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The DeanBeat: Our GamesBeat Summit was about racing ahead without leaving others behind

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The DeanBeat: Our GamesBeat Summit was about racing ahead without leaving others behind

Join GamesBeat Summit 2021, happening today! Watch live here! 


At our GamesBeat Summit 2021 event, I learned that game CEOs and executives are confident that the golden age of gaming will continue, with expectations of continued growth, more money coming into the industry, and more people playing games around the world.

The financial lessons were plentiful. CEOs like Jam City’s Chris DeWolfe were confident that growth would continue, even as we hit difficult quarterly comparisons to pandemic growth from a year ago. The only thing that can trip someone up, DeWolfe said, is opportunity cost, where you put a team on the wrong game. Liontree’s Nick Tuosto teased out of Lars Wingefors, the CEO of Embracer Group, his strategy for acquiring so many companies quickly. Two leaders of Scopely, Tim O’Brien and Amir Rahimi, also explained to Tuosto the right way to acquire a company. It was good to see so much confidence among game investors like Jens Hilgers about the road ahead.

If you add up all of the deals in the first quarter of 2021, you get 280 announced and closed transactions worth $39 billion. That amount is higher than the $33 billion reported for all the deals of 2020, according to InvestGame. While we absorbed these incredible numbers, I was pleased that we looked beyond the numbers to take in the lessons of the pandemic and dwell on the softer side of the game business.

None left behind

Above: The second annual Women in Gaming Breakfast at GamesBeat Summit 2021.

Image Credit: Zsuzsa James

While so many things look good for games in the future, it’s good to remember we are in the middle of a pandemic. We don’t want to celebrate how we’re racing so far ahead if we’re leaving a lot of people by the wayside.

In a sobering talk about veteran game developers committing suicide, Mark Chandler of The International Games Summit on Mental Health Awareness and Jason Docton of Rise Above the Disorder reminded us about how it takes a village to ensure that nobody slips through the cracks. Marty O’Donnell, the cofounder of Highwire games and a veteran of the Halo and Destiny franchises, reminded us about the importance of making original games and how publishers should be careful about killing the goose (game development teams) that lays the golden eggs (game blockbusters).

Chelsea Blasko and Adam Boyes, the co-CEOs of Iron Galaxy, described to moderator Eve Crevoshay of Take This their elaborate management effort to avoid crunch, or overworking employees. Raffael “Dr. B” Boccamazzo, the clinical director at Take This, talked about burnout, with telling details like how a vacation might buy you temporary relief but systemic burnout problems might re-emerge in about a month. We saw a member of Congress, Yvette Clarke of New York, talk about the importance of education for all with Stanley Pierre-Louis of the Entertainment Software Association and Laila Shabir of Girls Make Games. Phil Spencer, the executive vice president of games at Microsoft, acknowledged that in his own journey that he had a fear sometimes about saying the wrong thing and why that means you should build a safe environment where people of different backgrounds can trust each other and be their true selves. And mental health experts contemplated how XR can help people heal.

Four female leaders at Activision Blizzard talked about how representation of diverse people matters both in games and in studios, while Brenda Romero and Sushama Chakraverty spoke about taking risks and to not be afraid of failure as you climb the ladder toward roles like game director and chief technology officer. Keisha Howard of Sugar Gamers talked with Daniel Melville, a man born without an arm and an ambassador for Open Bionics, talked about the future hopes for accessibility in games. It was cool to see in an audience poll that people believe that augmented humans would likely be far better game players than natural humans in the future. And our Women in Gaming Breakfast featured a career-focused panel with Samantha Ryan of Electronic Arts, Brenda Romero of Romero Games, and Emily Greer of Double Loop Games, and moderator Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games.

We paid heed to both the need to stoke business and the equal responsibility to provide for employees during a difficult pandemic. I was pleased that many of our speakers emphasized the connection between diversity, mental health, creativity, and positive business growth. Wingefors, a finance-focused leader who bought 13 game companies in one day recently, said his goal was to have “profitable, cash-flow positive business and to have really happy people.”

All of these talks fit into our theme of “Growing the next generation,” as you need healthy, creatively charged people to execute on brilliant plans for financial growth.

The metaverse

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick talks with Dean Takahashi at GamesBeat Summit 2021.

Above: Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick talks with Dean Takahashi at GamesBeat Summit 2021.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

We only scheduled one panel on the metaverse — a session about brands diving into it — but it came up frequently in discussions about the future. I believe that we’ll see walled gardens create video game theme parks full of game franchises akin to a virtual Disneyland. That will help them grow their valuations dramatically, and Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities predicted that Amazon would come out the winner in this environment. But I hope that an open metaverse will eventually take over as those worlds become connected with each other and consumers demand that those connections become available.

In a very human conversation, I asked Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick what he thought about the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Kotick said he remembered back to Alan Kay, the former researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and former chief scientist at Atari. Kay had a project called Vivarium in the early 1980s, and it was the idea of a “living, breathing simulation, where you would have both the ability to have user-generated content and professionally produced content, and that you would have this extremely rich simulation experience that you could live and play and potentially even work,” Kotick said.

He thinks we’re now much closer to the idea of an actual metaverse, and it requires this continuous social connection with people. He thinks that with advances in local and distributed processing power over the next decade, we will get to that original vision that Neal Stephenson had in Snow Crash or Ernest Cline had in Ready Player One.

“I think we’re rapidly progressing toward what is a legitimate mass-market experience,” he said.

I thought this was a momentous comment, as Kotick gave his endorsement to the idea of the metaverse, which was the subject of our conference in January. Meanwhile, another publication thought it was momentous that Kotick thought Pitfall should get a remake.

Electronic Arts chief of studios Laura Miele said in a fireside chat with Geoff Keighley of The Game Awards that game companies are poised to lead with the metaverse.

“We think of a Ready Player One as a 3D experiential place where you walk through a world,” she said. “I really love to think about our sports opportunity in that area, and that there are so many ways that you can consume sports media. And whether it be watching real sports games, checking data, connecting and talking with friends about sports, playing sports, and comparing that. So I think we have opportunities everywhere across the company, and with our franchises and our brands to really explore out and push out the definition of the metaverse.”

User-generated content

Geoff Keighley of The Game Awards talks with Laura Miele of EA.

Above: Geoff Keighley of The Game Awards talks with Laura Miele of EA at GamesBeat Summit 2021.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Speakers ranging from Jon Radoff of Beamable to Daniel Evans of Reely believe that user-generated content will be a big part of the future. I agree that a creator economy is emerging and tugging other companies into a new world. Keighley asked Miele if EA is thinking hard about user-generated content, as players show that they’re interested in experiences like Minecraft and Roblox. EA has its own The Sims and SimCity franchises that let people create their own experiences. She said it goes in waves.

“The industry certainly was at a place where it was curated linear experiences,” she said. “And I think things are coming full circle and it is opening up. And we are incredibly passionate about putting capabilities and tools in the hands of people, so they can act on their own experiences. When I look at the long-range innovation projects, we have a group called SEED, the Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division of Electronic Arts.”

She added, “They incubate. They’re researching future innovations for technology and games. And one of the projects they’re working on is really cool. It’s this VR project where you can scan in a character and you can possess that character. And then, as you’re walking around in the room, the program captures your animation and applies that to the character. You can draw environments, you can place a second character in the environment, and interact with this character. And that is just about radical accessibility for tools and radical accessibility for people to create their experiences and have an impact on their game. I think that that is going to be incredibly important for the future.”

Miele said she also loves Battlefield because it is often like a sandbox, where players can play with weapons and vehicles and cause destruction in the environment.

“These only these crazy only-in-Battlefield moments happen,” she said. “This emergent play comes from players. As you can imagine, taking that strength and taking that superpower in this franchise and building on that in the future game is definitely part of our strategy. So new modes that are going to be added to the game experience are really in service of this ability that we want to give players to have an a bigger impact on their experience.”

As for The Sims, Miele spoke of “a lot of fertile ground here for The Sims, for sure.”

Players will get tools to play with, and EA is playing to make use of all of its learnings over 18 years for that franchise. She wants players to have flexibility, creativity, and tools to remix items and objects in the world. Skate could also be a franchise with a lot of user-generated content.

“You can imagine where we’re taking this franchise and this brand,” she said.

Big thanks

Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat talks about The Last of Us Part II with co-writer Halley Gross.

Above: Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat talks about The Last of Us Part II with co-writer Halley Gross.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

I’ve got a lot of people to thank in the coming days, from our VentureBeat team to our emcees Andrea Rene and Kahlief Adams. To our audience, thank you all for attending our online community event — the third one we have held during the pandemic. My brain is a little foggy from all of the work, but I thought it would be good to talk about what we learned this week from the 107 speakers across 40 talks this week. I was very happy to have a crowd that came from all over. John Goodale said he was watching GamesBeat Summit 2021 from Yellowstone. Brenda Romero and John Romero tuned in from Ireland. Gabby Dizon participated from the Philippines. Ryan Gill watched from Amsterdam. Justin McMichael viewed from Kelowna, Canada. Paul Thind said his friends tuned in from the Netherlands, England, and Austria, while Richard Browne logged in from Thousand Oaks, California. All told, we had more than 2,100 registered people watching this event. That’s a lot more folks than ever came to our physical events.

I took particular joy talking to Halley Gross, the co-writer of The Last of Us Part II, about the diversity infused into Naughty Dog’s blockbuster. I told her how I played through that game with my college-aged daughter and we both appreciate the richness of character and story in that post-apocalyptic world. My daughter attended the event, and we both felt some catharsis in asking Gross questions about the creative roots of the game. That was one of many heartwarming moments I witnessed during our conference.

It was wonderful to see Brett Sperry, the cofounder of Westwood Studios, and Vince Zampella of Respawn join Keighley in giving Miele our Visionary Award. And it was so good to see Natasha “ZombaeKillz” Zinda cry some tears of validation when she received the Up & Comer Award for her efforts to stream to an audience and engage in radical kindness.

“Being radically kind is something that I think we could use more of in the world. I believe that gaming is something that changes people’s lives, and we have an opportunity in games, to reach into people’s homes and into their hearts. And so it’s a real change,” Zinda said in her acceptance speech. “Being radically kind is not the easiest thing. It is a rebellious act in a world that hates you. And as a Black woman in this space, it has definitely been a journey for me. Thank you all. I can’t wait to see how much more equity and diversity that there is being brought to the table in this space. With this award, you all just brought me to a table in a way that you probably don’t understand how impactful it is. So thank you all. Thanks to all my friends who believed in me, thank you, for the people that uplifted me and gave me chances when they didn’t know who I was and who have just had my back in a beautiful way.”

It felt good to make some people happy with this event. After all, I feel like I owe them. Game developers have created so much human happiness with their games. It was good to dish some back to them.

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

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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
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