Category Archives: Gaming

Pokémon GO Has Launched in Three Countries



Pokemon Go logoPokémon GO was developed by Niantic (the company behind Ingress). Both games require players to get up and walk around in order to make progress in the game. Pokémon GO was recently launched in three countries: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. If my Twitter timeline is any indication, I’d say the game is already extremely popular!

Those of you who have played any of the previous versions of Pokémon will have a pretty good idea about what to expect. Players search for Pokémon, throw Poké Balls at them, and hope to “catch ’em all”. The difference is that this newest version of the game requires players to get up, walk around, and go outside.

Sure, there could be a Pokémon hiding somewhere in your home. But eventually, you’re going to have to walk to the nearest PokéStop for more Poké Balls, or eggs, or to hatch and train your new Pokémon. It will be interesting to see if the walking that is required to play Pokémon GO results in a bunch of physically fit players.

Pokémon GO is available on both the App Store and Google Play Store in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Niantic says the game will become available in other countries around the world “in the days ahead”.

I learned that it is entirely possible to play Pokémon GO without purchasing the Pokémon GO Plus wearable device. The advantage of using the wearable device is that it enables you to capture Pokémon, and harvest items from PokéStops without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.


Blizzard Sues Company that Made Overwatch Cheat Bot



Blizzard Entertainment logoBlizzard Entertainment, creator of the popular Overwatch game, has banned players who were cheating. Recently, Blizzard sued a company that made a cheat bot called “Watchover Tyrant” for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Central District of California on July 1, 2016. The case is called Blizzard Entertainment v. Bossland GMBH. Blizzard is suing the bot maker for trafficking in circumvention devices, inducement to infringe copyright, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, intentional interference with contractual relations, and unfair competition.

Blizzard states that the Bossland Hacks “have caused, and are continuing to cause, massive and irreparable harm to Blizzard.” It also states: “The Bossland Hacks destroy the integrity of the Blizzard Games, thereby alienating and frustrating legitimate players and diverting revenue from Blizzard to Defendants.”

In the lawsuit, Blizzard Entertainment states that Bossland GmbH is a German company that has created several Buddy Bot software programs that, when installed on a user’s computer, enable that player to automate his or her play of Blizzard’s games. Blizzard included a list of all the Buddy Bots, which Blizzard game each bot is being used in, and a description of the harm this causes to not only Blizzard, but also to Blizzard’s players (who aren’t cheating).

A section of the lawsuit is about the Overwatch cheat (called Watchover Tyrant) and the unfair advantage it gives players. Blizzard notes that Bossland GmbH is making money from selling its bots to players. Blizzard states that this Overwatch cheat was released just days after the release of Overwatch, and says that Bossland GmbH is “attempting to destroy or irreparably harm that game before it even has had a chance to fully flourish.”

In other words, the lawsuit is primarily about the Watchover Tyrant cheat bot. But it is also about all the other cheat bots that connect to other Blizzard games that Bossland GmbH sells.

One of the things Blizzard is asking the court for is to require Bossland GmbH “to shut down the Bossland Hacks and any colorable copies thereof, hosted at any domain, address, location, or ISP”. Blizzard also wants the court to grant them “actual or statutory damage for copyright infringement and willful infringement.”


Twitch Introduces Cheering as a Way to Support Streamers



Twitch Cheer BadgesTwitch has introduced something new called Cheering. It is a way for people to show support for streamers and to celebrate exciting moments with the community. The system is currently in beta and can only be used with Cheer-enabled Partners. Twitch hopes to add “more cool stuff” in coming months.

Cheering functions sort of like a microtransaction. People start by clicking on the Bits icon that appears next to the emote button on channels that have Cheering enabled. Right now, you can get 100 Bits for $1.40 (and the prices go up from there). Twitch is using Amazon Payments as their payment technology, but appears to be considering adding additional local payment methods and currency support in the future.

After you have purchased some Bits, you can use them to support a Cheer-enabled Partner on Twitch. Type “cheer” into the chat, followed by a number. It will show up in the chat with a special Bits Emote icon. Those who do a lot of Cheering in a specific channel can earn a Cheer Chat Badge.

What does this mean for people who stream on Twitch? Only Cheer-enabled partners are able to make use of the Cheering system. In one of the blog posts that Twitch created to explain Cheering, it says:

Twitch provides participating partners a share of the revenue Twitch receives from Bits equal to 1 cent per Bit used to Cheer for them, subject to certain terms and conditions such as our Bits Acceptable Use Policy.

The same blog posts states that this is the first version of Cheering. Twitch expects that Bits will also be available through promotions and as rewards for activities on Twitch. They are also working to provide additional benefits to broadcasters that people Cheer for. Again, it is still in Beta, so there could be a lot of changes made before it is finalized.


Sony Ends Ustream Support on PS4



Playstation logoSony has decided to terminate support for Ustream features on the PlayStation 4 (PS4). It announced this news in a support notice, and tweeted a link to that notice.

As of August 1, 2016, users of the PS4 will no longer be able to broadcast their gameplay to Ustream. They will also no longer be able to view Ustream broadcasts from “Live from PlayStation” on the PS4 system, PlayStation App (PS App) or PlayStation Vita (PS Vita).

This isn’t entirely the end for those who enjoyed streaming their gameplay, or watching other people’s gameplay, via the PS4. Players will still be able to broadcast gameplay via YouTube, Twitch, and dailymotion, and can continue to enjoy viewing these gameplay broadcasts via “Live from PlayStation”.

Sony has not given any specific reason why they chose to terminate support for Ustream features on the PS4, PS App, and PS Vita. Engadget reported that the announcement could be Sony’s way of letting users know that the partnership between Sony and Ustream had ended.


Riot Explored Toxic In-Game Behavior and Workplace Toxicity



Riot Games LogoRiot Games is the creator of League of Legends, a game nearly 30 million players log into every day. While it is possible for any online game to attract some players who are verbally abusive to other players, League of Legends has developed a reputation for attracting quite a lot of those kinds of toxic players. Riot wondered if there was a correlation between highly toxic in-game play and workplace toxicity.

Riot’s hypothesis was that if a Rioter (a description given to people who work for Riot Games) received a lot of in-game complaints, that person would have friction with workplace teammates too. Was there a correlation between in-game toxicity and real-world behavior?

Everyone who works at Riot Games plays League of Legends. As such, Riot was able to look at the preceding 12 months of gameplay of every employee. They determined that 25% of Riot employees who had been let go in the previous year were players with unusually high in-game toxicity.

Some examples of toxic behaviors include homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of hate speech. Among the Rioters who had been let go in the past 12 months, the most common bad in-game behaviors included passive aggression (snarky comments), the use of authoritative language and sometimes misusing their authority as a Riot employee to intimidate or threaten others.

Riot identified the 30 most toxic employees and categorized them as either someone who needed a stern warning or as someone who should leave Riot. Those who received a warning were presented with their in-game chat logs in which they were exhibiting especially bad behavior. Apparently, some of those Rioters apologized and promised to change their ways.

Riot is trying to figure out how to use what they learned about the correlation between toxic in-game behavior and workplace toxicity to help them in the hiring process. Riot asks applicants for their in-game handle during the application process and can review that person’s gameplay. They are considering using an applicant tracking system that flags toxic players so that a recruiter or hiring manager can quickly see how an applicant behaves in League of Legends.

I’ve read through some of the comment sections of articles that discussed this topic. One one hand, people feel that Riot Games has the right to refuse to hire people who have been especially toxic while playing the company’s League of Legends game. It reflects on how that person would represent the company and the game itself. Others feel that looking at an applicant’s in-game chat is too intrusive.


Screams in Video Games are Killing Actor’s Voices



SAG-AFTRA logoWhen your character dies in a video game, he or she may let out a dramatic, blood-curdling, scream. You might be screaming as well, out of frustration. Chances are, you don’t spend a lot of time screaming at your video games. That’s good, because it turns out that all that screaming is causing harm to the voices of the actors who bring your character to life.

The national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), David White, sent a letter to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) on May 25, 2016. The union wants the state of California to open an investigation into the allegedly unsafe vocal recording sessions that some companies in the video game industry are requiring voice actors to do.

Voice actors who work in the video game industry are asked to work long hours. Those hours are spent recording loud and strenuous noises (including violent screaming). Some may be asked to use their voices to make noises for characters that are not human. Keep in mind that a voice actor rarely gets the line perfect on the first try. It is common for them to have to do many retakes of the same line, over and over again.

The letter from SAG-AFTRA states that the voice actor union members were not given enough time to properly warm up their voices. Some members have experienced cysts, polyps, and cord hemorrhaging as a result of their working conditions. SAG-AFTRA points out that this could result in changes in vocal quality or complete vocal cord paralysis. Obviously, that could end a voice actor’s career.

The next time your character dies, listen closely to the sound. Spare a thought for the voice actor or actress who had to stress their vocal cords by making that scream.


Blizzard and Facebook Team Up to Empower Streamers



Blizzard Entertainment logoBlizzard announced that it is working together with Facebook to give gamers new ways to connect and share their gaming experiences, and to bring more high-demand content to Facebook’s global platform.

The collaboration between the two companies will begin later this month with the integration of Facebook Login in Blizzard’s PC games. (The console games are unaffected by this collaboration). The integration of the Facebook login will enable players to sign up for and log into Blizzard’s games – including World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III, StarCraft II and Overwatch – using their Facebook accounts.

What do these two companies get from this collaboration? Blizzard gets a way to add new social functionality in their games. Facebook gets a means to highlight its platform for sharing, viewing, and discussing AAA game content.

Blizzard is in the process of incorporating Facebook’s Live API in order to create its own “Go Live” streaming functionality for its games. When that functionality is implemented, players will for the first time be able to livestream their Blizzard-gaming sessions directly through their Facebook timelines. The player’s Facebook friends will be able to subscribe and be notified when the player’s new streams are available.


Blizzard is Banning Cheaters from Overwatch



Overwatch logoBlizzard wasn’t kidding when it said it would ban players who cheat from being able to play Overwatch. The game launched on May 24, 2016. Already, there is indication that the bans have begun.

PC Gamer appears to be the first to report about the bans. They mention that one player got banned, bought the game again, and found that doing so was not a way to get around the ban. He still couldn’t play Overwatch.

To me, this is a sign that Blizzard’s ban on cheaters who play Overwatch is being done differently than how they have banned cheating players from some of their other games. It has been said (on forums I will not link to because they discuss things that are definitely against Blizzard’s terms of service) that cheaters who got banned from Diablo III were able to play the game again if they purchased a new copy.

Blizzard posted a list of 1,572 players who are in China, who have cheated, and who got banned from Overwatch as a result. (Some of the battletag names on that list are in English, and several are NSFW). So far, I haven’t seen a similar “name and shame” list of banned Overwatch players in other regions, but China is not the only region in which cheating players have been banned.

Blizzard was absolutely serious when they stated, on May 13, 2016, that they would ban players who cheat in Overwatch. Their original post warned: “If a player is found to be cheating -or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.” I’d like to see Blizzard do that same ban on the players who cheat in their other games, too.

There is at least one Overwatch player who is very happy about the bans on players who were cheating. This player is thankful that Blizzard is keeping a zero-tolerance policy on cheating in Overwatch. He also feels that the way the bans were implemented could discourage other players from cheating.


The Sims 4 Expands Gender Customization Options



Sims 4 logoThe Sims 4 has a new update that features an expanded Create A Sim with new gender customization options. For the first time ever, players can customize their Sims without the gender boundaries that were previously set in place.

It is now possible to create a Sim of any physique, walk style, and tone of voice. Over 700 pieces of content that were previously only available to male Sims, or only available to female Sims, has now been made available to all Sims – regardless of gender. This includes clothing, hair, jewelry, and more.

The announcement on the Sims 4 website says:

The Sims is made by a diverse team for a diverse audience, and it’s really important to us that players are able to be creative and express themselves through our games. We want to make sure players can create characters they can identify with or relate to through powerful tools that give them influence over a Sims gender, age, ethnicity, body type and more.

In order to make use of this new Sims 4 update, a person must have an internet connection and all of the Sims 4 game updates. If you have all of those things, then the new update is free. The update includes content from The Sims 4 base game and previously launched packs.


Xbox Will Release One Million Recycled Gamertags



Xbox logoThose of you who thought up the perfect Gamertag, and who were frustrated to learn that someone else had already claimed it, could be in luck. Xbox is about to release nearly one million Gamertags that have gone dormant.

The release of the Gamertags “back into the wild” will begin on Wednesday, May 18th at 2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT. The Gamertags will be released over a 24-hour period in order to give Xbox fans in various countries an equal chance to get one.

It is worth knowing that the recycled Gamertags aren’t going to be released to all Xbox users. Xbox says that it will release the Gamertags “to our valued Xbox Live Gold members with active subscriptions and at least 1 year of cumulative Xbox Live Gold tenure”.

The Gamertags that Xbox is about to release are from accounts abandoned from the original Xbox era. These accounts never migrated over to Xbox 360 and, as a result, have been inactive for quite some time.  Xbox won’t share the actual list of recycled Gamertags, but they have posted the categories that many of the Gamertags fall into:

* Proper Names

* Pop culture references (Entertainment, sports, gaming)

* Types of Food

* Geography and Travel

* Science and Technology

* Math and Numbers

* Animals

* Some of the greatest inventions of all time

Xbox points out that changing your Gamertag won’t impact your Gamerscore, Achievements, or your Friends list. In other words, you won’t lose anything by attempting to obtain the Gamertag that you’ve always wanted.