Sony is offering a promotion to spread the word about Game of Thrones’ eighth season premiere, which airs tonight.

Because you can watch it on HBO via PlayStation Vue, Sony is giving PS4 owners some extra goodies to celebrate: house sigil and character avatars, and a dynamic theme that displays a dragon with fire and ice.

To redeem these freebies, you have to follow a few steps to unlock them. Head here to start the “quests,” and follow the instructions that guide you to videos on your PS4. Once those videos are over, you can redeem the avatars and/or theme. You do not need a subscription to PlayStation Vue or HBO to download them.

Game of Thrones’ final season will be the shortest yet with only six episodes. Tonight’s premiere airs at 9 p.m. EST. If you’d like to subscribe to PlayStation Vue, it costs $14.99/month. The $79.99/month PlayStation Vue Ultra package includes HBO and Showtime.

According to Telltale co-founder and former CEO Kevin Bruner, who left the company in 2017, working at Telltale was a “trial by fire” because of how quick production cycles were.

While Telltale’s episodic nature set it apart, especially early on, its serialized nature led to game launches in rapid succession. At Telltale, the breakneck speed of the workflow kept crunch rampant through the studio.

It was commonplace for modifications to be put into a game even just a week before it shipped, and many worked 80-hour work weeks, we were told by ex-Telltale narrative designer Emily Grace Buck. When we asked Bruner about crunch at the studio, he didn’t deny it, but instead defended it and said that to keep the studio afloat, it was necessary.

“For other studios, it happens all the time in games where, ‘Our release date is this fall’ and then the studio will announce that fall, ‘Oh you know what, the game wasn’t ready, we pushed it out until next spring.’ And that really wasn’t something that Telltale could do,” Bruner says. “We didn’t have the budgets to delay production that long; we didn’t have the cushion.”

It was “really hard to manage” crunch, Bruner says, because of how passionate employees were about building content for the games, but it was getting to the point where it was spinning out of control. To Bruner, though, he believes that the success of the studio and its employees outweighs the problematic crunch.

“I’m not saying it was easy, but the fact that so many people made really compelling, really great, highly regarded content to me makes it seem like Telltale was a nurturing place,” Bruner says.

“It was trial by fire, but there were definitely opportunities to succeed there and many, many people did,” he continues. “I take a lot of pride in that but it cuts both ways. Succeeding there was hard.”

Keep an eye out for our full interview with Bruner, which is being published later today.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu hits theaters in just under a month, and with the promotional engines revving up, it’s only natural that the film receives special merchandise through other arms of the Pokémon empire. The Pokémon Trading Card Game is perhaps the easiest way for the movie’s promotion to cross over – after all, a special edition card was handed out to theatergoers of Pokémon: The First Movie 20 years ago.

While Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is planning a similar promotion for those who see it in theaters, fans can also pick up retail products in the form of four special edition “Case File” boxes. Each one features a special card starring a main Pokémon from the film (Detective Pikachu, Charizard, Mewtwo, and Greninja), as well as multiple booster packs from both the Detective Pikachu series and other recent expansions. The cool thing about this new set of Detective Pikachu cards is that every single one is holographic, giving them an extra layer of coolness beyond the photorealistic CG representations in the film.

We were sent the four boxes currently available. You can see the Case File boxes, as well all the unique cards we pulled from the included booster packs in the gallery below. For more on Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, check out our current issue, where we talk about our visit to the set of the movie.

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Pokémon Trading Card Game: Detective Pikachu is available now. Check out our galleries from past expansions below. You can also head here for an in-depth look at the history of the Pokémon Trading Card game.

The Mandalorian, a live-action television series set in the Star Wars universe, will debut on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+, on November 12. We were given a brief tease of what to expect from the series during an hour-long panel at this year’s Star Wars Celebration.

The panel began with a trio of familiar faces taking the stage to a roaring crowd. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, the Mandalorian‘s creator, writer, and director Jon Favreau, and executive producer and director Dave Filoni came out to discuss their latest project.

“What could be more exciting than Dave Filoni directing live action?” Kennedy said. Filoni is known for his work on Star Wars animated shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels. Filoni and Favreau talked about their first time meeting each other at Skywalker Ranch. Favreau said that he was mixing Iron Man there, and Filoni was the first person to watch it. Filoni then brought in Favreau to be the first person to watch the first episode of The Clone Wars.

The Mandalorian is set after the events of Return of the Jedi at a time of uncertainty in the galaxy. Among the remnants of the Empire, a new order needs to be achieved, but not without chaos.

Favreau and Filoni said that they are looking to all corners of the Star Wars universe for Mandalorian‘s stories, including the expanded universe, the animated shows, and novels. The two then welcomed some of Mandalorian’s actors to the stage: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers entered to introduce their characters.

Pascal plays The Mandalorian, calling it “fantasy fulfillment.” He is a bounty hunter, and a mysterious lone gunfighter with questionable moral qualities.

Carano plays Kara Dune, an ex-Rebel Shock Trooper, who is a loner and is struggling to find her place in society.

Weathers plays Greef Marga (not sure of the spelling), a character who hires The Mandalorian to help transport goods. The stream then cut out as three-and-a-half minutes of behind-the-scene footage from the show played exclusively for people in the auditorium.

When the stream returned, fans were seen raising their Mandalorian helmets in delight. Favreau discussed one day of shooting where they needed a number of stormtroopers for a scene, but didn’t have enough on set to achieve the shot they wanted. Filoni ended up calling friends from the 501st Legion, a fan-run costume community, to get the armored reinforcements they needed. The fans are in The Mandalorian. How cool is that?

We then got a look at The Razorcrest, a new ship that The Mandalorian will use in the show. The crew at ILM used physical models for some of the shots, much like George Lucas did back in the day.

Favreau said he had four Mandalorian stories written before Kennedy said yes to his idea. When it was eventually green lit, other writers were brought in. Filoni wrote an episode, and George Lucas also delivered a number of ideas.

The panel sadly didn’t conclude with a trailer, something fans were waiting for. The good news, though, is that we don’t have long to wait to watch all of it on Disney+.

Santa Monica Studio is celebrating God of War’s one-year anniversary and thanking its fans by offering a free dynamic PS4 theme and avatar set, both based off the game.

The PS4 theme is available now, whereas the avatar set is coming Wednesday. You can view a preview of the theme below which shows Kratos and Atreus canoeing through the Lake of Nine.

“Like so many in our industry, at Santa Monica Studio we craft games and strive to tell powerful, emotionally connecting stories,” writes head of studio Shannon Studstill on the PlayStation Blog. “This year marks 20 years since our studio was founded. If I had to predict the next 20 years of Santa Monica Studio, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, we will continue to create games whose art reflects life, life reflects art, with stories we want to resonate for years to come.

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“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for embracing the new God of War and for helping Santa Monica Studio rise up to a new beginning as well,” Studstill continues. “From our whole team to you, that has meant everything to us. Now, we have a long journey ahead.”

Read our review of God of War by heading here.

[Source: The PlayStation Blog]

Earlier this week, we published an investigative piece that delved deep into the circumstances leading to last year’s closure of Telltale Games. One of the major voices in that story was Kevin Bruner, co-founder and former CEO of Telltale. 

In our interview, Bruner candidly spoke about his thoughts on the shut down, saying he was disappointed and appalled with how it was handled. Bruner left the company in 2017 after being pushed out by board members (he also has a lawsuit against the company for financial damages), so he was not present during the majority studio closure.

“If I were an employee there, I would feel wronged, definitely,” he says. “We’ll see what becomes of that. It’s tough now because there’s not much of a Telltale left to right the wrongs.”

On a Friday afternoon in September 2018, Telltale CEO Pete Hawley called for a company meeting that ended up laying off 90 percent of Telltale’s staff with no severance, no advance warning, and only nine more days of health insurance.

“I will say that the way the studio was shut down was horrifying to me,” Bruner says. “People just showing up on a Friday and being told to go home because the company doesn’t exist anymore is not something I would have ever endorsed, and is absolutely not something I would have done.”

Bruner laments that Telltale no longer exists, because he believes it was a unique place and opportunity for those to pursue the development of story-heavy, branching narrative games.

“I don’t understand exactly what happened in the final moments there to know why they executed the shutdown the way they did,” he says. “It kills me, though. It really kills me. Telltale was such a big part of who I am.”

We’re publishing our entire interview with Bruner later today, so stay tuned.

Following today’s reveal of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I chatted briefly with Steve Blank, Lucasfilm’s director of franchise content and strategy, and Stig Asmussen, Respawn Entertainment’s director of the project, to learn more about what players can expect. The duo didn’t want to go much into story specifics or gameplay at this point, but did share some new tidbits about the setting and the overall development process of the project.

It’s a time of desperation for the Jedi. They are either on the run or are in hiding, hoping that the Empire doesn’t find them. Walk me through Cal’s place in this universe. What concept did you land on for him as a character?
Steve Blank: Cal came organically out of a story we were crafting. What you were alluding to is the dark times, after Episode VI, when the Jedi have fallen and predominantly eliminated. We thought that was a really interesting space to start a story. What do the Jedi look like in that space? What does it mean to have lived through this purge, and how do you deal with that in this new era? Cal came out of that. We have a padawan that hasn’t been fully trained, but now sort of is living in this space. The layers of personality and specifics of story all of that came when Cameron [Monaghan] got added and found his voice. It was a process to settle on the specificity of that character.

Stig Asmussen: Even before any of that, the team was thinking more about [the game] mechanically. There was something that really drove us to have a younger character. We didn’t want it to be what you often time see in games. I’m not going to say what it is, but you know what I mean. We like the idea of him being younger because he can learn and he grow. That works well mechanically because you can build up your abilities over the course of the game. Even stripping it back from something that isn’t even Star Wars made us think what is the framework that we need for this character just for a video game.

You say he is a padawan learner cut off from his training. In the trailer we briefly meet Cere, who you say is a Jedi mentor to Cal. I assume that means she isn’t his master?
SA: Correct.

Will we learn about that as the game goes on?
SA: You’ll learn a lot of things. [laughs] What’s great about Star Wars is people want to know what the details are. They want to know more. We really want to answer questions like these, but they are spoilers.

It’s not my fault. You guys showed a story trailer.
SA: There is something interesting to that. It’s the first project I’ve been working on that every major milestone we’ve done has been a gameplay milestone. This is the first time that we did a cinematic trailer type of thing.

Funny how it works out like that, right?
SA: A lot of teams are like, “We really need to pitch what the game is like, and the tone, and setup.” It’s easier to do something like that with a movie. For Respawn, we really focus on the gameplay. Everything that we were delivering to Lucasfilm and sharing internally at Respawn and EA was all “Get your hands on the sticks and play it,” and watch how it’s evolving.

SB: It speaks to their great partnership there, and the process of developing the game. We knew Star Wars Celebration was going to be the moment in which we were going to unveil stuff, we started having those conversations of what does it look like publicly.

SA: It was the right way, considering it was Celebration. It pains me that we aren’t showing gameplay right now, but it wouldn’t be appropriate. Trust me, we have a lot of it to show – and get your hands on.

Bracca is a new planet in the Star Wars universe. Can you walk me through what we can expect from it. Are those big sarlacc pits beneath the ships? If so, that’s a dangerous place to work.
SB: It’s a planet in the mid-rim and there’s this scrapper guild here. It’s a ship-building and ship-breaking world. You see a giant machine that is cutting through a ship in the trailer. That monster that you see is eating the debris, like a giant garbage disposal.

Efficient planet.
SB: That’s why they built the shipyard there. [laughs] As you see Cal in that one scene where he’s eating in that space with the lights, there are obviously places for the people there too.

Is BD-1, the droid that is apparently Cal’s closest friend, someone we meet over the course of the game, or does Cal have it at the start?
SA: They are going to meet early on, and they are connected by more than just their friendship. They are both kind of outcasts. There are things that are relatable to the two of them.

A lot of the concept art we saw focused on Cal and BD-1 alone in the wilderness – evoking thoughts of isolation. Star Wars stories are usually about ensembles. Are you going for more of a lonesome tone?
SA: We do have more characters to reveal. The trailer showed Cere. We knew were weren’t going to be able to make a game that has huge crowds in it. I don’t want to worry about things like creating crowd tech. We decided to make a story that’s more “man versus wild.” That allowed us range to go to different places and explore different places. It’s not just Cal versus the environment, but also Cal versus the elements. To a certain extent, the Empire versus the elements as well. 

Is all of this on Bracca?
SA: It’s kind of a them that continues through the game.

The saber, you obviously won’t reveal too much about that, but when we meet Cal at the beginning of the game, is he capable of using something like that? Where was he in his training?
SB: When Order 66 hit, he was still a padawan. We’re not quite ready yet to talk about the specifics of where you’ll find him, but he is still a learner. There’s going to be growth there for him.

We got a good look at the Second Sister and the Purge Troopers. You talked about how the Purge Troopers are new to Star Wars, but they’ve been in stories before. What makes these versions new or different?
SB: We’ve teed them up, but they are based on a design by the Respawn team. They were developed in conjunction with Marvel. They needed a very specific type of trooper to accompany Inquisitors at the same time, Respawn had that need. We connected the dots on the Lucasfilm side. Respawn took the lead on development because they needed them for gameplay. That was one of the first things they delivered to us, based on Marvel’s timelines. They’ve been in a couple of Marvel issues, but you’ll see them for the first time as an enemy combatant in Jedi: Fallen Order.

What engine are you using to make this game?
SA: Unreal.

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Coming off of God of War, was there anything that you learned from that project that set the stage for a Star Wars experience?
SA: [With] God of War we had been working on sequels for so long that it kind of became a machine that we knew how to make the game, but we just kept making it bigger and bigger. I really respect how they stepped back to make the new version. It reinvented the series. I was kind of feeling that too. We have to make sure whatever game we start here at Respawn, we just worry about the basics first. That goes back to the earlier point of not worrying about trailers. We wanted to get the motion model down, and get things to the point where we can evaluate them – make a game before anything else. We got to the point in God of War, where we were making the script first, and everything was going to follow it. For Respawn, we just had a page we used to get everyone inspired and to start interjecting their own ideas. We started small and grew out from that. Lucasfilm doesn’t work that way, they figure out the story first. Over the years, we developed a good cadence and developed a respect to how we both approach [a project].

What has Cameron [Monaghan] brought to the project that you maybe didn’t expect when you were dreaming up Cal as a character?
SA: He completely understands the character, and probably understands him better than anybody. He can challenge people on the writing team because he’s living the role. He’s been on a pretty rigorous shooting schedule recently. This is when he’s living and breathing it.

SB: In any audio and visual medium, the actor who is selected as a character will always bring their own energy to what that is. Cameron just brings this energy that made Cal something real.

SA: He can read the script, and look at the scene and say “Hey, wait a minute. Cal wouldn’t do this. I think it will work better if we do it this way.” He’s more aligned with Cal than anyone.

The reigning champions of Dota 2, European team OG, today lost a best-of-three exhibition match against a team of five A.I.-controlled opponents.

The match (which starts around the 45-minute mark in this archive) was a stomp by the comps (for once!), with the set going 2-0 in the A.I.’s favor. The team is powered by tech firm OpenAI, which is researching the technology for multiple purposes, including robotics learning.

The first match was a back-and-forth for most of its duration, while the second was a blowout. The exhibition then featured a co-op match featuring two teams with a mix of human and computer players.

After the matches concluded, OpenAI announced it was taking sign-ups from anyone to face off (and play with) the OpenAI bots. You can sign up for five-on-five, co-op with friends, and solo co-op matches on OpenAI’s site.

I for one welcome our robot carries. I just hope they don’t play Mirana.

With the recent news of Capcom offering players the chance to simply unlock everything in Resident Evil 2 by paying $5 instead of playing through the game multiple times, it raises the question: How many among us have paid to unlock something we’d otherwise be able to earn ourselves?

I’ve technically done it. The Street Fighter V character passes have you pay for characters you can otherwise “earn” through fight money get from playing the game itself, and I’ve paid for those. That approach is more like a free-to-play scheme, where you grind for currency and are then tempted to skip that grind by paying real money. Resident Evil 2’s unlock DLC feels different in that you’re not skipping a currency grind, but you are paying for the option to skip playing the game multiple times (something you should do with Resident Evil 2, specifically) but it’s more or less the same thing, right?

Have you ever done it? Have you paid for that Resident Evil 2 DLC? Or paid to play as a character in League of Legends? Can you think of other games that do something like this (bonus points if they’re not free-to-play games)? Let us know in the comments.

Mario Kart 64 is still one of the Nintendo 64’s best games (if you disagree, fight me!). Its set of iconic racing tracks (some of which show up in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), catchy soundtrack, and strong sense of speed for a mid-’90s racer made it one of the console’s standout titles, and many people remember it fondly today. But if you were wondering how Nintendo gave its character models their fidelity while making sure everything else ran smoothly, you can now learn how.

Youtube channel A+Start’s latest video breaks down how it all works. Essentially, the technique has Nintendo building 3D models of the character, then “running” them through a flat model, which is what you control on the track. As you’re racing, all you see is a single, flat sprite, but those sprites are taken from a 3D model in real-time, giving the effect of your character being 3D as you play. If that’s hard to visualize, the full video explains the concept in more depth, and uses visuals, to boot!

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