EA pulls out of GDC 2020

TODAY: Overwatch Experimental Mode finally arrives on console — Rainbow Six Siege could be going free-to-play if Ubisoft can stop smurfing — The Creeper actually started out as a misshapen pig

GDC Taking Hits From Coronavirus

Publishers drop out of GDC 2020 and PAX East

EA has advised their staff to avoid GDC 2020 in San Fransisco according to EA employee Alex Sherer on LinkedIn. Sony, Oculus and Kojima Productions have also announced that they’ll be skipping the conference this year.

Capcom and Square Enix have also confirmed they will be not appear at PAX East. Square Enix specifically stated that their decision was made because of the coronavirus, while Capcom did not clarify why they decided to cancel their appearance.

  • Coronavirus has hit the gaming industry hard, with numerous esports events being canceled entirely
  • Several tech companies have pointed to coronavirus to explain why supplies are limited right now

EA issued a statement to Gamespot: “Having closely followed the global situation with Coronavirus and with the recent escalation of cases in new regions, we have decided to take additional steps to protect the wellbeing of our employees including the restriction of all non-essential travel.”

As a result, we are also canceling our official participation at GDC and limiting attendance to other events. We are continuing to monitor the situation and will adjust guidelines to our employees as we feel is appropriate.”

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

What animal mob in Minecraft accidentally served as the basis for the Creeper?

  • Pig
  • Chicken
  • Sheep
  • Wolf

The answer will be revealed at the bottom of today’s issue. Join up with our community on Twitter and Facebook to discuss what the answer could be.

Daily Fact

Not Your Father’s Xbox

The next Xbox is being prepped for launch later this year, so it’s a good time to look back on the original Xbox.

The first Xbox got its name from DirectX, a collection of Windows multimedia APIs including their graphics API Direct3D. The Xbox was powered by a variant of the Windows NT kernel, and featured a custom version of DirectX 8.1.

The console launched in November of 2001 at a $299 price point, which sounds nuts by today’s standards, but was most likely heavily subsidised to be competitive with the PlayStation 2. Bill Gates didn’t originally want to compete directly with PlayStation, and would prefer to collaborate with Sony. Sony, of course, declined and decided to stick to its guns. The rest, as they say, is history.

The original Xbox was also the first console to feature a built-in hard drive as well as an ethernet port. At the time, this raised a few eyebrows and was seen as evidence of Microsoft misunderstanding the console market, but these days every console features internet connectivity and internal storage.

Join up with our community on Twitter and Facebook to discuss today’s fact.

Overwatch Gets Experimental

Experimental mode for all platforms

The Overwatch team has decided to shake the game up by introducing a drastically different competitive style in the new Experimental mode.

The first change to be trialed is Triple Damage, a new take on role lock which changes Overwatch team composition from 2 damage, 2 support and 2 tanks to 3 damage, 2 support and 1 tank.

In theory, the change should make Overwatch a much more aggressive game. One of the biggest complaints about Overwatch as a spectator sport is the amount of barriers teams have to get through to make any progress. With one less tank in the mix, teams will find it much easier to break through fortresses without coordinating a full-team attack with multiple ultimates.

  • Experimental mode is available on every platform, so console players can finally try out the latest and greatest tweaks
  • Blizzard will focus on game balance after the Triple Damage test

Old dogs, new tricks: “Some heroes will be completely re-balanced,” said Kaplan in a recent interview. “But those changes only pertain to Triple Damage. If we stay with 2-2-2, we are gonna jettison those changes.” Blizzard has confirmed plans to rebalance Roadhog, Zarya, and D.Va in the Experimental mode, even going as far as to give some old characters new abilities.

Free-to-play Siege

Rainbow Six Siege going free-to-play?

Game Director Leroy Athanassoff has suggested that Rainbow Six Siege could go free-to-play.

“It’s a company decision. I think on the development team we want that at some point. We want the game to be accessible to everyone,” he told PC Gamer.

A major issue stopping Ubisoft from pulling the trigger right away is smurfing. For the uninitiated, smurfing means experienced players starting new accounts to stomp newbies. This understandably makes the game frustrating for new players, since a single smurf can turn a whole match into a one-sided massacre.

  • Valve and Blizzard have banned smurf accounts in Dota 2 and Overwatch
  • Smurfing itself isn’t necessarily a bannable offense, but accounts being boosted with the aid of smurfs is a big problem for developers

Athanassoff talks about stomping smurfs: “What’s important for us is that we find out as soon as possible that a player is highly skilled in the things that matter”.

In order to identify smurf accounts, Athanassoff wants to look closely at a player’s stats to identify experienced players. For example, a player with a low win rate but extremely high kill/death ratio would be a red flag suggesting a smurf account.

What Else Happened Today?

  • Fifth character introduced to Streets of Rage 4 alongside two-player online co-op and four-player local co-op.
  • CD Projekt Red promises free Cyberpunk 2077 upgrade from Xbox One version to Xbox Series X version
  • Bethesda pulls most of its games from GeForce Now: only Wolfenstein: Youngblood is still playable on Nvidia’s besieged service
  • Minecraft School for Witchcraft and Wizardry alpha has launched and is available as a free download
  • The Pokémon Global Link goes offline tonight at 23:59 UTC, thus disabling all the generation 7 game features that rely on it

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

What animal mob in Minecraft accidentally served as the basis for the Creeper?

Answer: Pig!

Sometimes the most iconic inventions are nothing more than happy accidents. While Markus “Notch” Persson was working on the pig in Minecraft, he accidentally mixed up the height and length for its model.

The resulting model was long, thin and decidedly not pig-shaped. The weird shape became the inspiration for the Creeper, which became synonymous not just with terror and explosions, but with Minecraft as a whole.

The Creeper practically became the Minecraft mascot, and appeared on an avalanche of merchandise. It’s hard to imagine Minecraft without Creepers, and there is a lesson to be learned here: Don’t immediately throw away your mistakes. There might be a billion dollar merchandising opportunity in it!

Today’s issue of DailyBits was written by Gavin Herman, Erlend Grefsrud, Christian Vaz and Jamie Davey.