In other words, everyone keeps playing and talking about Spelunky ever since its July debut on Xbox Live. But what if you really need to get yourself killed in new and creative ways when you're someplace with no Xbox 360? What if you desperately need to sacrifice someone during a moment of downtime at work?
You're now in luck. That's just what the HTML5 browser version of the game is for. It's by developer Darius Kazemi and while it's not perfected yet—there's no persistence for saving, and it doesn't have sound—but it's playable. And fun. And disturbingly addictive. Unlike many people, I am allowed to play video games at work, but I should probably stay away from this one. Because I can try it again, and again, and again...
Spelunky HTML5 [Tiny Subversions]
Joining the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts, developers and online retailers Valve have announced changes to Steam's subscriber agreement that seek to prohibit users from filing lawsuits against the company.
Saying that they "considered this change very carefully", a Valve statement explains that "It's clear to us that in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers. In far too many cases however, class actions don't provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims."
"Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities. We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole."
On the one hand, they have a point! Many class action lawsuits are a waste of everyone's time and a pain in the ass. But what happens if something terrible happens to Steam one day, and there are actually grounds to instigate such a case? As the statement reads, in some situations, class action lawsuits do benefit customers. By removing that option, they're essentially depriving you, as a consumer, of a valid means of protecting your rights and gaining compensation should Valve one day mess something up.
In addition to the attempted block on class-action suits - remember, some American states are questioning the legality of these kind of clauses - Valve is also trying to put a stop to users launching individual lawsuits against the company, instead introducing "a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute."
This sucks. Why? You normally can't appeal the findings of a private arbitration hearing, nor is there an independent or public means of reviewing an arbitrator's decisions. Such hearings are also designed to be conducted privately, out of the public eye.
The move ensures that even if Valve screws something up, or something terrible happens to Steam and/or your games collection, any compensation or dispute will be handled on their terms, not those of a court and jury.
Should you actually need to resolve a dispute via such a hearing, "Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount". Also, "Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator's decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable."
You can read the new agreement in its entirety here. Importantly, it appears that, much like Microsoft's changes, there is no "opt-out" clause.
The new agreement is part of a Steam update that has already gone live.
Graffiti's played an important part in video games since early days, especially on console. Who can forget Jet Grind Radio's neon-colored spray paint? And, of course, Marc Ecko's Getting Up centered its entire essence on the politics around graf writing.
But upcoming PS3 game Papo & Yo might boast the most painterly street art ever. As shown off on the official PlayStation blog, the adornments on the buildings in Minority's magical realist adventure will sport the work of three real-life celebrity graf artists from Latin America:
Sebastian Navarro (AKA Charquipunk), Simon Paulo Arancibia Gutierrez (AKA La Robot de Madera) and Inti Castro (AKA INTI) are the three celebrity graffiti artists lending their work to Papo & Yo. Charquipunk is known for his intricately detailed large-scale designs of cats and birds, while La Robot de Madera focuses on elaborate portraits. INTI is known for his work with kusillo, the Altiplano carnival clown whose costumes consist of clothing scraps. When they collaborate, which is often, each artist's style is still distinct, but their synergy is electric.
It seems like there's not going be any kind of game mechanics attached to the artists' work. I like that the trio's contributions are there to add eye-popping touchstones to the real world in the a surrealist game. Papo & Yo will be one hell of a visual feast when it comes out in two weeks.
"I don't want to get too into detail right now, because we've got a lot of stuff coming down the road," Jason Argent, the vice president of marketing for 2K Sports, told Kotaku. "But when we got into this, we really wanted everyone's expertise to lead us, so the things Jay-Z is an expert at are what we weighed the most."
Jay-Z, also a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, is aboard apparently because he's a big fan of the series. NBA 2K is rightly a big seller, year round, and has cultivated a strong portfolio of celebrity backers over the past couple of years, particularly through social media. Argent said 2K Sports reached out to Jay-Z about partnering up, but after initial meetings that explored a traditional endorsement or promotional arrangement, "neither of us really wanted that.
"One of the most important things to both of us is that this would be a true collaborative effort," Argent said.
NBA 2K13's Soundtrack:
• Ali in the Jungle-The Hours
• Blow the Whistle (Main)—Too Short
• I Ain't No Joke—Eric B. and Rakim
• Pump it Up (Freestyle)—Jay-Z
• Victory (feat. Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes)—Puff Daddy and the Family
• Around The World (Radio Edit)—Daft Punk
• Shove It (feat. Spank Rock)—Santigold
• Amazing—Kanye West
• Run This Town—Jay-Z
• Stillness is the Move—The Dirty Projectors
• The World is Yours—Nas
• Viva La Vida—Coldplay
• We Live in Brooklyn, Baby—Roy Ayers
• The Bounce—Jay-Z
• We Major (feat. Nas & Really Doe)—Kanye West
• Shook Ones, Pt. II—Mobb Deep
• Ima Boss – Instrumental—Meek Mill
• Mercy (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz)—Kanye West
• On To The Next One—Jay-Z
• Public Service Announcement—Jay-Z
• H.A.M. (Instrumental)—Jay-Z
So Jay-Z didn't just curate the game's soundtrack (at right). "The level of detail he wanted to talk about—down the road, you'll find out about some of the ideas he had—was really surprising," Argent insisted. "Getting a phone call from Jay-Z in the middle of the day, with him saying 'You know, here's something I've been thinking about,' is a surreal experience."
Argent referred a couple of times to professional basketball as a sport where the intersection of lifestyle, competition and culture is more visible than in other sports. It would seem that Jay-Z coming aboard would help deepen NBA 2K's appeal as a broader lifestyle product, as opposed to a hardcore sports simulation.
I figured that a natural fit for Jay-Z's creativity would be in developing the storylines, contexts and role-playing features of NBA 2K's "My Player" mode, in which a player controls a single NBA star through his entire career. Argent acknowledged the point but wouldn't budge on what areas of the game are getting the Jay-Z treatment, nor when I asked if, as executive producer, Jay-Z had any override authority on gameplay features.
"If we took Jay-Z out of the equation here, 100 percent you'd see the gameplay has taken an incredible leap forward," Argent said. That suggested to me that the Visual Concepts team responsible for core gameplay features wasn't the unit most involved with Jay-Z.
But having the hip-hop superstar as a playable character in the game doesn't seem to be on the table either. "That didn't feel authentic to the game of basketball," Argent said. "We chose each other as partners on this to add to the presentation side of things." That would mean Jay-Z's influence will be seen in the introductions and epilogues bracketing games played in all of NBA 2K13's modes.
"We're looking on it as NBA 2K, but through the eyes of Jay-Z," Argent said.
Kotaku columnist and actress Lisa Foiles recently told readers about A Fistful of Rupees, a Zelda-themed spaghetti western. This is the official trailer, but for background, check out Lisa's behind-the-scenes report.
The three-part Fistful of Rupees will premiere on the GameStation's YouTube channel starting August 7.
The executives at Take Two Interactive, publisher of such video game franchises as Grand Theft Auto, BioShock and Civilization take questions from investors every three months. The major bosses of all publicly-traded companies do this. Usually they don't take prank phone calls. Today, they did.
(Image inspired by the clean-thinking chaps at Game Developer/Gamasutra.)
This video has been making the rounds today. It's pretty hilarious. Worth at least 3 minutes and 19 seconds of your time. Even if you don't want to work for Kixeye.
QuakeCon 2012 is coming up in just a few days. It's a huge LAN party, featuring well-known speakers and panelists, and sprawling over Dallas. The roster of games, of course, features Quake tournaments but other games make a showing as well. This year, the online battle arena game Smite is one of a handful of competitive titles slated to be playable.
Rajan Zed, of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has put out a statement asking the organizers of QuakeCon to consider withdrawing Smite from the competition line-up. The statement asserts, in part:
Reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees. Controlling and manipulating goddess Kali and other Hindu deities with a joystick/ button/keyboard/mouse was denigration. Goddess Kali and other Hindu deities were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not meant to be reduced to just a "character" in a video game to be used in combat in the virtual battleground.
This isn't the first time Zed and the Universal Society of Hinduism have expressed dismay over the way Hindu deities, particularly the goddess Kali, are portrayed in Smite. A handful of other religious leaders have backed Zed's statements, and there are essays out there explaining how the use of existing deities in Smite is an uncomfortable kind of cultural appropriation.
Hi-Rez Studios have no plans to remove Hindu deities from the game. They have also explained in the past why they deliberately avoided featuring any figures from the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). The reasoning? "The key Abrahamic figures—Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, are not that interesting in character design or gameplay."
One might argue that the ability to part the Red Sea is, in fact, the sort of thing that would make interesting gameplay. One might further do the math and realize that while there are approximately three million practicing Hindus in the United States, there are something on the order of 200 million Christians—it's an audience segment most developers will want to avoid making angry.
QuakeCon may not be the biggest convention in gaming, but it's far from tiny. Past years have seen over 8500 attendees show up for the free weekend, competing for prizes as high as $16,000. This year's con starts on Thursday, August 2. Id and Bethesda are both sponsors of the event, as is Hi-Rez, the studio behind Smite and Tribes: Ascend (also playable at the con). Major hardware companies, including Intel, also sponsor the event.
The Universal Society of Hinduism, meanwhile, appears to be sadly non-universal. While the goals of the organization are laudable, their website appears to be mostly under construction and has not been updated in some time. However, Zed and the Society are not alone in their criticism.
The Hindu American Foundation has also been in discussion with Hi-Rez Studios about the inclusion and portrayal of Kali and other Hindu figures. Kotaku asked the Foundation for comment. Sheetal Shah, speaking on behalf of the Foundation, indicated that they have played the beta test of the game, and continue to "strongly oppose" the way Smite features Hindu figures. "Hinduism is the only living and active tradition" of the five featured in the game, Shah added, and, "testing the game did not change our position that the Hindi deities should be removed."
However, Shah confirmed, Hi-Rez is working with the HAF to ensure that the information about Hinduism as spread by Smite is, at least, accurate:
In particular, we felt Kali's imagery, victory dance, and death scene were disrespectful. Despite our request, Hi-Rez choose to keep them in. But we do credit Todd's [Harris, COO of Hi-Rez] genuine effort to work with us and to incorporate our suggestions to ensure the representation of the three deities (and Bakasura) are accurate. We also provided a number of online Hinduism resources that Hi-Rez has agreed to post on their user forum to help disseminate accurate information about Hinduism. As per my last conversation with Todd, I believe Kali's current victory and death scenes will be altered to be more respectful of a Goddess that is worshiped by millions of Hindus.
In summary, we are still distressed that the Hindu deities are included - while noting, that no deities of any other major faith are included - but we do acknowledge that Hi-Rez has actively worked with us to disseminate accurate information on Hinduism.
Shah also indicated that the Hindu American Foundation plans to issue a press release detailing the organization's position on Smite later this week.
Previous criticisms of Smite have in the past kicked up mild controversies over the concept of free expression in gaming. While Hi-Rez is of course free to make any game they wish, and to encourage as many players as possible to make purchases (the base game is free-to-play), it is worth taking the time to look at the way that mainstream American culture treats unfamiliar faiths. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Norse pantheons have become playgrounds for storytellers, in large part because there are no second-century pagan Romans around to lodge strong objections. But as Zed and Shah both point out, there are roughly a billion practicing Hindus in the world today. Surely it is worth Hi-Rez's time at least to hear them out.
But meanwhile, QuakeCon starts Thursday, and Smite, in its current form, will almost certainly still be on deck for participants to play during the festivities.
In today's dream-fueled episode of Speak Up on Kotaku, amazingly-named commenter Mr. Allspark wants to give you all of the money in the world, hypothetically.
I have a question for you. What kind of nerdy/video game related things would you do if you were rich?
And I'm talking rich. That Scrooge McDuck swimming-pool-full-of-gold rich. Richie Rich my-dalmation-has-goddamn-dollar-sign-spots rich. Jay-Z "What's 50 grand to a mothafucka like me, can you please remind me?" rich.
The possibilities are endless, so the question is... what would you do?