Rock Band and Dance Central developer Harmonix today confirmed a modest staff reduction, cutting a “small number” of jobs ahead of the holidays due to “shifting staffing priorities.”
“We can confirm that a small number of Harmonix employees were let go today,” a Harmonix representative told GameSpot after Joystiq broke the news. “This decision was made due to shifting staffing priorities for Harmonix’s multiple future projects.”
It is unclear how many developers total lost their jobs today or what the company’s current headcount is.
This is not the first round of job losses at the Cambridge, Mass. developer this year. The studio also cut a small number of jobs in April, using the same exact quote to describe the cullings as the statement issued today.
Some of the world’s largest technology firms, including Xbox maker Microsoft and search giant Google, have banded together to petition President Obama and members of Congress to make reforms that ensure government surveillance of private data is restricted by law.
Earlier today, new documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that American and British government agencies had infiltrated Xbox Live and World of Warcraft and mined the online networks in a bid to hunt potential terrorists.
The group argues that transparency is essential regarding government data demands. Companies like Microsoft and Google should be allowed to publish the number and nature of demands for user information, the group said. The coalition also wants to see greater limits placed on governments’ authority to collection user information. Governments should limit surveillance to “specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications,” the group declared.
The website also features quotes from executives at the seven companies.
“People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it,” Microsoft legal and corporate affairs general counsel Brad Smith said.
“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said.
The coalition’s open letter to Washington is featured below.
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.
For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com
Fez, the downloadable puzzle-platform game from Phil Fish and independent Canadian studio Polytron, has now sold more than 1 million copies across all platforms, the developer announced today. The game originally launched in April 2012 for Xbox 360, before coming to PC, Mac, and Linux. PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions are in development, though no release dates have been announced for the Sony versions.
“Thank you for buying the game! Thank you for stealing it! Thank you for telling your friends about it! Thank you for buying it again when it came out on PC!” the statement goes on. “Thank you for boycotting it so well! Thank you for putting up with the bullshit! Thank you for all your love letters, fan art, cosplays and freakin’ tattoos you got, you crazy bastards!”
Fez’s development was chronicled in last year’s independent film Indie Game: The Movie. Don’t expect a sequel anytime soon, as controversial creator Fish announced this summer that Fez II was canceled. Alongside the cancellation, Fish announced that he would quit the industry altogether. His status at Polytron currently is unknown.
Gran Turismo 6 is set apart from most of this season’s major driving games in that it’s landing on last-gen but Jess susses out five reasons why the popular racer may still be worthy of your holiday time and moneys.
Beginning this week, GTA Online players will be able to create their own content for the online mode through the Deathmatch & Race Creators beta, Rockstar Games announced today. Users will also be able to play content others have developed using platform.
Included with the content creator are “some” of the same tools that Rockstar’s own developers use, which gamers can use to create their own Deathmatches and Races. The content will be delivered via a free title update on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network as early as tomorrow, December 10.
Once created, you’ll be able to publish these via the Rockstar Games Social Club for the community at large to download, play, rate, and share. At launch, players will be able to create and customize Deathmatches, Team Deathmatches, Races, GTA Races, and Rally Races.
Rockstar said it plans to “regularly” review community-created content, distinguishing the best creations as “Rockstar Verified Jobs.” These will be shared out to the entire GTA Online community, the developer said. Players will need to have a Social Club account linked to their Xbox Live Gamertag or PlayStation Network ID to use the tools.
Later in December, Rockstar will release a new game mode for GTA Online called Capture. A “GTA twist” on the classic capture the flag mode, Capture sees four squads battling it out to steal items from their opponents’ bases. This mode features four variations: Raid, Contend, Hold, and GTA. Full details for each of these is expected next week.
March 18th, 2014 is the date that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will launch for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, according to an announcement from Konami and two new trailers for the game.
The EA Origin Humble Bundle raised a record $10.5 million, $1.65 million of which has been donated to the American Cancer Society, the publisher has announced.
“So proud of Team EA in raising $10.5M from the Humble Bundle, $1.65M of which goes to the American Cancer Society,” EA COO Peter Moore said on Twitter.
The American Cancer Society is a community-based voluntary health organization that drives to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. The group, founded 100 years ago in 1913, has more than 900 offices across the country.
The American Cancer Society is not the only group that will receive a check from EA. Funds will also go to charities like the Human Rights Campaign, Watsi, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and the American Red Cross. Specific donation amounts, however, are unavailable.
I love the rising notes that accompany the bounce of a Peggle ball as it tumbles from peg to peg, each tinkle perfectly pitched to the serene melodies underneath. I love how each selection on the menu screen is accompanied by the notes from Peer Gynt’s “Morning”, a subtle nod to Peggle 2′s wonderful predecessor. And I love the rainbows, and the sparkles, and the blast of Ode to Joy that accompanies a perfectly cleared Peggle board. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, and indicative of a game that’s as much about lifting the weight of the world from your shoulders as it is spending hours figuring out the perfect peg-pummeling shot for a high score–and trust me, once Peggle gets its hooks into you, the hours will fly by.
Describe the absolute basics of Peggle to someone though, and they’ll give you the sort of sympathetic stare they’d give to someone who’d suddenly confessed to Coldplay being their favourite “rock band”. It’s so stiflingly simplistic at first glance that it’s hard not to wonder what all the fuss is about. All you do is shoot a small ball at different coloured pegs scattered around a level, attempting to hit each and light them up along the way. Blue pegs give you 100 points, orange pegs need to be cleared to progress, while purple pegs give you score boosts, and green ones activate power-ups. Once the ball drops out of play, the lit pegs disappear, and you fire off another shot. Your only method of control is over the direction of the ball and when you decide to launch it, with a neat physics system taking care of the rest.
That might make it seem like there’s not a whole lot you can actually do about hitting those pegs with any skill, and for sure, there’s an element of luck about the whole thing. But it’s that very randomness, the way that each shot is a gamble no matter how well-practiced you are, that makes Peggle so utterly engrossing–and the natural feel of the ball physics means that you never feel hard done by because of its random nature. The ball behaves just how you’d expect, and you adapt how you play around it. For every shot that hits just a single blue peg, there’s another that somehow bounces across the board for a long shot bonus, hits a purple peg on the rebound, and then skims its way across a group of orange pegs before neatly landing in the moving free ball bucket at the bottom of the screen. It’s an amazing feeling when it happens.
There are certainly some tricks to learn that come with practice too. Knowing how to skim a ball across a row of flat pegs for maximum points, or knowing just the right angle to hit a single peg to bounce it directly into the free ball bucket for a trick shot prove invaluable in later levels. With just 10 balls at your disposal, and many more pegs than that to clear, Peggle is just as strategic as it is random. Trying to beat challenges like clearing all the pegs, performing a certain trick shot, or beating an ace high score on each level can keep you going for weeks and months; I’m still trying to 100 percent the seriously tricky Zen level on the original Peggle to this day.
There are a bunch of new challenges too, under the guise of trials that challenge you to do things like beat a level under a certain score (much harder than it sounds), perform impossibly long slide shots, and score over a million points on a single level. But Peggle 2 never forces the really difficult trials upon you. There’s as much satisfaction to be had from just nailing all the orange pegs on the one of the ingeniously crafted levels as there is in going after all the rainbow trophies that you’re awarded for completing challenges. The delicate tones that emanate from each hit peg, the drum rolls, the way the camera zooms in as you’re about to hit the last orange peg, and the rapturous explosion of music and colour are all brilliantly designed to stimulate the senses, and give you a real feeling of accomplishment, even for the smallest of tasks.
Then there are the Peggle masters, each of them offering a different power up to help you along the way. There’s a greater visual focus on them this time, with each character getting the full body treatment, rather than being relegated to a headshot at the top of the screen. The results are absolutely hilarious. Play a Bjorn level and the colourful unicorn pulls the silliest of cringing faces as soon as you’re down to your last three balls; perform a particularly great shot and his horn transforms into a rock ‘n’ roll set of devil horns; and sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, he farts sparkles.
Bjorn is the only returning master this time, bringing his super guide power with him. The rest are all new and feature a bunch of inventive powers that do just enough to change the way a level plays out without undermining the core mechanics. Play a level featuring Berg the yeti and he freezes the screen, making the pegs slide around the screen when you hit them. Clever level design means there’s plenty of opportunity to rack up some really high scores by chaining a bunch of pegs together. And if you get a particularly high score, you’re treated to the awe-struck bleats of Berg’s goat friends and a dance from the yeti himself, complete with a pixelated picture of his rear end.
In the first Peggle, Splork and his explosion power tended to be the go-to choice for nailing the really high scores. His counterpart here is Gnorman, a little tin robot that gives you the ability to hit three pegs at once for some outrageous high scores. His power proves particularly useful on levels that feature new armored pegs, which need to be hit twice, and levels that feature bumpers, which let you bounce the ball back into active pegs for more points. In a small but welcome tweak, you don’t have to complete the entire game before being able go back and use a different master to tackle the level. Now, you unlock a master simply by making it to their level, which means you can take on the most tricky challenges much sooner this time around.
There are other little tweaks too, such as the colourful and imaginative backdrops, which are far more detailed than before, and the background music which gives a more sedate take on the different celebration themes of each character. Yes, this time you’re treated to more than just Ode To Joy, and while it’d be a shame to give all the new tunes away here, rest assured they’re just as well chosen, and just as shamelessly jubilant.
Indeed, it’s that shameless pursuit of making Peggle 2 as fun and as accessible as humanly possible–no matter how cheesy the cost–that I absolutely adore. It’s the very epitome of a pure gaming experience, one that can be as deep or as simple as you want it to be, and one that never loses sight of what makes it so appealing to so many people. Sure, the window dressing here plays its part in the fun as much as the core mechanics of the game do, but that’s no bad thing; that all important feeling of accomplishment comes from the slick visual payoffs and charming audio cues as much as is does from skilful shots. Peggle 2′s randomness simply isn’t an issue once you’re locked into the Peggle groove. It’s heaps of fun, totally absorbing, and such a wonderful place to be.
“Some men just want to watch the world burn,” he said, noting that the intent of the campaign was to force Bethesda’s hand to reveal Fallout 4 during Saturday night’s Spike VGX awards.
The website featured a countdown clock ending on December 11. The hoaxer said he had planned to release a CGI trailer for Fallout 4 when the clock reached zero. This trailer still exists, but he’s not planning to release it anytime soon.
“I’m one of these ‘selfish bastards with a lot of money’ so I wanted to release a CGI trailer,” he said. “But [Bethesda marketing executive Pete Hines] killed my plans. Maybe I’ll release it later along with the script, so somebody else can use it!”