Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds leaderboards will reset every month (at least, until release) – gamesread.com

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds leaderboards will reset every month (at least, until release) - gamesread.com

I’m only posting news about Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds [official site] because our resident PlunkBatters – Alice, Graham and Adam – are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they are playing right now? All of them, unwisely traipsing together across an open field together. Suddenly, BAM. Graham is down – a shot to the ribcage. Alice hits the dirt, shouting directions. Adam tries to run to the nearest shrub, but is ambushed by a man hiding in an overturned jeep. BAM. A rifle round in the belly. Alice, friendless and surrounded, weighs her options and reloads her machine gun with a fresh magazine. It’s time to take out the tra–

BAM.

She never saw the man who killed her. A single 9mm bullet to the back of the skull. He looms over her corpse. It’s Brendan Greene, the Playerunknown himself. He takes a drag of an almost-finished cigarette. “We will be resetting the leaderboards,” he says, flicking the spent cig onto Alice’s cadaver, “on the first of each month in order to test new ranking algorithms and ELO changes.”

For normal people, this news came in the form of a community update, in which the developer explained the reasoning for the monthly leaderboard wipes, starting in just a few days on August 1, as well as how they’ll work in practice.

All data from the previous seasons is saved, and while we don’t have a history system yet, moving forward we will enable this in the game and you can view your match records from the previous seasons.

Each month, before the reset, we will have 24 hours of unranked matches as we backup, and update the leaderboard system…

We understand that these seasons may seem short, but for us to fully balance the ELO ranking system, we need to update frequently based on data from the previous seasons’ rankings.

As expected, the fiddling with the battle royale game continues. A patch that was supposed to happen this week has been delayed and is now expected on August 3. It’s going to add some fashionable tracksuits and suchlike, which we knew about, but also a quite-large machine gun which we didn’t know about. Pew pew pew pew!

Recent problems including a weird aiming bug and some network lag issues have also received hotfixes in advance of the bigger patch, say the developers. So Alice, Adam and Graham have absolutely no excuse for dying in such a cowardly and unrefined fa–

BAM.

[Brendan’s corpse slumps over the keyboard, the computer screen covered in blood, brain and half-finished word documents. Behind him, Playerunknown lights a fresh cigar with a flaming £50 note.

He winks at the camera]

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun – gamesread.com

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun - gamesread.com

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Viscera Cleanup Detail [official site].

Viscera Cleanup Detail is a game about cleaning. You’ll wash blood and slime from floors and walls and pick up rubbish, bullet casings and body parts. Your slop will spill, your ichor-covered boots will leave prints over surfaces you’ve worked hard to scrub, and you’ll drop an oozing limb just as you thought you’d made things right.

It’s brutal, menial work, and every feature and level is designed to make it extra fraught with problems. “A main theme is that everything in the world hates you, or is at least indifferent,” developer Nolan Richert tells me. “The noble janitor has a miserable job to do and no one cares or witnesses their struggle. They only complain about the results. It’s inspired by real life, you see.”

Also it’s fun, thanks to a set of tools that do all they can to hinder your attempts to just do your damn job.

THE MECHANIC: Physics bins and buckets and mops

When you get down to it, a lot of games are about cleaning. Tetris, Doom, destroying your enemy’s base in StarCraft. They’re about dealing with complications and tidying them away to restore or instigate order. Viscera Cleanup Detail hinges on that very idea, while also being based on what happens after that attempt to clean up. Arn Richert (RuneStorm comprises three brothers) says the very first concept was, “Why not be the guy who has to clean up after a big old space station mess?”

It all kind of cascaded from there. Physics wasn’t explicitly part of that original idea, but, well, if you’re going to have body parts, crates and trash to pick up, physically simulating them was a natural extension. Nolan started to implement bloodstains and a mop to clean them, and began working out how to allow players to pick up chunks of meat and move them around. And in an organic process of adding things that responded to the core concept and watching how they affected the game, physics kind of started taking over.

“We needed a bucket, because you had to transport something around to clean your mop,” says Arn. “So since you’d have to pick it up, it was simulated. We added water to it, and since it was simulated, we had to make sure it would spill. Bins went similarly. We wanted a container that you could use to place things you picked up and could transport for incineration. So we made an object, simulated it and tried it out. Having an actual bin that could be filled with other physics objects? Brilliant! So what started off as us just ticking boxes turned into a game-wide layer we hadn’t planned.”

From it all emerged a comedy of errors, a meeting of slapstick and industrial cleaning services. Players could now tip their buckets over or pick up a bin and send its contents spilling. Game physics are inherently funny, their mathematical unruliness complementing the out-of-body awkwardness that stems from games’ 2D visuals, lack of sensory input and crude controls.

Physics also opened up strategies for play. Creatively stacking objects could grant access to wider areas of the level, while throwing objects became a quick way of getting them to the incinerator. And physics also added challenge, with various tools requiring great care to be effective, causing even more mess if handled badly.

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun - gamesread.com

It was quite enough to force Nolan to solve how physics would actually function. “I still have nightmares about that shit,” he says.

A big issue was that the game would be supporting online multiplayer. Because they’re expensive to calculate, physics are calculated locally rather than on the server, and that means that for two people playing together, an object will often end up sitting in different locations on their two machines. That’s fine for decorative details, but for things that are directly related to play, it is not fine at all.

Viscera Cleanup Detail’s bin was where this issue found a particularly terrible focus. “Unreal Engine 3’s physics engine was probably not intended for simulating containers,” says Nolan. “Its physics in general is not designed seriously for multiplayer but we combined those things to create the perfect storm. Bins in some multiplayer tests were amazing things to behold. A yellow box held by a staggering janitor would continuously spew forth a fountain of shell casings, bloody limbs, chunks of viscera and everything else.”

That’s because the network correction system would teleport spilling objects back into the bins, causing them to issue an infinite fountain of the things.

But simply taming game physics outside of multiplayer was a challenge, too. The aim was for the game to feel ‘solid’. “That means feedback and accuracy,” says Nolan. “When you do something to an object it must respond immediately and the result must be very readable, so the player can read the change in the situation.”

This lead to exaggerating the proportion of objects. Bullet casings are, in fact, enormous, and so is the bin, so they’re highly visible and less fiddly to handle, and also less prone to problems such as working their way out of the game world or getting stuck.

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun - gamesread.com

And there was plenty of changing values to see what felt right. One object that took a lot of tweaking was the bucket; specifically, what forces would cause it to tip over. It had to definitely tip if a clumsy player walked into or dropped it, but shouldn’t if it was brushed. It also had to set down firmly on gentle slopes, and stay steady if someone stood on it. The answer was adjusting its centre of mass so it was bottom-heavy, but every little tweak had to be checked against all the things players do with buckets, such has how hard the mop pushes against it when you dip it inside, how your momentum affects it, and how much thrown objects would disturb it.

The mop caused its own challenges. Though blood and grime on the walls is rendered with decals, the same way it usually is in games, in Viscera Cleanup Detail they have to be more dynamic, remaining indefinitely in the world, able to be modified and sharing that state with other players. And they have to have collision detection so the game knows they’re being hit with the mop.

The cleaning system works by setting saturation levels. Each blood splat on a wall or floor has a value for the amount of fluid in it, and each hit of the mop depletes that value, and adds a value to its own saturation level. Once that saturation level reaches a threshold, the mop no longer cleans and instead applies the mess back into the world, so it has to be cleaned in the bucket, which itself has a saturation level. What’s neat is that the mess caused by a bucket spilling is proportional to how saturated it is, though the bucket always causes less mess than what was inside it. The game isn’t entirely malevolent.

The mop is one of Viscera Cleanup Detail’s immediate appeals, flopping and wobbling as you move. “To me it helps to bridge the gap between the player and the physical world of the game,” says Nolan. “The physics of the mop respond to your input immediately and show that your input affects physics in the game directly. After players see the mop, the fact that other things respond with similar physics is more intuitive.”

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun - gamesread.com

It helps that Arn’s work on the mop’s sound design is so squelchily pleasing. “For sounds you’d hear all the time, like using the hands and mopping, I needed something that felt good each time you used them, but also didn’t stick out too much,” he tells me. “The gloves’ squelch, the mop’s watery slosh, the grinding feel when your mop is painting blood.” He recorded almost all the sound effects himself; the mop’s splats are a combination of hitting wet ground and footsteps on wet ground, lightly hitting water in a bucket, some general impacts, such as hitting concrete with stick, “And I think there was also a touch of the mic hitting foliage.”

Nolan doesn’t remember whether the mop was always meant to be physics-enabled, but he shows me a concept drawing of the janitor with a mop from the start of the project. The mop is identical and absolutely calls out to be made from physics tentacles.

“That is probably a pattern we had throughout,” says Nolan. “Various mechanics were not going to use physics simulation according to their initial design, but when implementing we tried using physics and it stuck because it made the thing more interesting, even though it made development much harder at just about every turn.”

Worth it, though. The brothers’ hard work found the fun in all the hard work you get to play.

Slow stabber Immortal Planet is out now – gamesread.com

Slow stabber Immortal Planet is out now - gamesread.com

I wrote about isometric action-RPG Immortal Planet [official site] two months ago when a release date was announced: based on early gameplay footage I liked what I saw, but I wasn’t sure about the combat, which looked repetitive. Well it’s just come out for real now, and the launch trailer suggests the swordplay might be more varied than I first thought.

It’s a ‘Souls-like’ (drink) game based on slow-paced melee combat. You’re not going to rush in whirling your sword around your head and hope for the best: you have to dodge and block enemy attacks and manage your rapidly-depleting stamina bar, as well as strike when enemies are tired. I like the aesthetic, and it’s from the creator of turn-based stealth hack-and-slash Ronin, which was rather good.

The new trailer is below. It looks like there’s actually a good range of attacks and dodges to use, as well as lots of different weapons (there’s a sword that transforms into a trident at 00:31):

Each level has a single checkpoint, so you drop in and start exploring. If you die, you go back to the start and lose experience, but you can pick that experience back up at the spot you died. There’s “multi-stage struggles” with bosses at the end of the level, too, and lots of options for character customisation.

Here’s a little more on the combat, which seems to be the standout bit:

“Patience and focus are much more important than reflexes. Block, dodge and tackle enemies while managing your stamina. You can see enemy stamina and exploit it to stun them when they are exhausted.”

If that more cautious approach tickles your fancy, it’s on Steam and GOG for £9.89/13,49€/$13.49, which includes a 10% discount until Thursday.

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

Welcome to the third communal Combat Mission skirmish – a comment-driven confrontation between RPS readers and CM’s decidedly dangerous AI. Turns span 60 seconds and rarely go according to plan. Late-war and Eastern Front, this summer’s scrap takes place in a German-held Baltic port. Fourteen turns in, the commenter-controlled Soviets have lost all but one of their core AFVs, but are in possession
of three of the map’s seven victory locations (West Bridge, East Bridge, Square)

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

Three distinct engagements make up turn 15.

Engagement 1

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

In the west, under continual fire from Flare Path, the New Wharf AA gun falls silent at approximately T+30. Is it dead or merely suppressed?

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

FP decides to err on the side of caution and keep pounding away.

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

The Soviet AT gun, on the other hand, seems to think its inept nemesis has flung its last 20mm shell and swings its barrel eastward, harassing infantry targets on Old Wharf.

Engagement 2

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

Myshkov and his two closest squads enter the church at p23 and the building at o24 like heavily-armed, unusually grubby ghosts.

For a few tense seconds it appears the structures are empty.

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

But the Germans haven’t fled. Well, not all of them anyway. Seconds before the turn ends, an Ivan advancing down a brass-strewn corridor finds his path blocked by a makeshift furniture barricade. Behind the barricade crouches a rifle-toting fusilier – one of eight in the church. Next door the danger is al fresco and unquantifiable at present.

Engagement 3

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

Renko hears the SPGs before he sees them. The StuG is alarmingly close and moving closer every second. The… StuH 42 assault howitzer behind it looks to be taking up an overwatch position on the railway crossing. Realising he won’t have time to warn the pioneers downstairs, the sharpshooter sends a slug StuH-ward. The hurried missive misses its target but provokes a flurry of hatch slamming.

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

Downstairs Myshkov’s men are spotted and sprayed with MG fire before they can secrete themselves. At this point most sensible StuG commanders would stop and get busy with the HE. Our StuG commander decides to keep coming.

At the close of turn 15…

*Renko (m26) has a birds-eye, close-range view of a turning StuG (l25, l26).

*On the floor below, one of Myshkov’s squads (1 x molotov, 2 x demo charge) is hiding.

*In the church (p23) and adjoining building (o24) the rest of Myshkov’s men are in CQB.

*The weary tank hunter team has reached t25 and is heading for r25.

gamesread | Communal Combat Mission: Turn 15

*Lapshin’s squads are in the process of redeploying into buildings s16, s17, and r18. (click to enlarge above image)

*Flare Path, the OT-34, continues to fire on the New Wharf gun.

*Having crossed West Bridge, the M5 halftrack (s15) is molesting a platoon HQ near a roadblock at m13.

*The BA-64 is idle at w15.

*The AT gun is idle at bb10.

Turn 16 orders here, please.

The Nintendo Switch Online App Just Hit the App Store on gamesread


Ahead of the launch of Splatoon 2 this Friday for the Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo Switch Online [Free] companion app is now live. It’s a super quick download, and seems to seamlessly link to your Nintendo account… But (as of this writing) it doesn’t seem to do a whole lot yet. I can sort of link my account, then it tells me the service is down for maintenance.

Regardless, if you want to get ahead of the game, you can go ahead and grab it right now. Once the service is fully functional you’ll be able to use the app to do voice chat with Nintendo friends as well as use the various social networks to find and invite people into your game. I’m still not super sold that it’s a better solution to having a full-featured dashboard for the Switch like the Xbox and PlayStation have, but, eh, we’ll see how it works in practice.

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Anyway, I’ll be rapidly switching back and forth between being a kid and a squid later this week, and I’m super curious how the app voice chat is going to be any better than just using Discord.

gamesread | Inside The University Of Utah's First-Of-Its-Kind Varsity Esports Program

Compete’s video team headed to the University of Utah to check out their varsity esports program, which began as a League of Legends fan club that grew into the student-run organization Crimson Gaming, which helped pave the way for the school’s official scholarship program for budding pro gamers. (UPDATE: 5:00 pm- This paragraph has been updated to clarify Crimson Gaming’s beginnings.)

The University of Utah is part of the Pac-12 conference, and according to Robert Kessler, executive director of the school’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering program, the Pac-12 has “been talking about the idea of having a conference-wide league for esports. But it hasn’t been able to get everybody to agree to all the details. So we decided … we might as well jump into this.”

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Compete also spoke to Angie Klingsieck, the Executive Director of Crimson Gaming, as well as Crimson Gaming’s Competitive Director Jordan Runyan, about the student-run organization’s growth over the past few years. The school’s devotion to League of Legends caught the attention of Riot Games as well as University of Utah’s administration. According to A.J. Dimick, the director of operations for University of Utah Esports, the “grassroots movement of these students” led to the eventual foundation of the school’s program, which they hope will inspire similar programs at other schools.

This is the latest episode in our new season of Compete videos. Last week’s video profiled the Southern California fighting games scene, and our debut Compete video profiled medical experts who keep esports pros healthy.

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VIDEO CREDITS:
Executive Producer
Fritzie Andrade

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Senior Producer
Anastasia Weeks

Producer
Zoe Stahl

Associate Producer
John Dargan

Shooter
Mitch Blummer

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Editor
Anders Kapur

Graphics
Devin Clark

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Writers
Maddy Myers
Eric Van Allen

Additional Consultation from Editor-In-Chiefs
Stephen Totilo
Tim Marchman

Event footage and photography courtesy of
Han Yang
Crimson Gaming

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Footage from
Yahoo Sports

gamesread – If They Don't Want To Get Screwed, Esports Players Should Study MLB History

Photo credit: AP

As more and more money has flooded into the esports industry, player rights have been a hot topic across multiple games. Careers in esports can be extremely short, making it all the more important to ensure that players receive their fair share of the profits their work generates. With that in mind, Riot Games, producer of League of Legends and proprietor of the wildly popular League Championship Series, recently announced a plan to create and fund a player’s association, a group that will perform many of the functions associated with a union and will be the first of its kind in esports.

According to Riot’s description of the plan, the company will be “providing pros the resources to set up a Players’ Association.” The players will vote on representatives who will take part in league decisionmaking. (Riot says players will be choosing from “a short list of representatives” that will be presented to the players in June, and the players will have the option of rejecting any and all candidates provided and electing whoever they like.) Once formed, the association will provide legal help, career-planning advice, and represent the players in what Riot calls “tri-party” negotiations between Riot, team owners, and the players themselves.

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While this sounds at first like excellent news for players, League of Legends players—and those in esports run by similarly large corporations such as Blizzard, which owns Overwatch, and Valve, which owns Dota 2—should be highly wary of any sort of company involvement in a player’s association. The conflict of interest inherent in a company running its own union is why such arrangements are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. Section 8(a)(2) of the law forbids establishment and control of a “company union” and makes it illegal for employers “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.”

Chris Greeley of Riot league operations tells me that what Riot is funding is not a union but rather a professional association, “an organization that can serve many different purposes (including negotiating on behalf of ‘the profession’),” and also notes that the players are employed by teams (i.e. Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming) rather than by Riot itself. Greeley adds:

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“The Players’ Association that the players are currently exploring would be established by the players’ representative as a professional association. At some point in the future if the players decided that they want to unionize and register with the NLRB, they will have the option to forgo Riot funding and self-fund. It is our expectation and our hope that that happens at some point in the future, but in the meantime this association is designed to give the players a seat at the table and make sure that we’re aware of and responding to the things that are important to them.”

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I asked William Gould IV of Stanford, an expert in entertainment and sports law, if he thought Riot’s explanation passed muster. “The National Labor Relations Act doesn’t apply simply to so-called unions. It applies to any labor organization,” Gould told me over the phone on Monday. “Therefore, it appears that this ‘association’ is a labor organization and would be covered by the statute.

“The underlying point here is that the organization, the group, is a labor organization within the meaning of the act, and it’s unlawful to provide assistance—financial assistance or support for it. The fact that players are employed by the teams, well, that’s generally true, but that’s not dispositive of these two basic questions. Any association that involves relationships with an employer over working conditions as well as other aspects of employment is a labor organization within the meaning of the law. A company giving financial support or other forms of support of such organizations is a violation of the law. I think that the problem here is that this party would be, at a minimum, viewed to be an agent of the respective teams.”

Call it a union, an association, a council, or whatever you want—any sort of worker’s group supported by the boss should be met with heavy skepticism. Specifically, there should be concern over the fact that the players will have to forego Riot’s funded players association if they wish to go independent and form a union. It’s naive to expect that the existence of a Riot-funded association won’t discourage the players from going the more expensive and difficult route of forming their own independent union. And independence is critical when it comes to ensuring the players earn the full value of their work.

The early days of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association offer a perfect lesson in why that independence is so important. Prior to the official formation of the Player’s Association under executive director Marvin Miller in 1965, players had no official group or headquarters. As Miller wrote in his autobiography, A Whole Different Ball Game, all they had was “a filing cabinet in the office of a players’ licensing agent named Frank Scott.” In 1959, ownership had convinced the players to bring on one of their men, Milwaukee judge Robert Cannon, as an advisor. Cannon was entirely in the owners’ pockets and routinely bragged about baseball having the “finest relationship between players and management in the history of the sport.”

Marvin Miller meets with Joe Niekro and Nolan Ryan in 1980. Photo credit: AP

That fine relationship produced atrocious working conditions. Players told Miller that playing fields and locker rooms were so poorly kept as to be dangerous, that the players hadn’t received a raise when the schedule was increased by eight games in the early 1960s, and that the players’ pension plan was virtually nonexistent. The minimum salary had remained stagnant for nearly two decades, stuck at $6,000 since 1946—a pittance for a group of workers expected to maintain separate homes for spring training and the regular season. Major League Baseball’s revenue had steadily grown over the previous 20 years, but more and more players were finding themselves having to take second jobs just to keep the dream alive. Cannon’s input, naturally, was to tell the players they were lucky to get to play the greatest game known to man.

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Much as Riot promises to fund the start of their League of Legends association, Major League Baseball planned to fund the Player’s Association with $150,000 drawn from the All-Star Game’s revenue, with one-third of that slated for the executive director’s salary. As Miller ran for the office of executive director during spring training of the 1966 season, he found that ownership was not done meddling in union matters—ownership had been pushing none other than Judge Cannon as a candidate for the position, and working hard to flip team managers and players to their side.

As Miller made the rounds on the West Coast, he found that he was the target of a significant sabotage campaign. Throughout his West Coast swing, Miller found himself inundated with questions, mostly from team managers, suggesting he was unfit to lead the player’s union. (Notably, Cleveland Indians manager Birdie Tebbets accused Miller of being a communist.) With the managers conducting the votes—another conflict of interest—Miller was rebuked by a 102-17 vote by the five teams that conducted spring training on the West Coast.

Luckily for Miller, things changed when he headed to Florida, where the majority of MLB teams conducted spring training at the time. Players like Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, the man who asked Miller to run in the first place, had been drilling home the importance of an independent players’ association and refused to allow the kind of mishandling of the vote that occurred out west. Had it not been for their efforts, the Major League Baseball Player’s Association very likely would have been run by Cannon or some other owners’ man. MLB had even tried to convince the players to hire Richard Nixon as their general counsel. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining Nixon pushing for a robust pension plan for baseball players.

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Without somebody like Miller, previously a high-ranking member of the Steelworkers’ Union, one of the nation’s most powerful, labor-management relations in baseball may well have continued as they did for the game’s first century of existence: Fine as can be for the owners, with the players told they’re lucky to get anything at all. There’s no reason League of Legends players should expect anything else in their dealings with Riot. Ownership will always act with their own best interests in mind. They cannot be counted on to do anything else. It is as Miller told the New York Yankees as he campaigned for the executive director position in spring of 1966:

“I want you to understand that this is going to be an adversarial relationship. A union is not a social club. A union is a restraint on what an employer can otherwise do. If you expect the owners to like me, to praise me, to compliment me, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, if I’m elected and you find the owners telling you what a great guy I am, fire me! Don’t hesitate, because it can’t be that way if your director is doing his job. The owners loved Judge Cannon. Don’t make the same mistake with your executive director.”

Miller wrote his autobiography in 1992, 25 years after his MLBPA project began. By that point, average salaries were roughly 50 times higher, the average salary roughly 16 times higher, and top-level salaries were roughly 30 times higher. In the 25 years since then, the league’s revenue and player compensation have both continued to skyrocket. None of the union’s major victories—like the death of the reserve clause, which bound players to teams permanently, or the institution of a robust pension plan that guarantees health insurance for anybody who puts in even a single day of MLB service time—would have been possible without a truly independent union.

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League of Legends players and those in other esports have a desperate need for some form of labor protection. But what Riot Games—a company union, to all appearances, whatever name it goes by—is not the solution. Miller was absolutely right when he said that the relationship between employer and employee is inherently adversarial, and there is no special reason to believe that Riot will live up to its stated intent to let the association become independent when it has a financial stake in its creation. Indeed, this is why the law expressly forbids company-backed labor organizations. A League of Legends player’s association is an admirable goal, but if it is to succeed in the way the Major League Baseball Player’s Association succeeded in the second half of the 20th century, it must be an effort truly by and for the players, not one made with ownership constantly looking over their shoulders.

Jack Moore is a freelance sportswriter living and working in Minneapolis. Catch him playing competitive Sm4sh under the tag Jackie Peanuts.

gamesread – Clutch Baron Steal In League Match Is Almost Better Than Winning

Securing a Baron kill can often swing a game of League of Legends in either team’s favor. In today’s matches in the League Master Series in Taiwan, ahq e-Sports’ jungle player made a flashy play to take the advantage for himself.

In a best-of-three against Flash Wolves, ahq had lost their mid player and were trying to contest Baron Nashor, the large purple beast that grants a boost in power to whatever team manages to take it down.

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Waiting patiently in the bushes, jungle player Hsue “Mountain” Chao-Hong waited until the most opportune moment to strike. Taking advantage of Lee Sin’s mobility options and his Smite spell, Hsue zipped in and stole the Baron for his team.

Lee Sin is a very mobile champion, as he can both dash to enemies using his Q ability and to allies or wards using his W. Combining that with Flash, a universal spell that allows players to teleport a short distance, Hsue was able to dash in from afar, before Flash Wolves’ jungle player was able to use their own Smite to secure the Baron kill.

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Ahq would go on to lose the game to Flash Wolves, and the series closed out 2-1 in Flash Wolves’ favor. LMS matches are wrapped up for the day, but Europe and North America battle on in week four of the summer split throughout the weekend on the EU and NA LCS channels.

gamesread | Inside The Growing Coaching Industry Supporting League Of Legends Teams

Image credit: LoL Esports/Flickr 

Competitive League of Legends has grown past just the five-player line-up. Coaching staff and more people in charge of training, guiding, and managing players are becoming necessary for a successful team eyeing a spot at the top of the League Championship Series.

Or so says the coaching staff for the Immortals, who spoke to me over Skype about their process, structure, goals, and ambitions as one of the largest support structures in the North American LCS. We reached out to them after a commenter inquired in April about what a coach for an esports team actually does. In most ways, the dynamic between players and coaches isn’t unlike what you’d see with traditional sports teams—just maybe with a little extra life management.

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Immortals’ League of Legends team has seven players: five starters, two subs. Its coaching staff is composed of five members, including head coach Kim Sang-Su (known as SSONG), team manager Jun Kang, coach Robert Yip, head analyst Brendan Schilling, and analyst Nick Luft. It’s a stark contrast to the early days of League and even modern esports teams in other games like Dota 2, which can often get by with a single coach-slash-manager or less.

A day in Kim’s life usually goes something like this: The head coach wakes up and, during the weekday, manages the team’s scrims. One set of scrims, break to rest and eat, then back to scrims. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s focused training for the Immortals squad, and after that, Kim sits down at his computer to watch matches and study strategies, from North America to Korea.

Kim celebrates with Olleh after an LCS match.

Kim’s focus tends to be on building teamwork and achieving milestones. He’s working with five different players who operate at the top of their game in each role—the trick isn’t always getting them to play better individually, but together.

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“I treat it as, the five different players and five different positions, I compare it to a real-life job,” said Kim. “It’s having different occupations—top, jungle, mid—they’re all experts in their own lane. Since this is a team game and they don’t have the knowledge of the other lanes or other occupations, I try to meld them together into a team.”

The head coach also diffuses arguments and helps to mediate discussion, but big picture strategy is often Kim’s purview. Identifying mistakes, reinforcing good habits, and checking off mile-markers for improvement makes up a good portion of Kim’s role in the team. Still, he tries to keep things lighthearted.

“My ultimate goal is that since we’re pro players and professionals, that we treat daily scrims and practice seriously as professionals,” said Kim. “Then when that day is over, that we just enjoy what we’re doing instead of being stressed all day.”

Robert Yip, another coach on the team, came into the League of Legends scene in 2012, at a time when most coaches were former pros, recycling the talent pool.

“You would hire people that had really good base knowledge because they were former pros, and they would work with the up-and-coming pros,” said Yip. “Normally there wouldn’t be a lot of new faces or new ideas in the scene. Slowly but surely, people are incorporating people from outside esports because they bring a different perspective or skillset.”

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Former esports player and team manager Jun echoes this sentiment of growth in the scene. “When I played, I didn’t have a coach,” said Jun. “We were just five players. Having someone to talk to about strategy, getting feedback about what I think and asking them, learning about their experience when they were a player, is very valuable.”

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While many modern coaches are still former pros or high-level players, like Kim and Jun, support staff membership has been expanding to those with different schools of thought. People with sports backgrounds, physiotherapy or athletic training, are becoming advantageous in a league system that resembles modern sports structures more every day.

This manifests in the larger support staffs for teams like Immortals, where Yip’s role is performance coach, a new trend in esports. Unlike Jun or Kim, Yip hails from a sports coaching background. Strength and conditioning, sports psychology and health are his fortes, and Yip’s focus is to make sure the team is exercising, sleeping and eating well, and staying emotionally sound.

“The [performance coach] works with the team or group to make sure people are physically, mentally, emotionally stable and strong enough to compete in a high-pressure environment,” said Yip. “It’s something that a lot of teams should look into getting. It’s something that a lot of the better teams have, and have had someone working with them consistently, and they’re seeing the benefits of that these days.”

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Like physical therapists Matt Hwu and Cait McGee, Yip works with players on posture, stretching and fitness to make sure they don’t incur any injuries that might inhibit their performance. There’s not a lot of physicality involved in esports, as Yip mentions, so players spend time doing core exercises and wrist stretches so they don’t succumb to injuries.

“What’s key is to make sure they have a long career so that they can play for a lot longer,” said Yip. “They can reap the benefits of their skills and it sets them up for the future if they want to go into coaching or college, or anything like that.”

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Jun’s role as team manager tends to be twofold: One part is handling the logistics of the team itself. From mediating arguments and overseeing the team’s scrim schedule to waking them up in time for practice, Jun handles the day-to-day of Immortals. “I’m basically the dad,” Jun tells me. His other role is being a bilingual go-between for the players. Head coach Kim is from South Korea, and Immortals’ players hail from South Korea, China, America, and the Philippines. Though English is a common enough through-line, Jun often handles translation for Kim during team meetings and interviews, including our own. Though his duties have become more focused on play than the day-to-day logistics in the last year (the team has hired a cook, which Jun was happy about), it was clear Jun was the Cliff Gardner to Immortals’ organization.

All these moving pieces, from strategy discussion and scrimmaging to physical well-being and teamwork discussion, culminates every weekend in the week’s LCS matches. It’s at this point that the coaches have to let the players fly—unlike football, basketball, or even games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, coaches are only able to talk to the team during their draft and for one minute after the draft has concluded. The rest is up to the five players, led by their in-game shot-caller.

“We just try to talk to them about the big picture, how they should be playing out the game as a whole,” said Kim. “We can’t really micromanage small things because the game is volatile, it changes every minute, so they have to figure out what they have to do in certain situations on their own.”

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At that point, Kim and the others can review what happened and reinforce better ideas, starting with basic concepts. One that came up was improving communications, a general concept but one critical to a game where operating as a whole unit rather than five individual players tends to make the difference in late-game fights.

“We try to isolate, what are the roles and responsibilities of each person on the team,” said Yip. “What can they be held accountable for? And with all the coaches and analysts we have, we keep track of all the players and qualitatively map out what they say versus what they should be saying, trying to make their communication more effective.”

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As franchising looms on the horizon, the coaches had different opinions of what it would mean for their roles. Kim believed it would put more pressure on players and coaches to perform, as you’re now a permanent representation of a brand. Yip sees teams taking more chances, bringing in more coaching staff like himself that can focus on minutiae or out-of-play concerns. Positional coaching, having a literal mid-lane coach or bot-lane coach, was brought up. It’s an asset some teams already utilize, similar to a quarterback coach. But even greater, organizational assets become possible as established brands can bring on performance coaches to not just work with their League team but their Overwatch, Counter-Strike, and fighting game players as well—a rising-tide of support staff.

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Where the former days of League had team houses encountering health concerns and fire hazards, a growing coaching staff scene is raising the bar for competition, allowing players to focus on the game with expert support. As that grows, cultures and processes can emerge for teams, building eras and dynasties rather than just brands.

“Players and coaches will start looking at the unique selling points teams have,” said Yip. “And say, ‘This is the team I want to play for.’”

gamesread | E3 2017: Yakuza Kiwami Is The Generous HD Remake Yakuza Deserves


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This is how you do a remake.

A remake of the first Yakuza game, which was originally released in 2005 for PS2, Yakuza Kiwami is a generous package. In addition to rebuilding the entire game from scratch in the newer engine that was used for the 2015 prequel Yakuza 0, the story has also been expanded, giving fresh insight into the travails of stoic central hero Kazuma Kiryu.

It also creates a bigger role for fan-favorite antagonist Goro Majima, who now pops up in surprising and sometimes ludicrous locations throughout the game while disguised as a cop or even a gaudily dressed hostess to offer a challenging battle.

The combat has been upgraded too. Kiryu now has a selection of four fighting styles to play with, imported from Yakuza 0, bringing even more depth to what was already a well fleshed-out game. The violence is brutal and unflinching, as Kiryu stomps his opponents’ heads into the pavement or beats them with a bicycle, all performed with simple yet satisfying combo presses.

This is actually the third iteration of the original Yakuza, after an HD remaster for PS3 and Wii U in 2012/13. But on PS4, the mean streets of fictional Tokyo red light district Kamurocho (closely based on the real-life Kabukicho) are rebuilt and rendered in 1080p at 60fps. The game was already a visual spectacle in 2005, but on PS4 it looks fantastic, treading the line between lifelike facial expressions and stylized visual design.

The story follows gangster Kiryu as he spirals further into a dark underworld of crime and corruption, fighting (literally) to clear his name after falling foul of the powerful Tojo Clan and to protect a 9-year-old orphan girl named Haruka, who has been sucked in to the central drama. A masterclass in videogame storytelling, it presents an intriguing tale via dramatic cut scenes with a script and voice acting to rival the best in yakuza cinema. Nothing has been cut from the Japanese original, so you get the full experience.

Throw in an expanded selection of mini-games such as claw machines, roulette, batting centers, toy racecars, card games, karaoke and more, and you have a package that will keep you busy for quite some time – at least until the newer title Yakuza 6 arrives in the West in early 2018.

Daniel is Chief Editor at IGN Japan. He is nearly as good at karaoke as Kazuma Kiryu.