Archive for the ‘SimCity’ tag
GamesBeat weekly roundup: WoW loses 1.3M subscribers, Amazon brings paid apps to China, Q1 earnings, and more
If you follow VentureBeat but don’t regularly check our GamesBeat site, here’s a list of the best video game stories we ran over the last seven days that you may have missed.
This week, Activision reveals strong first quarter earnings while Blizzard loses 1.3 million World of Warcraft subscribers, EA lays off 1,000 but expects to develop Disney’s Star Wars games, indie charity drive Hunble Bundle now accepts the virtual currency Bitcoin, and the Amazon Appstore beats Google to distributing paid apps in China.
We’ve also got a lot of previews for you, including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Deadpool, and Watch Dogs, and reviews of Star Trek and Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move.
- The DeanBeat: Why Nintendo should have bought Ouya and other might-have-beens
- Warner Bros. gets a new digital games chief
- Battlefield 3 servers under DDoS attack; DICE ‘working around the clock’
- Sony insists the PlayStation 4 won’t kill its bottom line as the PS3 did
- Death by dubstep: Saints Row IV demo reveals gameplay and weapons
- Assassin’s Creed mastermind Patrice Désilets claims Ubisoft fired him
- After 1,000 layoffs, EA could find itself short-handed for Star Wars games (analysis)
- Xseed Games unites with Marvelous U.S.A. for bigger mobile and online presence
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon director already considering the sequel
- Mobile game Airport Scanner helping TSA officers screen luggage more accurately
- BlueStacks steps into gaming with Gamepop — a Netflix for mobile games
- Beware the Angry Bulls: Zynga launches Running With Friends
- Amazon Appstore invades China, beats Google itself to paid apps
- PlayScape partners with Amazon for custom content on the Appstore
- With $3.2M in funding, Dekko unveils a clever tech to insert animations into the real world
- Sony to begin making PlayStation 3 in Brazil
- Sims creator Will Wright: Next consoles can become ‘connective tissue’ between games & entertainment
- Ouya spills its guts for repair firm iFixit
- Download version of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D requires at least a 4GB SD card
- Humble Bundle now accepts the Bitcoin digital currency
- World of Warcraft loses 1.3 million subscribers
- Diablo III patch glitch results in gold duping that breaks auction house (UPDATED)
- Dota 2 replaces World of Warcraft as Raptr’s third most-played game
- SimCity moves 1.6 million copies despite troubled launch
- Star Wars: Battlefront III footage leaks online
- Crowdfunding for Eternal Darkness successor off to sluggish start
- Cryptozoic launches Kickstarter for Hex: Shards of Fate online trading card game
- Not all game companies are hurting: Nexon posts strong Q1 results
- PlayStation a nonfactor in Sony’s first profit in 5 years
- Activision Blizzard says Call of Duty: Ghosts will be a huge launch, but stock falls on weak Warcraft numbers
- Activision blows away first quarter earnings targets, raises estimates for year
- EA misses slightly on revised earnings but hits its revenue targets
Safeguarding the future
- Activision ups marketing over fears of Battlefield 4, Disney Infinity, and Dota 2
- Sony teases something new for Gran Turismo; reveal coming May 15
- EA scores a licensing agreement to lock up FIFA brand until 2022
- EA has 11 big titles, 15 mobile games coming in the next year (but no Star Wars)
- Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs highlights the down side of smart cities (preview)
- Watch Dogs creates an open-world morality (preview)
- Katanas, daggers, and guns are no match for Deadpool’s mouth (preview)
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist’s co-op mission feels more like a solo op (Preview)
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist sneaks in new and classic Spies vs. Mercs modes (Preview)
- Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is a puzzler with delightful variety (review)
- The crew of the Enterprise finds an unremarkable shooter in Star Trek (review)
Pieces of flair
- How 3D scanning helped create the face of Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth
- Valve’s experimental psychologist discusses sweat detection and eye-tracking for games
- Return of the Tweetbook Q&A: BioShock vs. BioShock Infinite
Filed under: Games
Sims creator Will Wright: Next consoles can become ‘connective tissue’ between games & entertainment
Will Wright, the creator of blockbuster franchises from SimCity to The Sims, discussed the future of games at the GameHorizon Live event in a live webcast today. During his Q&A session, he said that the next-generation game consoles can become the “connective tissue” between games and other kinds of entertainment, such as video or music.
Wright said that he was inspired by the “Cambrian” explosion of games (as in the meteoric growth of life during that epoch in Earth’s history) that has come from indie game development on app stores for smartphones, tablets and other platforms.
Google Glass excites him because it will be “a whole new thing to explore.” He said new kinds of input — multitouch gesture, mouse, and keyboard — will run into the problem of how to get into the “psychology of the player.” Certain kinds of input will become homes for genres within gaming, but he said, “I don’t see any one-size-fits-all.”
As for virtual reality (such as the Oculus Rift headset), he said he likes it and augmented reality. But he added, “There is the issue of how long I can wear it without getting sick.”
Wright cofounded Maxis and created games like SimCity. EA acquired Maxis in 1997, and Wright went on to create titles like The Sims and Spore while at EA. He left Electronic Arts in 2009 and set up a series of startups. His latest company is Syntertainment, which focuses on creative play and the interaction between entertainment and reality.
Wright has won multiple awards and was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he became the first game designer to receive a BAFTA award. For young game designers getting started, Wright advised them to study nongaming fields so they can get more creative inspiration. He was inspired in the past by the novels of sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem.
Wright said he hopes to incorporate real world feedback from players and knowledge about their situation — such as location or tastes — in designing games.
“I’m very interested in how we build a game around a player’s life,” he said. “I want to figure out how to bring games back into everyday reality, games that intersect with players’ lives.”
Electronic Arts Sues Zynga, Says The Ville Is An “Unmistakable Copy” Of The Sims. Zynga: EA Doesn’t Understand Copyright (Updated)
Zynga has a bit of a reputation for cloning other game developers’ ideas. Now, the company is being sued by gaming giant Electronic Arts on behalf of its Maxis label for “infringing EA’s copyrights to its Facebook game, The Sims Social.”
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label, says Zynga’s The Ville “copied the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of U.S. copyright laws.” The degree to which Zynga copied The Sims, says Electronic Arts, “was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable.”
Update: Zynga’s response to this, which we just received from a company spokesperson, is that TheVille “builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.” The company’s General Counsel Reggie Davis also says that it’s “ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” We included the full response below.
In her blog post, EA’s Bradshaw notes Zynga’s history of cloning other developer’s work. While other small developers may not have the resources to stand up against the social gaming company, Electronic Arts and Maxis have the resources “to do something about it” and that the company is taking a stand “helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them.”
Zynga is obviously going through a rough time already. Earlier this week, the company was sued over allegedly misleading financial statements. Zynga Q2 earnings also fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the number of active daily users was up significantly over the last three months. The company’s shares currently trade at under $3.
When the company launched The Ville in June, virtually every reviewer noted the similarities to The Sims Social and many. The game, however, does add a few new features to the genre, including its own build-in social and other small gameplay tweaks. Electronic Arts assumes that Zynga will use these tweaks as a defense against its lawsuit. Bradshaw, however, says EA is “confident in our position, and that we will prevail.”
Update: Here is Zynga’s full response:
“We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” -Reggie Davis, General Counsel, Zynga
SimCity and The Sims creator Will Wright is not only one of the video game industry’s most successful and fascinating developers but is one of its most insightful speakers as well.
Over the years, Wright has developed a reputation for his wide-ranging presentations, which he delivers with his trademark rapid-fire clip. Among the topics covered at Wright’s GamesBeat 2012 keynote Tuesday were the evolution of writing, the tabletop wargame Panzer Blitz, the diversification of gaming, and Star Wars‘ Admiral Ackbar, all of which ties into his point that games are rapidly becoming more personal.
To illustrate his points, Wright put together a PowerPoint presentation consisting of some 120 slides, which makes for an often humorous visual aid. To give you an idea of what the press is treated to every year, we’ve posted the slides from Wright’s GamesBeat 2012 presentation, which you can see below.
Filed under: games
After more than 30 years of steady evolution, gaming has reached its own version of the Cambrian Explosion, SimCity creator and Stupid Fun Club founder Will Wright argued today during his GamesBeat 2012 keynote speech in San Francisco.
“Lately, it feels as if the industry has exploded in a million directions at once,” Wright said, “and I think that’s very healthy.”
Wright is one of the most legendary names in gaming. He’s the creator of the SimCity and The Sims franchises, two of gaming’s cornerstones.
This explosion includes mobile and social platforms, but Wright believes gaming can go still further. “[Video games] should be as personal to us as our dreams,” Wright said.
To illustrate his point, Wright went on a whirlwind tour across 30 years of technology, beginning with how the military uses wargames to map out war plans and continuing through the evolution of writing, the explosion of personal data, and the ways in which technology alters our personal perceptions.
One trend Wright highlighted was the rise of augmented reality through smartphones and other devices, which he argued is conditioning us to a new worldview that effectively blurs the real with the digital. This new perception opens us to possibilities that might have been invisible before, such as “illuminating” something like a gathering of car collectors around the corner that we otherwise would not have known about.
“Gaming technology can be a matchmaking device for the world around me versus very particular things, like what mood I’m in,” Wright said. “I think it could potentially make my life far more interesting.”
Wright also believes in the power of metrics to make experiences more personal, which he highlighted by showing how data from The Sims could be used to uncover roadblocks and other issues, with mechanics being modified to match. Going forward, this data will only get more comprehensive, he said. What Wright described as “little islands of data” are breaking down as we move into the cloud, with the result a growing “wake” of information on social networks. Already, such data influence the design of social games like Farmville, allowing developers to determine what is “sticky” with gamers and what isn’t.
Based on this, Wright believes that the one overriding trend in gaming is personalization. In essence, reality will begin to replace consoles as the platform. “We don’t have these little islands. We are building experiences that are accessible at any time. They will be more like biological experiences.”
The rapid proliferation of sensors such as those in Google Maps and increasingly granular metric analysis will enable such experiences, Wright said. Already, Wright’s Stupid Fun Club has launched a new venture with Warner Digital to explore some of these possibilities, using personal metrics to bring new experiences.
“I believe this is the direction that games are going,” Wright said with confidence. “We want games to be more relevant to the individual. We want them to be more personal to our lives.”
Photo credit: Michael O’Donnell
The battle for the crown of top social game maker is far from over. Zynga still holds a comfortable lead at 240,000,000 monthly active users, but each of their tentpole games face the threat of competitors every single day. One of those competitors is Electronic Arts, whose Sims Social game has proven to be a durable hit for the company. In the same vein, EA has recently released SimCity Social on Facebook. The game is the offspring of the famous SimCity franchise and while it may share much of the same genetic code, does it have the tools to succeed in this new social environment?
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The new city-building simulation game represents the culmination of a large team of developers at EA’s Maxis and Playfish game studios, and it’s EA’s big counterattack against Zynga’s CityVille, which has 27.6 million monthly active users and is still the No. 3 game on Facebook 21 months after its launch.
The game is an interesting experiment since EA is launching a more casual version of SimCity for Facebook at the same time it’s readying its new SimCity, a more traditional, $60 PC game, for launch in 2013. EA views the titles as targeting different audiences, where SimCity Social could target a broader audience — a new generation of urban planners — that could eventually try out the $60 game. The risk, of course, is that the social game might reduce demand for the $60 title.
“SimCity Social will entice a new generation of urban planners with its easy-to-use tools that allow anyone to expand and grow their own unique sprawling metropolises and watch as it comes to life in fun and unexpected ways,” said Jami Laes, the vice president of Global Studios for Playfish. “SimCity Social is about playing with your friends. Whether you do that with kindness by helping put out a fire or through mischievous acts like helping a criminal escape, the decisions you make with your friends will determine how the story of your cities plays out.”
Zynga and EA are in a big struggle for the emerging social games market. Zynga is No. 1 with 246 million monthly active users, according to AppData. EA has 41.2 million monthly active users, and its biggest game is The Sims Social, which has 15.3 million monthly active users. This is pretty far below its peak last year.
With SimCity Social, the player doesn’t follow a linear path. Cities evolve as a direct result of player-driven choice, allowing for more creative freedom than a game that leads you directly down a path. As mayor, the player deals with unforeseen problems like fires, crime, and pollution. The fun part of the game is making decisions to solve those issues. Players can also compete on a social level, creating friendly or competitive relationships with other cities. The Facebook game already has more than 750,000 fans.
EA plans to integrate advertiser Dunkin’ Donuts into the SimCity Social game; players can gift coffee and donut “boosts” to friends during the game.
Kickstarter’s crowdfunding has become the way to bring back all of the games that we’re nostalgic for. After Christopher Williamson saw the success that game developers have had raising funding through crowdsourced donations, he decided to raise money for his own pet project: an updated version of the classic Atari game M.U.L.E.
Over 31 days, Williamson is trying to raise $500,000 for his DreamQuest Games in Lafayette, Colo. DreamQuest is making an updated version of the game dubbed Alpha Colony: a Space Tribute to M.U.L.E. Williamson has the rights from the family of the original developer, and he plans to publish the new game on the PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad. On top of that project, the Kickstarter money will be used to do a “faithful remake of the game with M.U.L.E. Returns.
While M.U.L.E. Returns will be a remake with updated graphics, Alpha Colony will be a “modern tribute” with game play that is similar to SimCity or Civilization.
The original game was created by Ozark Softscape and published by Electronic Arts in 1983 for the Atari 400/800 game console and then later adapted for the Commodore 64, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the IBM PC Jr. It was an amazingly addictive strategy game that simulated an economic environment on the fictional planet Irata (Atari spelled backwards).
The game was built by a team of four people including Jim Rushing, Dan Bunten, Bill Bunten and Alan Watson. Unlike many games, the title has never had an official sequel, and it became a cult favorite over the years.
It has inspired a number of clone games, such as 2009′s Planet M.U.L.E., which was a free downloadable online game. Bunten (later renamed Danielle Bunten Berry, after a sex change operation) was working on an internet version of the game until her death in 1998. Will Wright dedicated his game The Sims to the memory of Bunten, and the M.U.L.E. theme song was included in Wright’s later game, Spore, as an Easter egg. In 2007, the game industry’s Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences inducted Bunten into the video game Hall of Fame.
The game was unique because it allowed multiplayer interaction through a single game console, encouraging family play. Williamson got advice for his Kickstarter project from Paul Trowe, the founder of Replay Games who recently raised more than $600,000 for a remake of the classic game Leisure Suit Larry.
The game may not seem like much today. But it had solid game play and was a pioneer in the economic simulation genre that includes SimCity. It’s about colonists who land on a planet and they have these robotic mules (multiple use labor element) that they outfit for food and energy. In the original economic simulation, you buy a plot of land. Then you get a mule and outfit it to be a miner, farmer, or some other useful function. You set it to work on your plot of land and then you reap the resources. If you have time, you can hunt an elusive wumpus. At the end of the turn, random events such as meteors disrupt your colony. Players can buy and sell resources to maximize profit on the remote colony.
The new game, Alpha Colony: Return to Irata, will update the graphics to three dimensions. You can view the map from a top-down, angled view, similar to games like SimCity. The game will be populated with many different alien species, all with different benefits. Each mule is a Swiss Army Knife, but it is also a character with emotions and a unique capability. The mule is a character that has a face that the player can feel an attachment to.
The fan base for M.U.L.E is still huge, with eight dedicated and active fan sites. Williamson played thousands of M.U.L.E. games over the years and in the past decade, he has been building his own M.U.L.E. prototypes over the last decade.
“I feel there is no one more qualified to bring this game to a modern audience,” Williamson said.
He used his 401K savings to get this far. Now he’s asking for donations. The more you donate, the more you can participate in the creation of the game. Williamson got the rights for the game from Bunten’s family in Little Rock, Ark., and he also got access to design notes that Bunten created to do an update on the game. Williamson’s daughter, Gwendolyn, is helping with the project. Five full-time employees and a bunch of interns are helping with the project.
If the team raises enough money, it plans to do a complete remake of the original M.U.L.E. Here’s a screen shot from the new game design below.
GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat’s fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry’s latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your tickets here.
Electronic Arts is finally unveiling a long-rumored Facebook game, SimCity Social. And with it begins a great experiment: Will fans who enjoy this free-to-play online game also dish out $60 when the full-fledged SimCity remake arrives for the PC in 2013?
The game is the first major Facebook title that EA has launched since it debuted The Sims Social last August. And it is EA’s big counterattack against Zynga’s CityVille, which has been the largest game on Facebook for more than a year. EA announced SimCity social at its press event at industry trade show Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif.
Lucy Bradshaw, senior vice president of EA’s Maxis label, said in an interview with GamesBeat that EA will clearly separate the two experiences between a lighter, more social Facebook experience and a deeper, full throttle simulation with the PC version. She noted that when The Sims Social came out, it actually increased interest in the overall Sims franchise across multiple platforms. The same could happen here.
“We think the core appeal of the SimCity brand will be a big draw,” Bradshaw said. “It is an interpretation of SimCity for Facebook. It is a quick and fun experience while the full SimCity on the PC will be deeper.”
Bradshaw said the game is a collaboration of EA’s Maxis studios in Redwood Shores, Calif., Emeryville, Calif., and the Playfish studio in Beijing, China. They have created a city-building simulation for the masses. Cities will come to life and “push back at the player,” said Jami Laes, vice president of global studios for Playfish, in an interview.
“Facebook gamers have been waiting a long time for the original and best city-building game to come to the platform,” said Laes. “This isn’t your typical drag and drop city-building game. Players don’t just build a city – they choose the kind of city they want and watch its soul come to life as it grows and reacts to their decisions. With SimCity Social, we’ve taken the best in social gaming design and married it with unprecedented depth to create an all-new, deeply social experience.”
Facebook has more than 900 million users, and about half of them play games. Many of those players are casual fans, and as Sean Ryan, head of game developer relations at Facebook, and Mark Pincus, chief executive of Zynga, have said in the past, they aren’t likely to pick up a game and pay $60 for it.
SimCity Social has no set linear paths. Cities evolve as a consequence of the choices that players make. The point of that is to allow for more creative freedom, Laes said. As the mayor, the player has to deal with issues like crime, fires, and pollution, and he will also make decisions that will help the city take its unique shape.
“We want you to find surprises on every street corner,” Laes said. “We want it to have a wow factor.
The developers have tried to give the game great graphics for a Facebook title. Its look and feel resemble the original SimCity from 1989, says Bradshaw; although, the visuals more so evoke SimCity 3000. At any given time, from the highest view, you might be able to see 150 buildings at once. When you zoom in, you might see 10 to 30 buildings. Social interactions go beyond just visiting your friends’ cities. You can do mean things to your friends or be nice. You can cooperate with them or compete. The new SimCity will be able to add different kinds of events that affect the city over time.
EA has had a large team working on the game for a while. It’s not clear how it will do against the entrenched CityVille, which has 34.7 million monthly active users and is the No. 2 game on Facebook, behind Zynga Poker.
“For EA, there is a huge advantage in brands that have appeal in multiple audiences,” Bradshaw said. “What we can do is broaden our reach by doing different experiences. We apply our brands to Playfish, bringing our history and reinterpreting the games for the new markets. EA is thinking broadly about our strategy and being in every segment where the growth is. And we bring our triple-A quality.”
Filed under: games
In a conference call with analysts, Moore said that EA will release the game this quarter, but he declined to name it. Rumors have persistently circulated that EA is working on a Facebook version of SimCity. That title could stir excitement for SimCity (pictured right), which is coming out on the PC later this year as a full-fledged disk-based game.
EA’s last big social title, The Sims Social, soared to tens of millions of users on Facebook last year and temporarily took the No. 2 rank on the social network, second only to Zynga’s CityVille.
The social title is part of EA’s push into digital gaming, which accounted for $1.2 billion of EA’s $4.1 billion in revenues during the past year.
Social is not yet a huge contributor to EA’s bottom line, but it is strategically important because of EA’s competition with Zynga. In terms of contributing to net income, EA chief executive John Riccitiello said on the call that “social is moving to a good place.”