Archive for the ‘Ars Technica Videos’ Category

Bay Area: Join us 2/13 to discuss a new hope for tech activism

February 11th, 2019
Leigh Honeywell is the founder of Tall Poppy and an activist. She has worked on security and privacy with major tech companies as well as the ACLU.

Enlarge / Leigh Honeywell is the founder of Tall Poppy and an activist. She has worked on security and privacy with major tech companies as well as the ACLU. (credit: Leigh Honeywell)

Over the past couple of years, we've seen a huge upsurge in activism within the technology community. From the walkouts at Google to labor organizing at Amazon, tech workers are starting to see a connection between their work and social issues. Engineer and entrepreneur Leigh Honeywell has been at the forefront of tech activism for many years, and at this month's Ars Technica Live on Wednesday, February 13, we'll be talking to her about activism in today's world and the politics of a life lived online.

Honeywell founded two hackerspaces (HackLabTO in Toronto, and the Seattle Attic Community Workshop in Seattle), created the widely circulated Never Again pledge, and now heads Tall Poppy, where she helps companies protect their employees from online harassment. The thread that runs throughout her work is the use of technology to create greater privacy and safety for people online. She'll discuss the growing resistance to the practices of corporations that profile users or sell their users' data, along with the rise of services that protect people from digital harassment.

Honeywell was previously a Technology Fellow at the ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology and also worked at Slack, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Symantec. Leigh has a Bachelors of Science from the University of Toronto where she majored in Computer Science and Equity Studies.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in activism, Ars Technica Videos, leigh honeywell, Policy, tall poppy, Tech | Comments (0)

Video: Inside the artistic mind of Dead Space designer Glen Schofield

January 16th, 2019

Video directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

Our recent visit to Dead Space designer Glen Schofield's home to discuss the challenges of developing the horror classic left us with an enormous amount of footage to sort through. Glen was very generous with his time and allowed us more than simply a peek behind the curtain—we got a full tour through the man's artistic mind and processes.

This video is perhaps not as directly game-focused as our previous one, but Glen was brimming with words of wisdom for aspiring game artists—and aspiring artists in general. He tells of his professional beginnings, dutifully toiling away in the Barbie mines at Absolute Entertainment and getting the last laugh when he was promoted over other Barbie-eschewing coworkers. He discusses the artist's eye and how immersing oneself in art alters the way one perceives the world—an engineer might look at a machine and see in their mind the way the parts mesh and the gears turn, while an artist sees the machine and thinks of how to represent it on a canvas in terms of light and shadow. Both disciplines see things that are hidden or non-obvious to everyone else, and both require a blend of talent and training.

My mother is a painter and illustrator, and I hear many of the things she told me growing up echoed in Glen's advice. Artists see the world in a way that other disciplines do not, and the best artists—artists like Schofield—are able to create compelling images that draw the viewer in and allow them to experience some of the artist's own emotions.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, console gaming, Dead Space, Gaming & Culture, Glen Schofield, PC gaming, war stories | Comments (0)

Video: Dead Space’s scariest moment almost dragged down the entire project

January 8th, 2019

Video directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript. Special thanks to Glen Schofield and Chris Stone for assistance gathering footage.

I need to get this out of the way right up front: the War Stories video crew here at Ars loves Dead Space. The game turned 10 years old this past October, and it's a near-perfect execution of the survival horror genre—the world, the sound design, and the mechanics are all spot-on, even after a decade. It's also one of the games we've had on our War Stories to-do list since the very beginning, and we're excited to finally have this video to share with you all.

Executive producer/creator Glen Schofield was fortunately just as excited to talk about the game as we are, and he invited us into his home to tell us the tale of how Isaac Clarke and the USG Ishimura came to be. Creating Dead Space required Schofield and team to create not just an entire original IP (complete with lore and world-building) but new game mechanisms and new ways to tell a story. The focus of putting the player directly into protagonist Isaac Clarke's somewhat clunky shoes affected every decision, and the resulting game managed to be refreshingly original while also paying respectful homage to other horror movies and games (most notably Event Horizon and Resident Evil, respectively.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, console gaming, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, Features, Gaming & Culture, Glen Schofield, horror, PC gaming, videos, war stories | Comments (0)

Video: Astronaut Scott Kelly teaches orbital mechanics with Kerbal Space Program

December 28th, 2018

Video shot and edited by Condé Nast Entertainment. Click here for transcript. (video link)

If you’re a frequent Ars reader, you’ve likely heard of Kerbal Space Program, the space flight/space crashing/space explosion simulator that lets you create your own vehicles, then fly them into orbit and perhaps even to other planets. Though silly and fun, KSP also works as a reasonably solid and wonderfully interactive demonstration of the vagaries of orbital mechanics—and that, dear readers, gave us an idea.

Astronaut Scott Kelly is most famous for spending an uncomfortably long time on the International Space Station, and he’s currently touring to promote his book about the experience. We got to talk to him briefly when he was at the office back in October, but I wanted to take things a little further. What if we could sit down with Scott—a real astronaut who has flown the space shuttle and everything—and get him to talk us through a (somewhat realistic, somewhat silly) launch in KSP?

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, kerbal space program, NASA, science, scott kelly, space, vide | Comments (0)

War Stories: Serious Sam almost didn’t happen—until crates saved the day

December 27th, 2018

Video shot by Nikola Mosettig and edited by Lee Manansala. Click here for transcript. Ars would also like to extend special thanks to Croteam members Davor Hunski and Damjan Mravunac, who were instrumental in helping this video project come together.

Welcome to another edition of "War Stories," where we coerce developers into talking about problems that almost kept them from making the games that made them famous. We've previously chatted with the likes of Ultima's Lord British, Thief's Paul Neurath, and Stardock's Brad Wardell. Today's video takes us across the Atlantic to Eastern Europe, to the offices of Croatian developer Croteam—the folks who brought us the classic FPS Serious Sam.

Serious Sam is a fast-paced explosion-fest, filled with Duke Nukem-esque one-liners and gibs galore. Released way back in 2001, the first game spawned a bloody dynasty that continues to this day and even has a new entry coming next year—hopefully).

It seems obvious in hindsight that the game would be a hit, but Croteam had a difficult time bringing it to market—in fact, although the developers spent a lot of time crafting and polishing a single-level demo that showed off the best they had to offer, they couldn't even get a publisher to call them back.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, Croteam, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Serious Sam, videos, war stories | Comments (0)

War Stories: Lord British created an ecology for Ultima Online but no one saw it

December 26th, 2018

Video shot by Joe Pickard with Justin Wolfson, edited by Lee Manansala. Click here for transcript.

Richard Garriott: game designer, astronaut, master haunted house maintainer. In the '80s and especially the early '90s, Garriott was part of the first “rock star” cadre of game developers (along with other huge names like John Carmack, John Romero, and, of course, Chris Roberts, who worked for Garriott at a little company classic PC gamers might be familiar with) that transformed PC gaming from beeps and line art to full interactive experiences. And, after that, he flew to the International Space Station just because he could.

So when we were looking for a good interview to start off a new video series on developers who faced down interesting technical challenges, it was hard to come up with a more suitable candidate than Lord British himself.

Fortunately, Garriott was reasonably familiar with Ars and was happy to invite us to his New York home—because for Lord British, telling war stories involves talking about Ultima, and talking about Ultima is a lot easier if you actually have all the Ultima games at hand. On their original platforms. In Richard Garriott’s freaking house.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, Gaming & Culture, Lord British, Richard Garriott, ultima, war stories | Comments (0)

Video: Total War: Rome II devs built all of Europe—and the AI ignored most of it

December 18th, 2018

Shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Motion graphics by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

Creative Assembly's Total War franchise has been around for so long that it's old enough to drive, vote, and even drink in most countries. For the three people reading this who haven't played at least one title in the series, the games provide a blend of real-time strategy and turn-based resource management that manages to scratch a number of itches simultaneously. You can direct the conquest of large regions from a god's-eye overhead view and then step down to the battlefield and move units around like Command and Conquer.

As technology and the 2000s progressed, new entries in the series became more sophisticated; by the time 2013 rolled around and Creative Assembly was working its magic on Total War: Rome II, the design goals were ambitious indeed. Designers wanted to give players total freedom to move around all of classical-era Europe, from Caledonia to Arachosia and all points in between. Building a canvas this broad to play on meant the small team of designers had to rely on some clever procedural tools, and although you might expect those tools to be the point of this particular War Story, that's not actually what the problem turned out to be.

What if we threw a war and nobody came?

In order to properly test a game with thousands of square miles of playable space, the designers employed automated tools running on their office PCs. In the evenings when it was time to go home, Creative Assembly would set as many PCs as they could to playing the game in AI-only mode, iterating through battles and scenarios in order to help see which units needed balancing and which scenarios needed tweaking. Along the way, they would also find areas where their procedural terrain generation hadn't gotten things quite right (like requiring a campaign battle to awkwardly play out on a near-vertical slope).

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in ars technica video, Ars Technica Videos, creative assembly, Gaming & Culture, PC gaming, Rome, rts, Sega, strategy, total war, total war: rome ii, video, war stories | Comments (0)

War Stories: Thief’s intuitive stealth system wasn’t intuitive to design

December 2nd, 2018

Video shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Lee Manansala. Click here for transcript.

Update: On November 30, 1998, gamers began to learn that being stealthy could be a viable strategy, too—that's because game developers at Looking Glass released the landmark first-person sneaker, Thief: The Dark Project. As writer Richard Moss outlined in his history of first-person shooters, Thief succeeded despite running counter to all the prevailing trends at the time. This happened in large part because "its intelligent enemies—who tried to flee when injured and responded realistically to both auditory and visual cues—opened the door to a wealth of emergent design possibilities."

Earlier this year, Ars caught up with Looking Glass founder Paul Neurath to hear about how he and the team developed that groundbreaking AI. And with the game's 20th anniversary happening this weekend, we're resurfacing that interview. The above video and accompanying story first ran on February 20, 2018, and they appear unchanged here.

Older PC gamers who were playing games in the late '90s and early 2000s likely have a soft spot in their hearts for Looking Glass Studios. The company's two best-known properties are Thief and System Shock, though Looking Glass was also responsible for the visually stunning Flight Unlimited and, of course, Ultima Underworld. Although financial troubles at publisher Eidos Interactive (caused in part by the development of the hilarious money pit that was Daikatana) led to the eventual dissolution and sale of Looking Glass, the studio left an outsized footprint on the history of PC gaming through its excellent games.

The Thief series in particular—or at least the first two games—resonated with audiences. The phrase "innovative gameplay" is a laughable cliché in 2018, but Thief really did have innovative gameplay when it was released—other FPS titles had explored stealth-focused gameplay before, but none had managed to so completely capture the experience of sneaking. More, Thief took the unusual (for FPSes at the time) approach of incentivizing the player to not murder everyone and everything in the level—brutality, in fact, was actively punished by the game's scoring system. Sneaking through an entire level without detection became a more important goal than wiping out guards.

But it turns out the tightly coupled gameplay mechanisms that enabled players to so easily understand how hidden they were from the CPU's prying eyes was nowhere near as intuitive to design as it was to use. We sat down with Looking Glass founder Paul Neurath, who was involved heavily in Thief's design and development, to get the scoop. And even though he didn't take any rips from a wolf bong, he did have some juicy info on how Thief and its signature sneaking came to be.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, Gaming & Culture, thief, thief the dark project, video, war stories | Comments (0)

Video: How an 11th-hour decision made Aliens versus Predator a classic

November 20th, 2018

Video shot by Justin Wolfson and edited by Lee Manansala. Click here for transcript.

Welcome to the latest edition of "War Stories," where we sit down with video game developers and cajole them into talking about the gameplay design elements that almost broke their brains. In this episode, we're chatting up Tim Jones, the lead artist and producer of 1999's Aliens versus Predator.

Jumping on the brand wagon

The Aliens versus Predator brand is a childhood fever dream brought to life—who hasn't had playground arguments over who'd win in a fight between some of the biggest and baddest bad guys of them all? The idea of watching supernal figures battle it out is both fun and endlessly attractive, because everyone likes a spectacle, and the biggest spectacle of all comes from watching one irresistible alien force slam into another unmovable alien object. Sparks fly, things explode, and we're happy.

The "Aliens versus Predator" concept first appeared in graphic novel form, but it was catapulted into mainstream consciousness by a series of films in the 2000s. Though definitely spectacular in the most literal sense of the word, the movies all ultimately fall short in just about every other area; only the first, released in 2004, is (arguably) watchable without the aid of alcohol or other drugs.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Alien vs Predator, aliens versus predator, Aliens vs. Predator, Ars Technica Videos, Features, Gaming & Culture, Rebellion, Rebellion Development, Rebellion Developments, tim jones, video, war stories | Comments (0)

We’ve run wild on the Switch version of WarFrame—and it’s solid

November 16th, 2018

Video shot and edited by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

If you had asked us a year ago whether the Nintendo Switch would ever deliver a shooter on par with the online team-questing of Destiny, we would surely have laughed you off. A solid, connected, shooting-filled 3D game for Nintendo's handheld? Go back to Mario Kart, dreamer.

But the past year has seen developers unlock serious power—and reasonable compromises—in impressive Switch ports. Now, one of the industry's best Switch wranglers, Panic Button, has worked its magic on the free-to-play multiplayer shooter WarFrame, out this week on the platform.

Ahead of the launch, we had the opportunity to sit with the combined brain trust behind WarFrame on Switch—a producer at series creator Digital Extremes and the head of Panic Button's porting team—and rap about what they made happen. We also went hands-on with the results and enjoyed the tweaked options laid out, including joystick sensitivity, button mapping, and—a rarity on the Nintendo Switch—a field-of-view slider, which first-person junkies will surely appreciate.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Ars Technica Videos, ars video, Gaming & Culture, Switch, warframe | Comments (0)