Nick Kaman, the co-founder and art director of Aggro Crab, an indie-game studio in Seattle, is twenty-six years old, with messy, brass-bleached hair, large round eyeglasses, and a small silver hoop in each earlobe; self-deprecating and sincere, with a sarcastic streak, he speaks with slacker chill. At the University of Washington, he studied human-centered design and engineering--"Pretty cringe," he said--while teaching himself how to make video games. Eventually, he started running the on-campus game-development club, which taught students how to build games along the lines of Flappy Bird using Unity, a game engine. "You can make that game in half an hour, but by doing that you've learned all these fundamentals of game-making," Kaman said. "Like, how do I do player input? How do I do jump physics? How do I spawn in pipes that move from the right to the left?"
There are worse movies than Uncharted, especially when it comes to the seemingly cursed genre of video game adaptations. But as I struggled to stay awake through the finale -- yet another weightless action sequence where our heroes quip, defy physics and never feel like they're in any genuine danger -- I couldn't help but wonder why the film was so aggressively average. The PlayStation franchise started out as a Tomb Raider clone starring a dude who wasn't Indiana Jones. But, starting with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the games tapped into the language of action movies to put you in the center of innovative set pieces. They were cinematic in ways that few titles were in the early 2010s.
While companies are not required to hold earnings calls, it's rare for a major tech or gaming company to cancel its call ahead of an acquisition when "the ink is still wet" on the deal, according to Joost van Dreunen, a lecturer on the business of games at the New York University Stern School of Business. For example, Glu Mobile held earnings calls throughout 2020, ahead of its completed acquisition by Electronic Arts last April. However, last December, Slack canceled its earnings call after announcing Salesforce would acquire it. In 2016, Yahoo skipped its earnings call ahead of being bought by Verizon, in the midst of dealing with fallout from its data breach. Activision Blizzard is currently facing multiple lawsuits from employees, California's state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, shareholders and investigations from federal regulators over how management handled allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and other corporate workplace issues.
Blizzard Entertainment boss Mike Ybarra has promised in a blog post to "rebuild your trust" in the studio, marking his first comments since Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Blizzard Activision. The developer of blockbuster titles like World of Warcraft and Overwatch has been under pressure since it was sued by the state of California, which accused it of being a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women." Ybarra promised new measures to improve the company's culture, starting with tying executive and management compensation to "our overall success in creating a safe, inclusive and creative work environment at Blizzard," he said. "A Culture leader who will help us maintain the best aspects of what we have today, and change and evolve where needed to ensure everyone brings their best self to Blizzard; a new organizational leader for Human Resources who will build trust, empower our teams, and help foster a safe, positive work environment for everyone; [and] a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leader solely focused on our progress across multiple efforts in this area." We're committed to more open dialog directly with the amazing player communities - not just from me but from all of our incredible teams.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text. Welcome back to talking tech huge news in the world of video games. And for that matter technology, Microsoft announced it plans to acquire video game publisher Activision Blizzard in an all cash deal valued at an eye-popping 68.7 billion.
Microsoft Corp. agreed to buy Activision Blizzard Inc. in a $68.7 billion deal, uniting two of the biggest forces in video games to create the world's third-biggest gaming company. In its largest purchase ever, Microsoft will pay $95 a share in cash for one of the most legendary gaming publishers, known for titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft but which is also grappling with a cultural upheaval over its treatment of women. Activision Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick will continue to serve in that role only until the deal closes, a person familiar with the deal said. It's unclear what position, if any, he would take afterward. Once the transaction is completed, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, who was promoted along with the deal to CEO of Microsoft Gaming.
Microsoft has been on a gaming acquisition tear for the last few years, hoping to give the edge to its Xbox and Game Pass platforms as Sony's PlayStation continues to dominate with exclusive titles. The company previously purchased such notable companies as ZeniMax (AKA Bethesda), Minecraft developer Mojang, Id, Obsidian, Ninja Theory, Rare, Double Fine, and 343 Industries. But the computer giant's next purchase is so big it might shake the foundations of the gaming industry: Activision Blizzard. The news comes from as an official announcement from Microsoft itself, emblazoned with its prospective acquisition's biggest game series like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Candy Crush. The acquisition is valued at $68.7 billion with Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard stock shares at $95 each. The deal is being given a full media blitz with a promotional page, press release, blog posts, open letters to employees, and even a map of the proposed management team.
Real-world tasks of interest are generally poorly defined by human-readable descriptions and have no pre-defined reward signals unless it is defined by a human designer. Conversely, data-driven algorithms are often designed to solve a specific, narrowly defined, task with performance metrics that drives the agent's learning. In this work, we present the solution that won first place and was awarded the most human-like agent in the 2021 NeurIPS Competition MineRL BASALT Challenge: Learning from Human Feedback in Minecraft, which challenged participants to use human data to solve four tasks defined only by a natural language description and no reward function. Our approach uses the available human demonstration data to train an imitation learning policy for navigation and additional human feedback to train an image classifier. These modules, together with an estimated odometry map, are then combined into a state-machine designed based on human knowledge of the tasks that breaks them down in a natural hierarchy and controls which macro behavior the learning agent should follow at any instant. We compare this hybrid intelligence approach to both end-to-end machine learning and pure engineered solutions, which are then judged by human evaluators.
Jen Oneal has stepped down from her role as co-leader of Blizzard, leaving Mike Ybarra as the head of the studio known for making Overwatch, World of Warcraft and Diablo. Oneal will temporarily transition to a new position, but will leave Activision Blizzard (fine, and King) at the end of the year. Activision Blizzard is facing a handful of lawsuits and investigations into reports of sexual harassment, gropings, and systemic gender discrimination at the studio, stemming from the leadership down. Oneal and Ybarra took over as co-leaders of Blizzard in August after president J. Allen Brack was named in the original California lawsuit, leading to his dismissal. Oneal was the first woman in a president role since Activision's founding in 1979.
Sid Meier is famous for creating the video game Civilization. He's also known for having his name on the box. Meier released Civilization thirty years ago this month, after developing it with Bruce Shelley, a veteran board-game designer. The pair were inspired by the illustrated history books you might find on a middle-school library shelf, and by titles like Seven Cities of Gold (1984), a video game of Spanish conquest created by the designer Danielle Berry. In Civilization, you start with a covered wagon on a map that is largely obscured. You learn metalwork, horse riding, feudalism, democracy, and diplomatic relations. Eventually, the rest of the world is revealed--a patchwork of nations.