Next week on March 26 at 9 AM PDT, Microsoft is hosting a livestream titled ID@Xbox Game Pass where it will announce several new indie titles that will then be making their way to Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription based game service. Microsoft regularly highlights the large new releases coming to the service, but the stable of smaller indie titles is constantly growing, so this gives the company a chance to put the focus on the other half of the catalog.

We already know that previously announced games, Afterparty, Void Bastards, and Supermarket Shriek will make appearances in addition to all new game announcements.

This news comes hot on the heels of Sony announcing plans to have its new State of Play stream the day before on March 25. That will seemingly focus on more wide-ranging announcements for games across the PS4 and PSVR while Microsoft’s stream will more narrowly focus on its Game Pass program. In either case, we should have plenty of game announcements to tide us over in the months leading up to E3.

Devil May Cry 5 is the return to form fans have been waiting over a decade for, and it looks to be scoring S-ranks when it comes to sales, too.

The title has shipped over two million copies across all platforms globally, Capcom announced today. A little while ago, we reported the title was the company’s second-biggest PC launch ever (behind Monster Hunter: World), so the milestone should be no surprise. Still, it’s good to know that Capcom’s attempt to revive the series has worked, which will hopefully prompt them to support the game long-term or get cracking on that sequel before long.

Of course, we already know the game will have its free Bloody Palace update next month, so there’s at least some DMC5 to look forward to in the coming weeks.

For more on Devil May Cry 6, check out our episode of New Gameplay Today, as well as the game’s absurd live-action cutscenes and taunts.

Days Gone

When Sony Computer Entertainment dropped out of this year’s E3 and revealed it would not have a press conference around the same time, we were left wondering how the console maker would make announcements. The E3 press conference has traditionally been the place where most of Sony’s big new games and technology are announced and teased. Today’s announcement gives us a hint of Sony’s plans moving forward.

On March 25, Sony will debut the first episode of State of Play, a live stream that focuses on new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR announcements. The show kicks off at 2 p.m. PST, and will feature trailers, announcements, and new gameplay footage. You can tune on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. After the episode wraps up, a VOD version will be released.

This format appears to echo Nintendo’s Direct format, but is slightly different in that it will be live rather than a carefully edited video. This approach will likely give Sony the chance to interact with its fan base as the show unfolds. No running time was revealed.

Sekiro is a difficult game, with tons of secrets and strategies. These tips can help you get the edge on an impossible boss or give you guidance on unlocking some of the game’s hidden mysteries. I warn you that reading these will rob you of much of the game’s enjoyment and discovery, so use them sparingly if at all. I DO NOT ADVISE READING THIS. I’ve picked some points that may give you stumbling blocks to address, but these are by no means comprehensive – there’s a lot to do and explore in Sekiro! I am also going to avoid anything in the end game and some other tidbits that are just too spoilery to speak about.

Chained Ogre: Fire. Kill it with fire. It’s in Hirata Estates located at a campfire to the right of the first sculptor past the gate.

The Drunk: Hirata Estates has a miniboss that can be a lot to handle, especially with his little army. Here’s what you do. Stealth in, kill some minions, reset the encounter, kill some more minions, jam your sword into the tanked fat man’s back and then trigger the NPC nearby and use him as a punching bag while you whale on his last node of life. No problem! This tactic can be applied to many minibosses.

Lady Butterfly: Use snap seeds to dispel her illusions in phase two. She’s also pretty old and frail, and highly susceptible to poison. Maybe you found something in Ashina Castle to help that end…

Folding Monkeys: This is a very weird encounter that is unlike any of the standard fights in the game. Look around the environment for things you can use to force and trap the monkeys into positions where you can actually hit them, and be sure to keep note of the tracks on the ground – your enemy may be right in front of you, even if they are not visible.

Genichiro, Ashina Castle: The first few stages of this fight are just learning the timing. Try to conserve as many gourd charges as possible for the “real” fight. You may find Ichimonji extremely valuable as you learn the safe distance between you and your opponent. In stage 3, pay attention to the lighting reversal instructions, they will save your life and tip the battle in your favor.

Corrupted Monk Ashina Depths:  This version of the monk is great practice. Also, it’s a phantom, so snap seeds will give you an enormous advantage and turn this devastating opponent into a stunned punching bag.

The Blazing Bull: This is the one fight you can play it like Bloodborne! Firecrackers. Smash! Dodge!
 

Hirata Estates Bamboo Forest:  Make sure you go down into the water here (before the burning area with the Owl) and then up through a tunnel to find a special prosthetic.

The Armored Knight: You’ll never kill this boss through traditional means as he will keep coming back – his armor is that good. Have him break the environment around you with his huge freaking sword and then execute a deathblow on an exposed edge to send him tumbling off the mountain. Got em!

Gun Fort: The best way to handle entering the gun fort is blistering speed across the bridge, dodging and running and grappling for your life all the way into the back and getting the idol there. Depending on your progress in the game, this is an incredible farming area, when you can sneak up on multiple big gunners for deathblows from that checkpoint, their backs exposed.

Giraffe Centipede, Gun Fort: deflect deflect deflect deflect deflect jump counter firecracker stab deflect deflect deflect deflect jump counter. Boom. An incredibly intimidating offensive battle reduced to a few button presses and laid low.

The Ape: This is one of my favorite boss battles in From Software history. In stage one, use firecrackers to open up a big window of opportunity, but you must remember this window happens AFTER he falls down – do not get caught by his huge body slamming into the ground. Stage two is another beast (ho ho ho!) entirely, and you will find using a certain consumable to be a huge boon. You may also want to try the spear prosthetic out during one of the animations for a surprisingly effective attack.

Fly a Kite:  In Senpou temple you may realize that you can’t keep the kite up all by yourself. Use puppeteer ninjutsu to take control of the hat assassin nearby and he’ll do it for you. Proceed up through the temple near the old woman and a large tree to find a new jump point using the kite. This leads to a special encounter and secret item you need as part of a special ending chain.

Monkey Business: Like the kite, use the puppet ninjutsu on the terrified little monkey near the great serpent in the cave accessible from the poison swamps. While the snake munches on the monkey, make your way past it to find a secret item. This also leads to the Ashina Depths, if you haven’t found the route from the old well in Ashina Reservoir.

The Mist Village: There’s a very dangerous rooster at the beginning of the zone that will knock you down into a pit with a Headless. Avoid this chicken! Make your way to the back of the zone towards where the music is coming from, and work around until you can access the building via a hole in the roof. There’s a strange looking piper creature in here that presents as a mini boss, but in reality the critter can only take a few hits. Open with a backstab deathblow and chop him up to dispel the mist and make the zone much more manageable.

Big N Burly: There are two companions you’ll need to progress several quest chains in the game. One is the big monk near the entrance to Senpou temple. Give him the flower you find later in the area to open up dialogue options. You can send him to either the merchant, which will unlock new items for sale, including prosthetic upgrade materials, or the doctor in the abandoned dungeon, which will start a new quest chain entirely. The other soldier that fits the bill is located in Ashina Reservoir above the well, so whoever you don’t send the monk to, send the soldier to.

Swimming in Style: After you kill the corrupted monk phantom in Ashina depths, you can now swim underwater! A game changer, make sure you go back to all those water areas in the game and look around for items, there are some prayer beads down in the depths! Be sure to hit the lake in the mill area of Ashina Depths to find the red carp eyes.

Esoteric Texts: These let you learn new moves and latent (passive) abilities. While most are given to you on standard progression paths, there are a few you won’t want to miss. After Gyobu, talk to the person inside the temple to the right and complete his task, it’s closeby, and he will give you a new skill tree. Senpou text can be found near the main Senpou temple (the one with the infested praying people in it, not the one near the Abandoned Dungeon exit) by going through a dark, wet cave nearby – this text includes latent skills that add item drop rate, so it’s great to get going early. After you’ve mastered any skill tree, head to the great serpent shrine behind Ashina Castle to speak to the person there, and you’ll get yet another esoteric text, one that turns your big combat arts into even bigger ones!
 

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Hardsuit Labs
Release: 2020
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Back in 2004, Troika Games released an uncut diamond with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, a moody, choice-driven role-playing game set in the White Wolf pen-and-paper universe. The game released in a state of disrepair, not unlike an energy-drained vampire desperate for blood, but dedicated fans glamoured by its atmospheric world and unique premise gave it new life, rounding out the rough edges and even restoring scrapped content. The game’s reputation continued to grow while the franchise collected dust inside a coffin, but now it’s primed to emerge from the shadows. 

With Troika long since disbanded, franchise rights owner Paradox Interactive handed the resurrection duties to Hardsuit Labs, which includes Bloodlines writer Brian Mitsoda among its ranks. This makes the studio well-suited to handle the delicate work of updating the series with new hooks while maintaining the elements that have earned the original loyal fans. 

Rather than pick up where the original game left off 15 years ago, Hardsuit instead chose to tell a new tale set in a city never really explored by the World of Darkness fiction – Seattle. With its pervasive cloud cover, unceasing rainstorms, and vibrant nightlife, it’s a perfect city for bloodsuckers to take residency. The setting may be new, but the politics among the various vampiric clans should be familiar to anyone who played the first game. 

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The story follows an innocent protagonist swept up into this supernatural subculture when a group of vampires go rogue and illicitly perform a Mass Embrace, descending on a bunch of pedestrians in Pioneer Square in the middle of the night and converting them into vampires. This action goes against the vampiric code, so the Camarilla wants to hunt down these “thinbloods” to learn what happened and put them out of their misery. As one of these targets, you must evade capture and navigate the faction wars to learn who turned you into a vampire and why. 

The world of Bloodlines 2 operates much like the original, with certain parts of the city and its outskirts operating as hubs ripe for exploration and story missions. These spaces feature plenty of vertical spaces and alleys to keep your nefarious deeds in the shadows, and even a series of underground passageways and basements that were actually the ground level of the city in the mid 19th century before the Great Seattle Fire swept through and the city planners decided to build on top of the ruins.

As a fledgling vampire, you start off with a small suit of supernatural powers. Activating your heightened senses highlights points of interest like the investigation mode in Batman, which is also helpful for identifying prey when it’s feeding time. Depending on the choices you make, you can also learn how to levitate and glide through the air, control bats, manipulate objects with your mind, or even turn into a mist cloud to move through pipes to new areas. You don’t start as a member of any particular vampire clan, but as the story plays out you can align yourself with certain factions and even learn new vampire powers from them. Make certain decisions, however, and you may alienate another clan and cut off an entire progression path. 

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Vampires are formidable predators, and this prowess is on display during first-person combat sequences. Much of the skirmishes are focused on hand-to-hand combat, with players taking advantage of their supernatural agility to dodge incoming attacks and close the gap between them and their opponent quickly. Guns are occasionally interjected into the mix, but most of the time you’re relying on your supernatural gifts to survive these scraps. During our demo, we saw the player pull off impressive feats like running up a wall to pounce on an enemy from above. 

You can always choose to cap off your fights by feasting on the weak, but you need to be careful about how much blood you drink at any given time. If you mortally wound a person during feeding you can take on other accruing effects like madness. Over time, you could eventually compromise your humanity and make your hunger more uncontrollable. Going down this beastly path will also have implications with your dialogue choices. 

After years of thinking a Bloodlines sequel was an unrequited dream, it’s nice to see the franchise get the sequel it long deserved. We hope to learn a great deal more about how Hardsuit Labs hopes to live up to its legacy in the coming months.

Today DontNod announced the schedule for the remaining episodes of Life is Strange 2. One thing that caught fans’ eye is the big gap between the fourth and final episode, which is close to fourth months. Today, I sat down with co-director Raoul Barbet and lead producer Luc Bagadhoust at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and asked them about the schedule. Both were upfront about the challenges of developing episodic games along with the benefits they’ve had from fan feedback. 

“It’s more complex to work on this game,” Barbet said. “It may look very similar with all the interaction and what you can do. We’ve [made sure] everything has more impact, we’ve changed locations between each episode, the amount of work is more important. The idea is to do this right and not rush anything.”

“It’s really long already, so the idea is to do our best to be as short as possible, but we prefer to take our time when it’s possible,” Bagadhoust adds. “If we rush, we can’t change the episode after, so the idea is really to do our best as possible.”

As for how fan feedback has influenced the upcoming episodes, Barbet spoke to a few improvements, especially the way Daniel interacts with you, giving better animation cues. Barbet also said they’re adding a lot more characters to Sean and Daniel’s Journey, but wanted to avoid any potential spoilers so didn’t go into detail. 

Announced two days ago at the keynote address, the Google Stadia streaming platform is the talk of the 2019 Game Developer’s Conference. Both optimists and pessimists have hot takes on the viability of a service that ditches the need to buy a physical piece of hardware and instead jacks gamers directly into a cloud server. To learn more about how Google plans to address potential roadblocks like latency, data cap overage rates, and building a strong first-party library of video games, we spoke with VP Phil Harrison.

Let’s talk about the name and the logo. What made you decide Stadia was the right name? And what was the meaning behind that name choice?

I think it’s a perfect name. It was the culmination of a huge amount of creative work by various teams. Naming things is unbelievably hard, because you come up with a name. Then somebody else has it. Or you come up with the name, and it means something weird and a different country. There’s a lot of impediments to landing on a great name.

But “Stadia” is the plural of stadium. The way that it resonated with me was this idea of a stadium – and you saw this in our film that we debuted yesterday – this idea of entertainment being either about sports, but it’s also a stadium as a place where you could go and see a rock band. It doesn’t have to be about seeing a football team or basketball team.

Also, you can either be on the pitch as a player or you can be in the audience as a viewer. So, this idea of watching and playing, being merged into one platform, which is the product truth of what Stadia is about. And this notion of a stadium meaning, you and I could be sat on the couch playing a game and have the greatest combative rivalry or shared exhilaration moment. For that moment in time, this couch is the best stadium in the world. I thought that was great, this idea that we could take that name and really run with it.

Then the logo, the meaning of the movement of the logo. Obviously, there’s an S in there, but then there’s this, almost graffiti mark. But then there’s also the idea of a banner. If you look at it carefully, you can see it’s like a flag being waived. So, there was a lot of double meaning in there. And I thought it came together really well.

You have an interesting background for a project like this because you worked in the platform wars, in the old console days, you’ve been on both sides of that. You were an investor and advisor to Gaikai. You understand the fierce sense of loyalty certain consumers have towards brands, and over the years as these programs have gotten more intense with PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, their friends are all on these places, their back catalogs are on these places. What do you see as the best way to chink away at that armor and get people over into something that’s new?

I think it’s very simple. We have to deliver great games, great experiences, in a great way, and completely respect that the social graphs are sticky, but we’re not asking anybody to buy any hardware. We’re not requiring people to buy any hardware. Of course, we’re asking them to [points to the Stadia controller] so, I think those allegiances that you talk of are historically around a very significant capital investment that gamers had to make.

The frequency of those capital investments is going up. They’re having to be made more often. Stadia’s core value proposition is to eliminate the box. Eliminate the barrier to entry. Allow you to get the same highest quality game experience irrespective of the kind of screen that you’re on. I hope that that was clear in our presentation, that that’s not a future promise, that’s a today.

If we can bring games that are familiar in a very good way on Stadia and bring games that are new that really deliver on the promise of, your platform is a data center, then gamers, we hope over time, will see that this is what a true new generation platform looks like.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had a major GDC announcement centered on streaming. Ten years ago, OnLive had a press conference revealing its streaming technology, and Steve Perlman talked about the chief challenge to streaming – solving the problem of the speed of light to get latency down. What do you think has changed in the years since those early attempts at streaming?

I think I was in the audience at that presentation. What has changed? First of all, this is real. Stadia would not exist if we weren’t able to stand on the shoulders of giants with what Google’s been doing for the last 20 years. Google’s fundamental investments in the fabric of the data center, the networking that connects the data centers together on our own private backbone using our own fiber optic cables. The breadth and penetration of our infrastructure to the furthest edge of the network, not just in the massive data centers that people think of when they think of a data center. The seven and a half thousand locations around the world that shorten the touch point between gamer and game.

Although the speed of light is the one thing we don’t control, we can cheat the physics of it to a certain degree by getting as close to the gamer as possible. That’s why having a studio of the pedigree of id Software on stage saying, “We were skeptical, we tried it, we developed for it, and we’re now convinced,” I think is the best message that you could hear. It doesn’t have to come from us. It comes from a very respected creator.

You touted some impressive modern benchmarks in terms of performance with 4K, HDR, 60 frames per second, but that obviously to some degree is dependent upon bandwidth and the speeds of the internet service provider that people have. If you’re going to be invested in Stadia, what baseline ISP speed should you be looking at?

We proved with Project Stream that we could get 1080p, 60 fps for around 20 Mbps. We will get 4K, 60 fps for around 30 Mbps. Obviously, if you don’t have a 4K TV, you can stream at 1080p, and you will use less bandwidth. We think that gives us access to hundreds of millions of potential audience.

What has been the technological leap that’s allowed you to do that other than the footprint of the network? Have compression techniques changed dramatically in recent years?

Very much so. It’s partly the algorithms for compression, Google has been a leading contributor and collaborator on some of the advanced open source video codex that are being propagated around the industry, and also some fundamental investments that we make at the hardware level to make it possible.

Obviously, the United States is a unique challenge because broadband providers have so much land to cover in this country as opposed to countries like the United Kingdom or Japan. There are usually dead zones where devices don’t work as well as in city centers. What do you see as solutions for people that maybe live in more rural areas where they’re not getting that larger pipeline?

The way that we think about it is, if you have a really good YouTube experience today, you will have a great Stadia experience. We acknowledge and respect that that doesn’t reach every corner of the world, but there’s a rising tide and hopefully, internet infrastructure would continue to grow out further and further into more rural areas, and then there’s some really useful enabling technologies, potentially around 5G that could even accelerate that further.

It’s unfortunate that we won’t capture everybody day one, but our commitment is to get as close to everyone as we can.

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Let’s talk about 5G, because the theoretical speeds that they tout are certainly eye-popping, but there are so many X-factors of where that speed is going to be in practice as opposed to theory. Whether it’s how many nodes there are, the quality of a person’s router, how much of the infrastructure an ISP like Verizon or somebody else has built out. How much faith do you have in that to really be a game changer?

On paper, it does look like it’s going to be a significant factor, but until we’ve had a chance to really test infrastructure that is outside of laboratory conditions, it’s impossible for me to comment.

How much are you worried about data caps and throttling? We ran into a problem when the Xbox One X launched where editors redownloading a bunch of games in 4K were suddenly getting notices from Comcast that they were already over their allotted data cap for the month. Is that something that gamers are going to have to be aware of if they sign up to a game streaming service?

I think ISPs have been really proactive and somewhat responsive as well to the reality of the market. When music went to streaming, bandwidth caps lifted. When video TV went to streaming, caps lifted, and I think we’ll continue to see that evolution. Plus, as we just talked about, with 5G potentially adding some competitive value into the marketplace, I think this will get better over time for everyone.

Are you hopeful that net neutrality gets restored? Congress is entertaining a new bill right now.

I’m not going to get drawn into that conversation.

During the presentation, we were introduced to a handful of developers working on Stadia projects, but you showed a bunch of icons of games like, “There’s an arrow to the knee. That’s clearly Skyrim. That looks like a Red Dead emblem.” Why didn’t you show more of the lineup?

Our code name for the event was PBA, which was Platform, Vision, Announce. We wanted to announce our vision for the platform. We wanted to communicate some new and in some cases quite complex features about how games and game watching are going to interrelate in the future. And we chose to amplify or illustrate those features with certain games. So, we had NBA 2K showing how you can come in from a YouTube streamer, creators subscriber list, into playing alongside them. But don’t read too much into which games we chose or which games we didn’t show. In the summer, we will be focused very much on the games. The lineup you’ll be able to play at launch, and shortly thereafter.

When you say summer, are you planning to be a participant at E3?

We’ll be back in the summer.

Every time a new platform appears, the predominant thing that seems to sway people toward it the thing you alluded to in your first statement – content. What is the edict for the first-party studio that Jade Raymond is leading? Is their job to maximize the full potential of this technology with quadruple-A experiences, or are you looking for more of a shotgun blast approach where you want a lot of new content that comes really at a faster clip more like how a Netflix pushes content?

Initially, it is to bring the best of Google to game development. So, that a game cannot tick every box, of all the features that we talked about yesterday, but thoughtfully and selectively act as a beacon and as a lighthouse for those technologies. So that a gamer can see, “Oh, that what’s meant by the data center is the platform.” And that means that game developers will be inspired by what we do. As Jade correctly shared yesterday, we in turn will share that technology back out to the game development community. Everyone then lifts faster. That’s the reason for doing it. We don’t have to cover every genre. We don’t have to be the premium or predominant supplier of games on our platform. But if we can have those amazing experiences, that really lifts everyone, the Gran Turismo of driving that is the preeminent high-quality experience that everyone goes “Okay, that’s better than I could have done elsewhere.” Those are the kind of things we want to do.

Jade obviously came on very recently. Are these early days for that studio?

She was on stage on her seventh day.

Pretty busy first week.

Yeah.

Has that division been running without an appointed leader for a while, or is this the very beginning for that group?

We’ve had producers and related talent working inside of Stadia, inside my organization, for quite a long time. We’re working initially with external developers on a commercial arrangement. And now we’re building our own studios, where we will be putting our own talent into a Google Stadia Games and Entertainment. Which is so exciting to be able to just get that off the ground now.

During one of the montages during the presentation, you showed some esports events. The biggest games on the planet right now are competitive games like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Apex Legends. Do you feel like your latency is at a place where competitive gamers are going to look at this as a viable platform to play on?

Absolutely. I think the pinnacle of esports is guys in logo t-shirts sitting in custom chairs on a stage, and I’m well aware that they often buy the kind of mouse which will give them a tiny edge and they will have an active mousepad because that gives them a tiny edge. Those are an amazing aspirational place to be. But for now, I think we have the 99.9999% of everybody else that we can focus on.

Everyone is curious about Stadia pricing. Are we going to be buying individual games? Is it going to be a subscription service? Is it going to offer both? 

I’m not going to go into the details on that today. We’ll definitely be sharing that in the summer, but we’ve spent a lot of time partnering with our publishers and developers to come up with the right model for them. And we’ve done a huge amount of research with gamers as well.

What sort of incentives are you using to lure third parties to be a part of this opening debut of Stadia?

We’ve been able to share our vision with developers for quite some time. All the folks you’d expect. Some that you wouldn’t expect have been disclosed on what we’re doing with Stadia. I’m pretty thrilled with what we’ve got coming. Tell me what you think when we share it in the summer, but I think the commitment, the lineup, and the long-term promises is phenomenal.

You’ve been a part of product launches before where it seems like there’s usually a ballpark of 30 games or so that come out in that launch window. Are you doing things differently this time?

I don’t know that there is a scorecard of you have to have this many games to launch, but it’s having the quality, the breadth, the brands and games that are maybe familiar from a previous generation now being re-imagined for a new generation. Having the right balance between those, I think, is going to be the trick.

Are you aiming to have game experiences for every demographic at launch, whether it be games targeted towards kids, game geared toward competitive markets, or single-player experiences? What kind of mix are you looking for?

Let’s talk about that in the summer. You will see that we are more focused toward the higher end, enthusiast, core gamer. We’re not going to be covering all bases day one. I think it’s fair to say our lineup is going to be focused on slightly older or more committed gamers. But it’s important that we land there well. Then we can scale from that point.

When did you start designing the Stadia controller?

That predates me. It’s been underway for at least two years. It’s entirely in-house built and designed. I think the team has done an amazing job with the ergonomics. Inside there’s some very clever technology, as I’ve talked about, that connects via Wi-Fi to the data center. But the ergonomics of it are fantastic.

Are you talking to the high-end, third-party manufacturers like Scuf, who deliver those extra features people want out of their, say, first-person shooter controllers? 

Over time, I think we will see some third-party controllers. Our platform supports HID USB controllers from day one.

Coming from a person who has like 42 different devices because I’m a technophile and knowing there are multiple devices that the controller can pair with, how does it know which screen you’re intending to play on?

It’s very clever. There’s some technology that will know which screen you want to play on. You can obviously expressly say which screen you want to play on, but there’s also some technology that just enables that to happen seamlessly. There are maybe scenarios where you might have a primary game screen that you want to use all the time, but you then want to move quickly to a laptop or to another screen elsewhere in the house. Our platform supports that.

You’re supporting all kinds of controllers, but some of the devices you support are touchscreen devices. Will there be touchscreen interface with some Stadia games?

Eventually, yes.

But the opening salvo, you’re focusing on more controller experience?

Correct.

One of the things you mentioned was being able to migrate save files from other platforms. How are you doing that? Is there a handshake that needs to happen where, say, Uplay needs to allow me to migrate my Division 2 save?

I wanted to be clear from the get-go that, what were the principles that we were going to be approaching multi-layer. As a 21st century platform, frankly as a Google platform, being open is really important to how we approach this. It wasn’t a dig at any of the incumbent first-parties but it was more a “let’s be clear about what our philosophy, which is we want to be open, we want you to bring your progress from another game state into Stadia.” Then the example you just gave, for example, your Uplay account is the point of arbitration between the other platforms is exactly how it would work in practice.

But saying you’re open to it is different from saying you’ve spoken to the Steams, Uplays, and the Xboxes of the world. Do those conversations still need to happen?

That would happen at a publisher and developer level. Now you kind of get into the politics of it, which I really don’t think we have a voice in really. It’s down to the relationships between the developers and the platforms. Clearly, that change is happening. We’re seeing some games that have already bridged successfully, other games that haven’t. It’s a trend we just wanted to be really clear about what our point of view was, then hopefully within months this all gets resolved for the benefit of the gamer.

When you’re talking about the possibilities for the developers to harness this technology and do something new and different and foreign looking, what are those opportunities you see that seem to be the most promising?

I think most platforms historically, certainly I’ve been in this position in the past, have focused on graphics as the point of difference. This platform is better because it does X more polygons or more wizzy graphics. I think with Stadia what we have focused on is what can make gameplay better? What can make gameplay different? This idea of the data center as your platform, what does that mean for bringing ML and AI into the experience using amazing Google technologies that have historically been a bit out of reach for game developers. We can bring that to play, literally to play here. We have a microphone in our controller that you can use at your choice to have a conversational understanding with an NPC in a game. That’s a fabulous promise of what that could mean for the future of games. So those are the areas that I’m really excited about.

Then at a more macro level, this idea of how games are being designed today to be both played and watched and how we can bring that together. Even sitting down with really smart and forward-thinking designers and developers, they’re already starting to think about, “okay I’ve got a game producer and I’ve got a broadcast producer” and they start to think about bringing those two skills to bear at the fundamental design of the game. I think that’s where we’re going to see some dramatic innovation.

When you launch later this year, what kind of infrastructure do you have in place? I know you mentioned parental controls are already a part of the equation. What about friends lists? What kind of solutions do you have in place for that stuff?

We’ll go into the details in the summer, but just at high level, rest assured, yes, we have what you would call a platform for gamers. That will allow you to have the social features that you would expect.

Google dominated games industry conversation this week with its reveal of Stadia, a game-streaming platform that may lay the foundation for a console-free future (although we have some concerns). Another major corporation may soon throw its hat in the ring, though – and it’s Walmart.

According to a report on USGamer, the retail giant has been chatting with game developers and publishers since earlier this year and through this week’s Game Developers Conference, and that the company is exploring its own game-streaming service.

This isn’t too shocking, though; Walmart has spent the past few years positioning itself as a true player in the e-commerce game. In 2016, the company acquired Jet.com, which at the time was one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites in the U.S. Just last year, Walmart revealed a 5-year partnership with Microsoft that grants the company access to Microsoft’s cloud-computing tools, in efforts to reduce operating costs and give its associates support tools in stores. It’s likely this partnership has little to do with whispers of Walmart’s alleged game-streaming service, but it illustrates the company’s investment into cloud solutions.

USGamer’s report mentions Walmart Labs – a segment of the company spearheading the retailer’s technology initiatives. Several reports reveal the arm is hiring aggressively, so it’s possible the company is gathering talent to build its Stadia competitor. Or maybe Walmart’s interest is just that for now – interest.

[Source: USGamer]

 

With all this talk of game streaming, its likely Walmart won’t be the only tech company looking for a stake in the budding market. The more the merrier though; streaming still has several hurdles technologists will need to overcome for platforms like Stadia to take off, so the more companies taking an interest in the tech, the better. Here’s what we thought of the Stadia announcement.

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Welcome back to The Game Informer Show! On this week’s massive episode, Suriel Vazquez and Kyle Hilliard grill Dan Tack on his review of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Then, special guest Ben Hanson joins the show to dance around talking about what makes Baba Is You so special. After that, Andrew Reiner talks about the developments happening at GDC, including Google’s game streaming service Stadia and some surprising Nindies. Then, Ben Reeves joins to talk about Kyle’s visit to the set of Detective Pikachu he took last year. Wow, this description is still going. After some great community emails, Matt Miller joins a roundtable discussion of what makes The Division 2 so special two weeks into its life, and what could still use some improvement.

You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten on SoundCloudstream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 by clicking here. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show.

Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show’s intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below…

2:08 – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
24:55 – Baba Is You
31:34 – GDC/Google Stadia
55:17 – Nindies
1:04:55 – Detective Pikachu
1:26:38 – Community Emails
2:43:32 – The Division 2

Steam has long been in need of a facelift, and Valve is gearing up to do just that in the coming months. 

When talking to developers about their wish list of changes for the crowded digital marketplace, the most resonant chorus formed around discoverability. This led to several upcoming user interface designs meant to surface and resurface games to players.

The biggest change comes via a redesigned library page featuring advanced filters, which you can see for yourself here. 

The new design surfaces games players have recently played at the top, and a second highlighted area focuses on games in your library with recent title updates. The rest of the library is displayed below with a gallery of Netflix-style box art. Players have the ability to search through their libraries now with custom filters. 

The second major change to the Steam storefront is the new Events tab, which is a one-stop shop where players can see all the games that have received recent title updates or are running special events like a double XP weekend. Think of this space like a mini-blog within the store where developers can write updates about what’s going on with their titles. Clicking into an event page gives you even more information, including a more detailed breakdown, screenshots, and even embedded streams. Developers have full control over these update posts, and users can set up notifications and even reminders for when a particular event starts. Valve has included many ways players can opt into notifications, whether it be via personal calendar apps, the Steam client, email, mobile app, or even text message.  

Look for these changes to hit open beta in the next couple of months.