching, but we understand that you still might have some questions about this year's title. That's why we've reached out to both you, the readers, as well as the game's developers at EA Tiburon; you had questions, and now they're providing the answers. Sit back and find out everything you (all of you) wanted to know about Madden 17.

Thanks to EA Tiburon's Rex Dickson (creative director), John White (franchise lead designer), and Michael Hoag (presentation designer), for taking time out of their busy schedules and answering all your questions (BTW, ignore the doofus asking them in the video below).

Your questions covered a good range of topics, from customization to the the nitty-gritty of franchise mode. Formation substitution fans – you're going to want to watch this!

Thanks to everyone who sent in a question.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

NASCAR HEAT EVOLUTION ANNOUNCES 40-PLAYER ONLINE RACING

Online racing wasn't a strong suit of the last couple NASCAR titles developed by Eutechnyx, but new license holders Monster Games are not only promising more stability for the mode, but a full 40-car online field!

Bringing 40 real-life racers together isn't easy (the field will not be filled out with A.I racers, BTW), so NASCAR Heat Evolution scraps the old peer-to-peer system in favor of online races being hosted by a server. The game's online component also features three separate lobbies: No Rules, Normal, and Hosted. In the later the host can choose who can enter the race and boot people from the game if they like. You can also create a private race for just your friends.

The game's online races will not feature caution flags, but do include pit stops depending on the race length and equipment wear options chosen. There isn't a full race weekend with qualifying for online. Instead, track position will be determined by your previous lap times at that track, with the faster players starting up front. It sounds like it should the reverse to make things fair, but honestly that would only create one helluva pileup at the start.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

 

RELEASE LIST

F1 2016 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC) August 19

Madden NFL 17 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360) August 23

Assetto Corsa (PlayStation 4, Xbox One) August 30

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.

PES 2017 Gameplay Videos Emerge
Konami held press events in Europe recently, and the floodgates have opened on gameplay videos showing off the title. This link to Winning Eleven Blog is merely a sample of what's out there. You can also find more links via the PES Reddit.

New Rocket League Mode Delivers 11 New Power-Ups

More Reaction To The NHL 17 Beta

F1 2016 Gets 22-Player Multiplayer & New Mode

Madden 17 Ultimate Team's New Features, Including The New Chemistry Boosts, Relocation Unis, and Trade Block.

FIFA & EA Sports Partner W/ Bayern Munich & Expand Premier League Deal
Similar to the franchise's deal with Juventus, this means we'll get great head scans of some of the club's big players as well as Allianz Arena. EA Sports has also signed a three-year deal with England's Premier League for more marketing opportunities with the league's TV broadcasts and further partnership opportunities.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Announces ‘The Division’ Movie With Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal Attached

Ubisoft has announced that another one of its titles is making the leap from video games to the big screen. The Division is the publisher's latest game to make the transition, joining Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and Watch Dogs. It has some big names attached to it, too.

The Division is currently in preproduction with actors Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal, along with their respective production companies, Freckle Films and Nine Stories. There's no word on when it's coming out, so don't worry about preordering those tickets quite yet. Meanwhile, Ubisoft is unsurprisingly excited about the project: "We are excited to collaborate with Jessica and Jake, two of Hollywood’s most talented actors  and perfect creative collaborators to help bring Tom Clancy’s The Division to the big screen,” says Gerard Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures. “Attaching Jake and Jessica is part of our development philosophy of working closely with top talent from the earliest stages to collaborate on a high quality film,” adds Matt Phelps, VP at Ubisoft Motion Pictures.

The Assassin's Creed film recently completed principle photography, and it's set for a December 21 release.

 

Our Take
While the actual execution didn't do a whole lot for me, I thought The Division's narrative setup was interesting, and I'm curious to see how it works in a full-length movie. This isn't the first time the shooter has been showcased in live action, either. Who can resist a near-future apocalypse, after all?

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

‘The Odds That We’re In Base Reality Is One In Billions,’ Says Tesla Founder Elon Musk

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, was asked a question during a interview at the Code Conference that sought his opinion on whether there was a possibility life was an elaborate simulation created by a sufficiently advanced civilization. Put more simply, could life just be a video game?

Musk notes that in a short span of 40 years, our own technological advances have allowed the basic building blocks of Pong to evolve into the almost lifelike graphics within virtual reality. He predicts that due to the current rate of progress, games will likely become indistinguishable from reality. Thus, for Musk, the possibility of humankind currently residing in a base reality is one in billions. "That seems to be clearly what it suggests," Musk said. "And arguably we should hope that that's true, because otherwise if civilization stops advancing, then that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization."  

(Please visit the site to view this media)

You can watch the entirety of the interview here, where Musk also predicts colonists will reach Mars by 2025. 

We want to know what you think. Could life just be a masterfully crafted game of The Sims?

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bonus Black Ops III Zombie Map ‘The Giant’ Is Now Available For Stand-Alone Purchase

Now every Call of Duty: Black Ops III player can have the opportunity to play bonus zombie map The Giant, as it now available as a stand-alone purchase for $ 5.99.

It was previously only available as a bonus that was included with Call of Duty: Black Ops III Juggernog Edition, Hardened Edition, Digital Deluxe Editions, and part of the season pass. Now all zombie fans can pick up the story where it was left after the Black Ops II's Origins map.   

Returning to characters such as Dempsey, Nikolai, Richtofen and Takeo, The Giant is a remake of the Der Riese Zombies map from Treyarch in Call of Duty: World at War within a Nazi research facility.

The map is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PlayStation 3. More information on other last-gen platform availability is said to follow.  

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Afterwords – The Elegant Challenge Of Jonathan Blow’s The Witness

The Witness is one of the early success stories of 2016, with critical acclaim (including our review) and encouraging sales numbers. Developer Jonathan Blow and his team at Thekla began the project in 2008, but the years of waiting have paid off for players in the form of an intriguing puzzle game unlike anything else. We chatted with Blow about creating the experience, the significance of certain puzzles, and his reaction to the whole pee-bottle thing.

This article originally ran in Game Informer issue 276.

In 2014, reports indicated that The Witness was nearing the finish line. Were there any big changes that pushed the release to 2016?
Nothing really changed. “Finish line” is relative, right? I didn’t think it would be as long as it has been; I was thinking, “Oh, maybe six or eight months, we’ll have this wrapped up.” But everyone has a different interpretation. Basically, that was a time when all of the major components of the gameplay were finalized…it just maybe needed to go faster, or certain objects needed to feel better. Because it’s such a big game, this finishing took a long time. If it comes down to working on it three more months or having something be kinda crappy, I’d rather work on it three more months. There was no dramatic setback or anything.

Are the puzzles able to enforce their own rules, or did you need to manually program all possible solutions?
All other things being equal, it is best if the program knows how to judge a puzzle, because it’s less error-prone. If I have to put in the solution, then I might make a mistake, especially when there are so many possible solutions that I might not see some of them. For most of the puzzle types, the program knows how to verify that a solution is correct, so I don’t actually need to foresee all correct solutions… But then there’s stuff in the game that the computer doesn’t really know about, and those solutions are all put in by hand – like when shadows are falling on an object in a certain way. That’s just not something the computer knows how to analyze.

So, if someone thinks they have a correct answer that isn’t being recognized properly, they’re wrong?
They’re probably wrong. In fact, every single one of those that anyone has sent me is wrong.

Do any of the puzzle themes stand out as being particularly difficult to design?
The thing that was hardest to design well is the cylinder puzzles. Because, you can wrap a puzzle around a cylinder, and that’s fine; you automatically have a human factor now, since you can’t see the whole puzzle. But if it ends up being a puzzle that you could solve just as well on a flat board, then why is it on the cylinder? It’s not interesting… So, all of the cylinder puzzles are made in such a way that either the connectivity of the space matters, or the fact that your line has to go all the way around matters.

Those cylinder puzzles defy sharing solutions through screenshots. Was that a reason for them being so near the end of the game?
It was more just about building up to interesting ideas. That whole end-game shaft area is about taking the ideas from earlier in the game and putting them together in a way that involves messing around with the presentation. The medium between you and the puzzle. Though, there is one of those cylinder puzzles very early in the game, also. Even though it’s right there, we sort of build the scene so that people tend to overlook it and go right past it.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Most of the design seems deliberate and purposeful, which makes certain things (like the discarded triangle panels) conspicuous. Does every panel in the game do something?
It depends on what you mean by “do something.” The triangle panels, for example, definitely do something, because otherwise there would be no way for you learn what the more complex triangle panels mean. Do they do something in terms of opening a door somewhere? No, they don’t… They do get checked off on the lake in middle of the island, so another thing they do is make you feel good about completing the lake. Usually things have another purpose or bearing on something else.

Many players need to use pencils and paper to help work through puzzles. Was that something you were consciously trying to bring to the experience?
I wouldn’t say that I was deliberately designing for pencil and paper as an agenda, but I would say that I was definitely designing counter to the trend of the last decade or more of just making games really easy and making puzzles not be real puzzles. Triple-A companies especially do all this playtesting, and anytime someone gets stuck on something or gives negative feedback, they change that thing. The thing about hard puzzles is people are going to get stuck on those, and they’re going to say, “I didn’t like this.” It’s just being willing to say, “No, this going to be in the game.” Maybe if they’re super-hard, they’re optional. You have to be willing to have that stuff in the game.

The audio recordings that address the story directly are hidden in an optional end-game area. Why not let players uncover them during a normal playthrough?
It all came down to how big I wanted the story to be in the ultimate experience. In early concepts of the game, I thought that story was going to be a very large part. But then as development went on and I refined the game, I kept revisiting the story and being very unhappy with the way my concept of the story would play out. Eventually I decided that the story should be pretty small, in terms of how much of the experience it makes up… I also don’t like giving story as a reward for ongoing play; I felt like I wanted to make a game that had confidence, that people really wanted to play the actual game part of the game, that doesn’t need to coax people through by giving them story bits.

How did you select the videos for the Windmill theater?
It was really about knowing what kinds of ideas that I wanted in the game, and the kind of presentation. All of those videos are, in one way or another, people talking about ideas about how to see the world. They are well-thought-out viewpoints from people whose life work is that. But the other thing about them is that they’re all different viewpoints. I’m not trying to put a bunch of things together to make a unified point or convince the player that these people are saying different flavors of the same thing. They’re saying different flavors of different things, and that ties into what the game is about at some level.

Some of the puzzles are inaccessible to some players – especially those who have trouble hearing or seeing colors. Was this a consideration during development?
We were very aware of that during development. I actually spent a lot of design time trying to design puzzles that only colorblind players could solve, but I didn’t succeed at that. But the way that I designed for accessibility is to just be aware that some people aren’t going to be able to do all of the puzzles, and then make it possible to complete the game without those puzzles. There are a few specific times where that happens. One very obvious example is the sound-based puzzles; you’re just not going get one of the lasers if you can’t hear… It’s a similar thing with the color-blindness; there’s basically one laser that requires color sense. But the surprising thing is that most color-blind people don’t seem to have a problem in that area… But it is still a problem for some people, because there are different kinds of color-blindness and magnitudes. There are only a couple areas of the game that are mandatory. To get the ending, you only need seven lasers… but there is a secret area that does require every laser. You know what? If people want to get there, and they have to look stuff up on the Internet to get there, that’s fine. I’m totally cool with that.

What did you think of the response to your tweet about the pee bottle?
It was bewildering! Here I was with a prop we used in filming – it was a bottle of water with some food coloring in it – and I was about to dump it out, and I was like, “I should get a picture of this before I dump it out.” I already had done one about a week before saying, “Here’s something I made in order to help finish The Witness,” and it was glasses with tape on them and holes in the tape… So, I was like, “I know what to do with this bottle, I’ll tweet another one of those.” But I expected people to know that it was a joke, and it would be mildly funny at best. For some reason, people didn’t know if it was a joke, and a lot of people assumed it wasn’t. I saw indie developers going off about quality of life in response to that. Like, full-on 10- or 15-tweet barrages about how this isn’t a healthy way to develop games. I’ve been a human male for 40-something years now; it doesn’t take very long to get up for a second and go to the bathroom. It just doesn’t. The idea that it would be plausible that someone would feel like they didn’t have time to do that is fundamentally not credible. I don’t know. It was very strange.

You’ve said that The Witness has been successful enough to fund another project of similar depth. How long until you start thinking about what’s next?
Well, I’ve started thinking about it already. However, there’s a difference between thinking about it and designing a thing for real. In terms of actually sitting down and starting to work on the game in a real way, that probably will not happen for a couple of months. There’s a lot to do right now, and I need a little bit of a vacation.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Afterwords – The Elegant Challenge Of Jonthan Blow’s The Witness

The Witness is one of the early success stories of 2016, with critical acclaim (including our review) and encouraging sales numbers. Developer Jonathan Blow and his team at Thekla began the project in 2008, but the years of waiting have paid off for players in the form of an intriguing puzzle game unlike anything else. We chatted with Blow about creating the experience, the significance of certain puzzles, and his reaction to the whole pee-bottle thing.

This article originally ran in Game Informer issue 276.

In 2014, reports indicated that The Witness was nearing the finish line. Were there any big changes that pushed the release to 2016?
Nothing really changed. “Finish line” is relative, right? I didn’t think it would be as long as it has been; I was thinking, “Oh, maybe six or eight months, we’ll have this wrapped up.” But everyone has a different interpretation. Basically, that was a time when all of the major components of the gameplay were finalized…it just maybe needed to go faster, or certain objects needed to feel better. Because it’s such a big game, this finishing took a long time. If it comes down to working on it three more months or having something be kinda crappy, I’d rather work on it three more months. There was no dramatic setback or anything.

Are the puzzles able to enforce their own rules, or did you need to manually program all possible solutions?
All other things being equal, it is best if the program knows how to judge a puzzle, because it’s less error-prone. If I have to put in the solution, then I might make a mistake, especially when there are so many possible solutions that I might not see some of them. For most of the puzzle types, the program knows how to verify that a solution is correct, so I don’t actually need to foresee all correct solutions… But then there’s stuff in the game that the computer doesn’t really know about, and those solutions are all put in by hand – like when shadows are falling on an object in a certain way. That’s just not something the computer knows how to analyze.

So, if someone thinks they have a correct answer that isn’t being recognized properly, they’re wrong?
They’re probably wrong. In fact, every single one of those that anyone has sent me is wrong.

Do any of the puzzle themes stand out as being particularly difficult to design?
The thing that was hardest to design well is the cylinder puzzles. Because, you can wrap a puzzle around a cylinder, and that’s fine; you automatically have a human factor now, since you can’t see the whole puzzle. But if it ends up being a puzzle that you could solve just as well on a flat board, then why is it on the cylinder? It’s not interesting… So, all of the cylinder puzzles are made in such a way that either the connectivity of the space matters, or the fact that your line has to go all the way around matters.

Those cylinder puzzles defy sharing solutions through screenshots. Was that a reason for them being so near the end of the game?
It was more just about building up to interesting ideas. That whole end-game shaft area is about taking the ideas from earlier in the game and putting them together in a way that involves messing around with the presentation. The medium between you and the puzzle. Though, there is one of those cylinder puzzles very early in the game, also. Even though it’s right there, we sort of build the scene so that people tend to overlook it and go right past it.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Most of the design seems deliberate and purposeful, which makes certain things (like the discarded triangle panels) conspicuous. Does every panel in the game do something?
It depends on what you mean by “do something.” The triangle panels, for example, definitely do something, because otherwise there would be no way for you learn what the more complex triangle panels mean. Do they do something in terms of opening a door somewhere? No, they don’t… They do get checked off on the lake in middle of the island, so another thing they do is make you feel good about completing the lake. Usually things have another purpose or bearing on something else.

Many players need to use pencils and paper to help work through puzzles. Was that something you were consciously trying to bring to the experience?
I wouldn’t say that I was deliberately designing for pencil and paper as an agenda, but I would say that I was definitely designing counter to the trend of the last decade or more of just making games really easy and making puzzles not be real puzzles. Triple-A companies especially do all this playtesting, and anytime someone gets stuck on something or gives negative feedback, they change that thing. The thing about hard puzzles is people are going to get stuck on those, and they’re going to say, “I didn’t like this.” It’s just being willing to say, “No, this going to be in the game.” Maybe if they’re super-hard, they’re optional. You have to be willing to have that stuff in the game.

The audio recordings that address the story directly are hidden in an optional end-game area. Why not let players uncover them during a normal playthrough?
It all came down to how big I wanted the story to be in the ultimate experience. In early concepts of the game, I thought that story was going to be a very large part. But then as development went on and I refined the game, I kept revisiting the story and being very unhappy with the way my concept of the story would play out. Eventually I decided that the story should be pretty small, in terms of how much of the experience it makes up… I also don’t like giving story as a reward for ongoing play; I felt like I wanted to make a game that had confidence, that people really wanted to play the actual game part of the game, that doesn’t need to coax people through by giving them story bits.

How did you select the videos for the Windmill theater?
It was really about knowing what kinds of ideas that I wanted in the game, and the kind of presentation. All of those videos are, in one way or another, people talking about ideas about how to see the world. They are well-thought-out viewpoints from people whose life work is that. But the other thing about them is that they’re all different viewpoints. I’m not trying to put a bunch of things together to make a unified point or convince the player that these people are saying different flavors of the same thing. They’re saying different flavors of different things, and that ties into what the game is about at some level.

Some of the puzzles are inaccessible to some players – especially those who have trouble hearing or seeing colors. Was this a consideration during development?
We were very aware of that during development. I actually spent a lot of design time trying to design puzzles that only colorblind players could solve, but I didn’t succeed at that. But the way that I designed for accessibility is to just be aware that some people aren’t going to be able to do all of the puzzles, and then make it possible to complete the game without those puzzles. There are a few specific times where that happens. One very obvious example is the sound-based puzzles; you’re just not going get one of the lasers if you can’t hear… It’s a similar thing with the color-blindness; there’s basically one laser that requires color sense. But the surprising thing is that most color-blind people don’t seem to have a problem in that area… But it is still a problem for some people, because there are different kinds of color-blindness and magnitudes. There are only a couple areas of the game that are mandatory. To get the ending, you only need seven lasers… but there is a secret area that does require every laser. You know what? If people want to get there, and they have to look stuff up on the Internet to get there, that’s fine. I’m totally cool with that.

What did you think of the response to your tweet about the pee bottle?
It was bewildering! Here I was with a prop we used in filming – it was a bottle of water with some food coloring in it – and I was about to dump it out, and I was like, “I should get a picture of this before I dump it out.” I already had done one about a week before saying, “Here’s something I made in order to help finish The Witness,” and it was glasses with tape on them and holes in the tape… So, I was like, “I know what to do with this bottle, I’ll tweet another one of those.” But I expected people to know that it was a joke, and it would be mildly funny at best. For some reason, people didn’t know if it was a joke, and a lot of people assumed it wasn’t. I saw indie developers going off about quality of life in response to that. Like, full-on 10- or 15-tweet barrages about how this isn’t a healthy way to develop games. I’ve been a human male for 40-something years now; it doesn’t take very long to get up for a second and go to the bathroom. It just doesn’t. The idea that it would be plausible that someone would feel like they didn’t have time to do that is fundamentally not credible. I don’t know. It was very strange.

You’ve said that The Witness has been successful enough to fund another project of similar depth. How long until you start thinking about what’s next?
Well, I’ve started thinking about it already. However, there’s a difference between thinking about it and designing a thing for real. In terms of actually sitting down and starting to work on the game in a real way, that probably will not happen for a couple of months. There’s a lot to do right now, and I need a little bit of a vacation.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Using familiar objects to enhance ‘the raw accessibility’ of games

“I’m more concerned with the raw accessibility of a game. And I want to make brand new games for the widest possible audience. … What they’re familiar with is the stuff that we have culturally: soccer balls, billiards, playing cards, dice.” …


Gamasutra News

Valve’s ‘The Lab’ a charming crash course for new VR players

Gamasutra had a chance to check out Valve Software’s HTC Vive demo collection, “The Lab,” which will be a good way for new Vive owners to show off their new toys. …


Gamasutra News

Kojima and del Toro fuel creativity with ‘the same passion’

What brought Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro and Japanese video game director Hideo Kojima together, as friends and collaborators? The two spoke about it, and their creative drive, together on stage today. …


Gamasutra News

Peter Stormare Returns As ‘The Replacer’ To Promote Call Of Duty DLC

Back when Black Ops II was the latest game in the Call of Duty rotation, Activision created a character called The Replacer to promote the game. Played by Peter Stormare (Armageddon, Fargo), the character stepped in to give average joes more time for fraggin’.

With the first Call of Duty: Black Ops III map pack, Awakening, nearly upon us, Stormare has re-enlisted. A new video promoting the four maps and new zombies chapter features the actor returning to the role of The Replacer.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The humorous video also gives us a solid look at the four maps. And Stormare’s ankles. Meow.

The Awakening DLC will be out on February 2 for PlayStation 4. Xbox One and PC gamers will get in about 30 days later. The content is, as of now, not in the cards for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

For more on the Awakening DLC, check out our previous coverage. You can also read our review of Black Ops III from the fall.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed