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The DeanBeat: Microsoft’s Phil Spencer joins our most diverse GamesBeat Summit event

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The DeanBeat: Microsoft's Phil Spencer joins our most diverse GamesBeat Summit event

Join GamesBeat Summit 2021 this April 28-29. Register for a free or VIP pass today.


Black Lives Matter. Border trouble. Anti-Asian hate. Trans athlete sports bans. Sexual harassment. Suicides and the pandemic. These racial, cultural, and social issues are making headlines, and they have spilled into the game industry. It is an important time to take stock of where we are as an industry when it comes to dealing with racism, sexism, and other kinds of toxicity. Just how diverse and inclusive are we?

Diversity, inclusion, and mental health challenges are going to be big topics for discussion at our GamesBeat Summit 2021: Growing the Next Generation event coming on April 28 and April 29. Our latest slate of speakers includes Phil Spencer, the executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, and a panel of Microsoft leaders including Agnes Kim, a senior strategic partner manager for content partnerships; Esteban Lora, the director of external technology and suppliers; and Cierra McDonald, a principal program manager.

They’re going to talk on a panel entitled “Team Xbox on Gaming for Everyone.” And they will discuss Microsoft’s journey to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet. They will explore the challenges of ensuring that gaming is inclusive for all players and that the game industry welcomes all creators. I’m delighted that important leaders like Spencer care deeply about these issues and that they’ve chosen our conference as a destination to highlight them.

But I’m also proud that we’ll have speakers who are off the beaten path and bring new perspectives to our GamesBeat community. About 37 of our 79 speakers (so far) come from diverse backgrounds. That’s about 47% of our speakers who are women, Black, LatinX, or Asian American. We can of course do better, but I’m proud of that ratio, as it’s not easy to accomplish in an industry where women and minorities aren’t well represented. This is our most diverse conference ever. Diversity is a long game, and I’ve waited a long time to hold an event like this — ever since the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

Since we last talked about the event, we’ve added speakers including Alina Soltys of Quantum Tech Partners, Katie Madding of Adjust, Katie Jansen of AppLovin, Victor Lazarte of Wildlife, Jason Docton of Rise Above the Disorder, Mark Chandler of TIGS, Ian Fitzpatrick of New Balance, Glen Schofield of Striking Distance Studios, N’Gai Croal of Hit Detection, Stanley Pierre-Louis of the Entertainment Software Association, Kahlief Adams of Spawn On Me, ZombaeKillz, Hemal Thaker of Goldman Sachs, Gabrielle Heyman of Zynga, Brad Hart of Perforce, Christian Kelly and Seth Shuller of Accenture, Ryan Mullins of Aglet, Laura Higgins of Roblox, and Anthony Crouts of Tencent.

We’re going to talk about why representation matters at companies (Activision Blizzard gave us a whole panel of women leaders to talk about this), and we’re going to dive into how it makes a difference in the kind of games that get created. We’ve also tapped mental health experts and leaders to talk about issues like burnout, crunch, suicide, and working in the pandemic.

Halley Gross, the co-writer of The Last of Us Part II, will talk about why Naughty Dog’s masterpiece, which won 215 Game of the Year Awards in 2020, was so infused with diversity from the non-player characters to strong female leads. I believe it’s important to celebrate the lessons of important games like this one, and to give people a chance to talk about issues that reflect the fact that we just went through one of the most difficult years in modern history. We’re going to celebrate the industry and have a little fun too, now that optimism is coming back.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft

Above: Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, at Build 2016.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Phil Spencer is the executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft. In this role, Spencer is accountable for leading Microsoft’s gaming business across all devices and services. With his team and game development partners, Spencer continues to push the boundaries of creativity, technical innovation and fun across gaming genres, audiences and devices.

Spencer is both a passionate gamer and seasoned gaming executive serving more than 15 years in the gaming industry leading global business, creative and engineering teams. Spencer has held various roles across Microsoft including the head of Xbox; corporate vice president, Microsoft Studios; and GM, Microsoft Game Studios EMEA. In these roles, Spencer led the Xbox organization with the launches of Xbox One S and Xbox One X as well as Microsoft Publishing and the acquisition of Minecraft, and he influenced blockbuster game franchises including Halo, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport. He also led the expansion of cross-platform gaming with Xbox Live, which now counts more than 50 million monthly active users.

Before beginning his career as an intern with Microsoft in 1988, Spencer earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. He currently serves on the board of Entertainment Software Association and of The Paley Center for Media.

Microsoft speakers

Microsoft's Agnes Kim runs content partnerships.

Above: Microsoft’s Agnes Kim runs content partnerships.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Here’s more info about Spencer’s crew: Agnes Kim is leading gaming content partnerships in South Korea, China, and Southeast Asia. Her goal is to engage developers in these markets and bring more content into Xbox’s ecosystem to ensure that our gamers can experience all the amazing content from the world. She was an avid gamer from very young, spending a lot of time in PC Cafes in South Korea and always dreaming of working in a cross section of Entertainment and Technology. She worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment prior to joining Xbox focusing on partnerships and strategic alliances. Before that, she worked at Deloitte consulting concentrating most of her time in M&A projects.

Esteban Lora manages the External Technology and Suppliers team at Xbox Game Studios, which is responsible for business relationships with gaming middleware companies, external development studios and music supervision talent supporting all Microsoft franchises and first party Studios including Forza, Halo and Gears of War. He studied computer engineering and was influenced by his interest in 3D graphics and passion for video games, then complemented his technical background by specializing on business management and strategic partnerships in the software industry, where he has been active for more than 20 years working for blue chip companies worldwide.

cierra mcdonald

Above: Cierra McDonald of Microsoft.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Originally from the south side of Chicago, Cierra McDonald is a principal program manager at Xbox. She has enjoyed 12 years working on Team Xbox and a total of 17 years at Microsoft. Cierra founded the Blacks at Xbox employee community in 2015, through which she organized Xbox’s annual Blacks in Gaming networking event at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and started the Jerry Lawson Grant for Career Development. In 2019, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Foundation presented Cierra with their inaugural Jerry A. Lawson Award for Achievement in Game Development in recognition of her accomplishments as an engineer, advocate, and community leader within the gaming industry. Cierra is passionate about encouraging the youth to embrace gaming as both a hobby and a career where they can express themselves creatively and can develop proficiency across many disciplines, ranging from computer science and research to music and storytelling. She volunteers with youth-oriented nonprofit organizations such as Gameheads and IGNITE and is an advisory board member for the University of Washington Certificate in Game Design.

How will gaming keep growing?

gb speakers

Above: Some of our GamesBeat Summit 2021 speakers.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The question is what will keep the growth going. We’ll explore new parts of the business including blockchain and nonfungible tokens, the post-IDFA world, augmented and virtual reality, esports, the metaverse, and the explosion of opportunities that come from having an unprecedented amount of money coming into the industry through investments, public offerings, and acquisitions.

Not long ago, I announced the lineup includes Laura Miele of Electronic Arts, Robert Antokol of Playtika, Aaron Loeb of Scopely, Jen Oneal of Blizzard Entertainment, Geoff Keighley of The Game Awards, Lydia Bottegoni of Blizzard, Eunice Lee of Activision, Nour Polloni of Beenox, Ronnie Nelis of Lion Castle, Sushama Chakraverty of Prodigy Education, Wanda Meloni of M2 Insights, Keza MacDonald of the Guardian, Kelli Dunlap of American University, Noah Falstein of The Inspiracy, Brennan Spiegel of Cedars-Sinai, Susanna Pollack of Games for Change, Paul Doyle of Epic Games, Vladimir Mastilović of Epic Games, Caroline Stokes of Forward, and Eve Crevoshay of Take This, Chris Hewish of Xsolla, and Matt Casamassina of Rogue Games.

Our other announced speakers so far include Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard, Brenda Romero of Romero Games, Jens Hilgers of Bitkraft Ventures, Chris DeWolfe of Jam City, Keisha Howard of Sugar Gamers, Daniel Melville (who has a bionic arm based on Konami’s Metal Gear series), chief gaming architect Frank Azor of Advanced Micro Devices, Iron Galaxy leaders Adam Boyes and Chelsea Blasko, Eric Goldberg of Playable Worlds, Andrew Sheppard of Transcend Funds, Simon Zhu of NetEase, Mike Vorhaus of Vorhaus Advisors, Michael Metzger of Drake Star, Ed Fries of 1Up Ventures, Raffael “Doctor B” Boccamazzo of Take This, Rob Lowe of Lego Ventures, Itamar Benedy of Anzu, Mike Minotti of GamesBeat, Steve Peterson of Storyphorce, Tim Guhl of Singtel, Lisa Cosmas Hanson of Niko Partners, Karsten Lund from Lightbrick Studios, and Liontree’s Nick Tuosto.

We want to continue our reputation as the most intimate gaming event where business meets passion. Our event will include fireside chats, panels, and small-group roundtables. We’ll provide Q&A sessions for VIP attendees, and a way for attendees to network with each other and make new connections. We have a wide range of partners including the International Game Developers Association and Women in Gaming International. And our sponsors include Lego Ventures, Anzu, Xsolla, Jam City, Adjust, Accenture, Rogue Games, Accenture, Epic Games, Scopely, Lego, Singtel, the Entertainment Software Association, Wildlife, Perforce, Outfit7, and more.

And one more thing: I’m also doing a regular Game Industry event on Clubhouse about the week’s news in gaming on Fridays at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

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GitHub now lets all developers upload videos to demo bugs and features

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GitHub now lets all developers upload videos to demo bugs and features

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


GitHub has officially opened up video uploads five months after launching in beta, allowing all developers to include .mp4 or .mov files directly in pull requests, discussions, issues, comments, and more.

The feature is designed to help developers visually demonstrate to project maintainers the steps they went through when they encountered a bug, for example, or illustrate what a major new code change achieves in terms of functionality.

So rather than having to follow detailed step-by-step textual instructions which may be ambiguous or unclear, it’s now easier to see exactly what’s happening at the other end first-hand and should go some way toward avoiding time-consuming back-and-forth written discussions. This could also be used in conjunction with a voice track with a narrator explaining the on-screen actions.

Above: Video in GitHub

It’s worth noting that with this launch, GitHub also now fully supports video uploads from within its mobile app.

ezgif.com gif maker 2

Above: Uploading video to GitHub via mobile app

Seeing is believing

Native video upload support helps bypass the cumbersome alternative involving recording and uploading a video to a third-party platform, then sharing a link. On that note, GitHub actually doesn’t yet support video unfurling from shared links, but that is something it said that it’s working on, alongside enabling video annotations for specific pieces of code.

At a time when the world has had to adapt to remote work and collaboration, learning to embrace asynchronous communication is one of the fundamental factors for distributed teams to succeed — recorded video plays a big part in enabling this.

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Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

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Warhammer III hands-on — A journey into the Realm of Chaos

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Warhammer III hands-on -- A journey into the Realm of Chaos

Did you miss GamesBeat Summit 2021? Watch on-demand here! 


Sega Europe’s The Creative Assembly studio showed off a demo of Total War: Warhammer III at a press event, and I got to go hands-on with the game in a battle set in the Realm of Chaos.

Being launched later on this year in partnership with franchise owner Games Workshop, Warhammer III the latest in the Total War series. The franchise has sold more than 34.3 million copies to date. The Total War: Warhammer spinoff is a cataclysmic conflict between demonic powers and the sentinels of the mortal world. I played the first two games, and many others, in the Total War series. This game brings the Warhammer trilogy to its conclusion.

The Creative Assembly has been making Total War strategy games for more than two decades. Most of these have focused on historical wars; until recently, when they’ve expanded into myths such as Total War: Three Kingdoms and fantasy with the Warhammer titles. In a Total War strategy game, you move armies around on a strategic map and fight in a 3D real-time battle when they meet on the battlefield.

In Total War: Warhammer III, each choice the player makes will shape the conflict to come. You’ll explore the mysterious Lands of the East to the demon-infested Realms of Chaos.

“Warhammer III is of course the concluding chapter in the series and we’re planning on going out with a bang,” said Al Bickham, the development communications manager for The Creative Assembly, at a press event. “We’ve crafted a huge arching narrative which ties the trilogy together. There are going to be more playable races out of the box than the previous two games. And it’s all set across a hyper-detailed campaign map which begins at the very fringes of Warhammer lands and takes you deep into the mind-bending horrors of the four Realms of Chaos.”

The game will have iconic races from the World of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, including the video game debut of Kislev and Cathay alongside the factions of Chaos — Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, and Tzeentch. This means players will wage war with the most diverse array of legendary heroes, gargantuan monsters, flying creatures, and magical powers.

Embarking on a new grand campaign, you will be tasked with saving or exploiting the power of a dying god. Each race offers a unique journey through the nightmarish Chaos Realm. The endgame will determine the fate of the world.

The Survival Battle

Above: Everything looks so orderly at the beginning of the Survival Battle in Warhammer III.

Image Credit: Sega/Creative Assembly

The Creative Assembly used the Parsec to let me play a sample Survival Battle, where your goal is to attack into the Realm of Chaos and take objectives and fend off the demon hordes. It’s a new kind of narrated battle that is fresh to the franchise. They’re like boss battles in Warhammer III, and they trigger after you reach key points in the game’s narrative.

“We want the [Survival Battle] to feel epic, really memorable, and full of decisive moments in the course of your campaign,” Bickham said.

My faction was the Kislev, an Eastern human faction that resembles the Russian Cossacks. And I had to take a number of victory locations within the a bloody fortress called the Brass Citadel.

The faction leader, Tzarina Katarin (the Ice Queen of Kislev) has taken her loyal forces into the Realm of Chaos. Khorne, the Chaos God of rage and war, sends a legion of demons to destroy the trespassers. The Kislev forces have been detailed for the first time in the series. Katarin is an Ice Witch with magical powers to both rally her troops and strike fear in the hearts of demons.

I wasn’t exactly impressed with the forces I got in the battle. There were some excellent sword troops, but I only have five companies of them in a place where I had to defend against attacks coming from all directions. I had twice as many archers and a few archer cavalry units.

The Realm of Chaos, of course, is a bad place. It has plenty of blood-red backdrops and one of its decorations is an actual fountain of blood. The four Ruinous Powers rule over this place, ever seeking to slip their bonds and engulf the world in a tide of daemonic corruption. Nurgle, the plague god; Slaanesh, the lord of excess; Tzeentch, the changer of ways; and Khorne, the god of blood and slaughter.

My troops had to fight uphill and sweep some light demon units from the top of a ridge. That was easy enough, and I claimed a victory point in doing so. That allowed me to draw reinforcements from another realm to strengthen my army. But then I was attacked from four directions. At least I was defending a hill, but I had a hard time figuring out where to place my five sword troops, as they were the best units to stave off attacks.

chaos 5

Above: My soldiers are devolving into chaos in Warhammer III.

Image Credit: Sega/Creative Assembly

The cavalry was useful in taking down wolf-borne demons from the enemy, but it wasn’t useful in charging headlong into enemy lines. Rather, it was better to use them to harass the enemy with missile fire from a distance. But I didn’t have nearly enough units to form a full line of defense in all directions. The result was, you guessed it, chaos.

But I tried to survive. One of the goals was to earn a battle currency called “supplies,” which allowed me to build towers and barricades. It also let me recruit new warriors, upgrade my existing units, and bring on reinforcements. Being new to the game, I couldn’t figure out how much to spend on each kind of task. I found I could build barricades and get reinforcements, but I didn’t have enough supplies to build towers, and that meant the hordes of Chaos were going to charge me without being harassed. You generate more supplies by capturing victory points or killing enemies.

Had I looked more, I would have seen that I could have used The Lore of Ice, or ice-themed spells that would slow down the enemy and help my soldiers thin their ranks as they tried to attack. There were six different spells altogether. I also could have used the Elemental Bear, a huge monster on my side, and some of the bear cavalry for the faction. Sadly they were nowhere to be found in my playthrough.

Still, after a few battle restarts, I was able to survive the first wave of attacks and open up a new part of the Brass Citadel, which was circular with a big pit in the middle. Once again, I was forced to divide my forces and try to hold off larger numbers of enemies coming from all sides. It wasn’t pretty.

I didn’t get near the goal of the battle, to fight Khorne’s champion, an Exalted Greater Demon, in a final struggle. It was a very difficult battle, but I enjoyed the idea of being assaulted by endless hordes and figuring out how to stay alive when you’re vastly outnumbered. This is a difficult mode when it comes to figuring out where to throw your troops and when. But it adds some excitement to the pressure that you feel when you have to make decisions quickly to head off disaster.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

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LinkedIn open-sources Greykite, a library for time series forecasting

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Greykite Silverkite

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LinkedIn today open-sourced Greykite, a Python library for long- and short-term predictive analytics. Greykite’s main algorithm, Silverkite, delivers automated forecasting, which LinkedIn says it uses for resource planning, performance management, optimization, and ecosystem insight generation.

For enterprises using predictive models to forecast consumer behavior, data drift was a major challenge in 2020 due to never-before-seen circumstances related to the pandemic. This being the case, accurate knowledge about the future remains helpful to any business. Automation, which enables reproducibility, may improve accuracy and can be consumed by algorithms downstream to make decisions.

For example, LinkedIn says that Silverkite improved revenue forecasts for 1-day ahead and 7-day ahead, as well as Weekly Active User forecasts for 2-week ahead. Median absolute percent error for revenue and Weekly Active User forecasts grew by more than 50% and 30%, respectively.

Greykite library

Greykite provides time series tools for trends, seasonality, holidays, and more so that users can fit the AI models of their choice. The library provides exploratory plots and templates for tuning, which define regressors based on data characteristics and forecast requirements like hourly short-term forecast and daily long-term forecast. Tuning knobs provided by the templates reduce the search to find a satisfactory forecast. And the Greykite library has flexibility to customize a model template for algorithms, letting users label (and specify whether to ignore or adjust) known anomalies.

Greykite, which provides outlier detection, can also select the optimal model from multiple candidates using past performance data. Instead of tuning each forecast separately, users can define a set of candidate forecast configurations that capture different types of patterns. Lastly, the library provides a summary that can be used to assess the effect of individual data points. For example, Greykite can check the magnitude of a holiday, see how much a changepoint affected the trend, or show how a certain feature might be beneficial to a model.

With Greykite, a “next 7-day” forecast trained on over 8 years of daily data takes only a few seconds to produce forecasts. LinkedIn says that its whole pipeline, including automatic changepoint detection, cross-validation, backtest, and evaluation, completes in under 45 seconds.

“The Greykite library provides a fast, accurate, and highly customizable algorithm — Silverkite — for forecasting. Greykite also provides intuitive tuning options and diagnostics for model interpretation. It is extensible to multiple algorithms, and facilitates benchmarking them through a single interface,” the LinkedIn research team wrote in a blog post. “We have successfully applied Greykite at LinkedIn for multiple business and infrastructure metrics use cases.”

The Greykite library is available on GitHub and PyPI, and it joins the many other tools LinkedIn has open-sourced to date. They include Iris, for managing website outages; PalDB, a low-key value store for handling side data; Ambry, an object store for media files; GDMix, a framework for training AI personalization models; LiFT, a toolkit to measure AI model fairness; and Dagli, a machine learning library for Java.

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Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
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