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New ‘Brain Games’ Host Keegan-Michael Key on the Star Power of the Reboot – TVInsider

Can your brain guide you past the poker faces of four champion card players to figure out who ingested spicy wasabi? That's just one of the mind-tastic challenges in the rebooted 2011-2016 science-based series Brain Games, now hosted by actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key (above, with guest star Rebel Wilson).

"It's a show about doing experiments in a really high-octane manner," he says. Watch for:

Ted Danson, Tiffany Haddish, Drew Brees and other A-listers appear as active participants and competitive sides emerge. "I found out a lot about different celebrities' personalities," Key says with a laugh.

In "Male Brain vs. Female Brain," one of two back-to-back premiere episodes, spouses Kristen Bell (The Good Place) and Dax Shepard (Bless This Mess) must arrange puzzle boards of numbers. Men tend to perform math challenges slightly better under pressure, so each has just 40 seconds to finish before a propane-filled balloon explodes. And yes, one does go boom!

(Credit: National Geographic/Eric McCandless)

Frequent appearances by world-famous mentalist Lior Suchard wow the studio audience. In one segment, Anthony Anderson freaks when his teenage black-ish costar Marsai Martin displays similar mind-reading skills. "He didn't understand how this little girl knew how to do this!" Key recalls. (Suchard fed her questions via an earpiece.)

Key is just as astounded as viewers in the results: "Sometimes [the producers] ask, 'Do you want to know X, Y and Z?' And I go, 'Don't tell me any of that!'"

Brain Games, Season Premiere, Monday, January 20, 8/7c, National Geographic

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New 'Brain Games' Host Keegan-Michael Key on the Star Power of the Reboot - TVInsider

Brain Games Hints At Way Forward – themediatimes

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January 19, 2020 Tina Casey

A sense of humanitys ability to step up climate action and survive the next century without wiping out most of the other species on the planet? Consider the three-pound slimy blob that lives in our head as a highly adaptive critter who still adapts to todays high-tech world, and saving the planet looks much better. That is the message that CleanTechnica took away from a taste of Brain Games latest reboot, unrolling Monday night at 8:00 EST for an eight-episode on National Geographic TV.

The key to accelerating climate action is the same that unlocks more brain power (image via NIMH image library, public domain).

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CleanTechnica interviewed Brain Games field host Cara Santa Maria by telephone last fall, and she dropped some juicy hints about the wow factor behind the restart (if that name rings a bell, think of Skeptics Guide to the Universe and fixed that for you among many other media projects, along with a career in neurobiology and ongoing PhD research).

The Brain Games reboot sheds new light on a distant list of hot key questions about the science behind brains and gender, brains and food, brains and dating, and brains and power, among other topics.

Since clean technology is the core obsession behind CleanTechnica, we naturally read a little bit of climate action in her comments as in, why is it so hard to get some people to accept the obvious?

More than 250,000 years of evolution to survive on this planet, our brains develop shortcuts, explained Santa Maria. We have evolved to function in the world for thousands of years, but the fastest decisions may no longer be good for survival.

By cutting the wires holding those shortcuts, Brain Games exposes the enormous amount of unused power within the wrinkled mass that we call smarts (no spoilers see it for yourself!).

Thats it in a nutshell. Shortcuts instinctive responses to danger, hunger and other input are fine as far as they go, but in todays hyper-tech world they dont always help.

Faced with a barrage of new, often contradictory information, people skip new knowledge and cling to the old ones, devise new shortcuts to fill gaps along the way.

It is so fascinating to understand the neurological and behavioral factors that inform everything from flat earth to anti-vax thinking, said Santa Maria. Where does no nuclear weapons come from? Andy, why is it so hard for people to stop using plastic straws?

With all this in mind, it is no wonder that a simple phrase like Chinese hoax continues to inform public thinking about climate action, even now that the impact of climate change on the real world is reaching the crisis point.

However, the real value of Brain Games is to open the minds of people who consider themselves to be aware and informed about climate change and climate action.

After all, almost everyone can be just as stubborn and instinct-driven in some ways as everyone else.

CleanTechnica readers, try these yourself. What was your opinion about hydrogen and fuel cell technology five years ago, and what is your opinion today?

If you think about this, send us a message in the response thread.

Before you do that, remember that green hydrogen was a non-starter just five years ago. Now it is entering the market and the International Renewable Energy Agency is looking at a five-year window to integrate it.

The usual reservation also applies: vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells lag far behind their battery-operated cousins in the market for electric vehicles for passenger cars, but other markets for green hydrogen including bulk energy storage and industrial applications are opening up.

The green hydrogen movement took a huge step forward here in the US last fall, when it expanded from a predominantly coastal state phenomenon related to climate action, to an area where resistance to climate action is still strong, the red states of the American Midwest.

Follow me on twitter.

Image: Brain illustration via NIMH image library, public domain.

Follow CleanTechnica on Google News.It will make you happy and help you live the rest of your life in peace.

Tags: Brain Games, Cara Santa Maria, National Geographic TV

Tina Casey specializes in military and operational sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels and water and wastewater problems. Tinas articles are regularly reposted on Reuters, Scientific American and many other sites. The opinions are own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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Brain Games Hints At Way Forward - themediatimes

Kevin McDonough’s ‘Tune in Tonight’: ‘Spy Games’ and ‘Lone Star’ oh my – The Union Leader

It had to happen. The new reality series Spy Games (10 p.m., Bravo, TV-14) invites participants to be trained in espionage by three veteran intelligence officers and compete with each other in assignments right out of James Bond movies.

In their first cloak-and-dagger job, they are trained to infiltrate a black-tie party at a posh mansion and told to retrieve vital information. The series is said to be based on a crash program developed by the OSS (the CIAs precursor) during WWII to quickly train men and women from all walks of life to become secret agents.

All reality shows are essentially absurd, but Spy Games is more laugh-out-loud ridiculous than most. Nearly every element of the series is contradictory. The whole point of a secret agent is to remain unseen and blend in. But the essential nature of reality television is to hire good-looking exhibitionists too vain and stupid to ever shut up. All of their assignments are top secret, but followed at every moment by cameras, crew and producers. Help yourself.

The Ryan Murphy produced-spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) moves to its regular time slot after a Sunday night preview. Even by the standards of procedurals, this arrives freighted with loaded and manipulative emotional weight.

A 9/11 survivor who rebuilt his NYC station house, Owen (Rob Lowe) is called upon to do similar work for an Austin, Texas, unit wiped out in an industrial catastrophe. Battling a cancer diagnosis and the recent suicide attempt of his gay firefighting son, Owen builds an Avengers-type team of colorful outsiders while trying to bond with the locals, including an EMT captain (Liv Tyler) filled with rage.

As a New Yorker married to a Texan, I have my notions of how wrong Lone Star gets the Lone Star state. But Ill let real Texans sort that out.

Highlights for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A married couple (Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln) suffer a series of indignities in segregated Alabama in the 1964 drama Nothing But a Man (8 p.m., TCM). Lincoln was better known as a jazz singer. Dixon, who appeared on The Twilight Zone, may be familiar to viewers old enough to remember Hogans Heroes.

The 2016 drama Hidden Figures (7 p.m. and 10 p.m., FX, TV-PG) dramatizes the unsung story of three African American female mathematicians essential to NASAs Mercury program in the early 1960s.

The 2019 documentary Emanuel (9 p.m., Starz) recalls a 2015 mass murder by a white supremacist at a Baptist church in Charleston, S.C.

Two men embark on a road trip through segregated states in the 2018 drama The Green Book (9:30 p.m., Showcase).

Other highlights

Ten acts perform on Americas Got Talent (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

Lola offers her husband moral support on All Rise (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard appear on the eighth season premiere of Brain Games (8 p.m., Nat Geo, TV-PG).

The Junkyard Killer targets Malcolm on Prodigal Son (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

A busy urban professional returns to her small town to discover that her old beau has created a snow maze, the perfect setting for Amazing Winter Romance (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

A series dedicated to exploring and celebrating immigrant cuisine and neighborhoods, No Passport Required (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) samples Armenian food in Los Angeles.

Tragedy on the training field sparks a lawsuit on Bull (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

A key witness is incarcerated on Manifest (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

An elite runner loses more than a step on The Good Doctor (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

The Independent Lens (10 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) documentary Accept the Call follows a Minnesota Somali immigrant horrified by his 19-year-old sons flirtation with a Syrian faction of the Islamic State.

Cult choice

A game show host and producer (Sam Rockwell) leads a double life as a CIA assassin in the 2002 adaptation of Chuck Barris memoir Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (9:35 p.m., TMCX).

Series notes

Calvin harbors suspicions about the new preacher on The Neighborhood (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... The Bachelor (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14) ... Spencer compensates on All American (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Unwelcome advice on Bob Hearts Abishola (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... The Red Wave reverberates on Black Lightning (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).

Late night

Josh Gad appears on Conan (11 p.m., TBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ken Jeong, Kate Upton and Old Dominion on The Tonight Show (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Michael Moore, June Diane Raphael and Adam Marcello visit Late Night With Seth Meyers (12:35 a.m., NBC).

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Kevin McDonough's 'Tune in Tonight': 'Spy Games' and 'Lone Star' oh my - The Union Leader

Tune in Tonight: Spy Games and Lone Star, oh my – Daily Commercial

It had to happen. The new reality series "Spy Games" (10 p.m., Bravo, TV-14) invites participants to be trained in espionage by three veteran intelligence officers and compete with each other in assignments right out of James Bond movies.

In their first cloak and dagger job, they are trained to infiltrate a black-tie party at a posh mansion and told to retrieve vital information. The series is said to be based on a crash program developed by the OSS (the CIA's precursor) during WWII to quickly train men and women from all walks of life to become secret agents.

All reality shows are essentially absurd, but "Spy Games" is more laugh-out-loud ridiculous than most. Nearly every element of the series is contradictory. The whole point of a secret agent is to remain unseen and blend in. But the essential nature of reality television is to hire good-looking exhibitionists too vain and stupid to ever shut up. All of their assignments are "top secret," but followed at every moment by cameras, crew and producers. Help yourself.

The Ryan Murphy produced-spinoff "9-1-1: Lone Star" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) moves to its regular time slot after a Sunday night preview. Even by the standards of procedurals, this arrives freighted with loaded and manipulative emotional weight.

A 9/11 survivor who rebuilt his NYC station house, Owen (Rob Lowe) is called upon to do similar work for an Austin, Texas, unit wiped out in an industrial catastrophe. Battling a cancer diagnosis and the recent suicide attempt of his gay firefighting son, Owen builds an "Avengers"-type team of colorful outsiders while trying to bond with the locals, including an EMT captain (Liv Tyler) filled with rage.

As a New Yorker married to a Texan, I have my notions of how wrong "Lone Star" gets the Lone Star state. But I'll let real Texans sort that out.

HIGHLIGHTS COMMEMORATING MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

A married couple (Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln) suffer a series of indignities in segregated Alabama in the 1964 drama "Nothing But a Man" (8 p.m., TCM). Lincoln was better known as a jazz singer. Dixon, who appeared on "The Twilight Zone," may be familiar to viewers old enough to remember "Hogan's Heroes."

The 2016 drama "Hidden Figures" (7 p.m. and 10 p.m., FX, TV-PG) dramatizes the unsung story of three African American female mathematicians essential to NASA's Mercury program in the early 1960s.

The 2019 documentary "Emanuel" (9 p.m., Starz) recalls a 2015 mass murder by a white supremacist at a Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Two men embark on a road trip through segregated states in the 2018 drama "The Green Book" (9:30 p.m., Showcase).

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Ten acts perform on "America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

Lola offers her husband moral support on "All Rise" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard appear on the eighth season premiere of "Brain Games" (8 p.m., Nat Geo, TV-PG).

The Junkyard Killer targets Malcolm on "Prodigal Son" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

A busy urban professional returns to her small town to discover that her old beau has created a snow maze, the perfect setting for "Amazing Winter Romance" (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

A series dedicated to exploring and celebrating immigrant cuisine and neighborhoods, "No Passport Required" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) samples Armenian food in Los Angeles.

Tragedy on the training field sparks a lawsuit on "Bull" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

A key witness is incarcerated on "Manifest" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

An elite runner loses more than a step on "The Good Doctor" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

The "Independent Lens" (10 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) documentary "Accept the Call" follows a Minnesota Somali immigrant horrified by his 19-year-old son's flirtation with a Syrian faction of the Islamic State.

CULT CHOICE

A game show host and producer (Sam Rockwell) leads a double life as a CIA assassin in the 2002 adaptation of Chuck Barris' memoir "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (9:35 p.m., TMCX).

SERIES NOTES

Calvin harbors suspicions about the new preacher on "The Neighborhood" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... "The Bachelor" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14) ... Spencer compensates on "All American" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Unwelcome advice on "Bob Hearts Abishola" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... The Red Wave reverberates on "Black Lightning" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

Josh Gad appears on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ken Jeong, Kate Upton and Old Dominion on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Michael Moore, June Diane Raphael and Adam Marcello visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC).

The rest is here:
Tune in Tonight: Spy Games and Lone Star, oh my - Daily Commercial

9-1-1: Lone Star is Ready to Make Waves in its Regular Timeslot – PRIMETIMER

Liv Tyler and Rob Lowe star in 9-1-1: Lone Star. (Fox)

If 9-1-1 is known for one thing, it's the mind-blowing catastrophes that challenge the show's first responders. The spinoff series kicked off last night with a few interesting setpieces (including a cataclysmic burrito mishap), but we couldn't help but feel they could do better. As the show settles into its Monday night timeslot (replacing the 9-1-1 mothership during its midseason hiatus),will Rob Lowe and company accept the challenge? Here's what's new and notable on TV this Monday night:

TIMESLOT PREMIERE: With the new crew in place, it looks at though 9-1-1: Lone Star is ready to shake things up as we've come to expect from this franchise.In tonight's installment, mercury poisoning turns its victims into virtual zombies. Elsewhere, the team responds to the scene of an out of control wave pool.8:00 PM ET on Fox

SERIES PREMIERE: For viewers looking for a new twist on reality competitions, Bravo's Spy Games may be just the ticket.The series follows tencontestants who are taken to a remote estate, trained in the art of espionageand tasked with collecting information on one another as they compete for a $100,000 prize. The show is hosted by martial arts expert Mia Kang, with intelligence professionals Douglas Laux, Evy Poumpouras, and Errol Southers teaching the future spies everything they need to know. Watch the preview. 10:00 PM ET on Bravo

SPORTS: Tonight in NBA Basketball, the Golden State Warriors face the Trail Blazers live from Portland's Moda Center. 7:00 PM ET / 4:00 PM PT on TNT

SEASON PREMIERE: The phenomenon that isLove Island UKreturnsfor its sixth season, with a new group of Islanders playing all the angles in their search for love. Watch the preview.Streaming on Hulu

NEW EPISODE: For its first episode of the new year, No Passport Required journeys to Los Angeles to mingle with the local Armenian community and sample their traditional fare. 10:00 PM ET on PBS

SEASON PREMIERE: In the premiere of Street Outlaws: Fastest in America eight of the country's best street racing teams compete for a chance at a $100,000 prize. 8:00 PM ET on Discovery

SEASON PREMIERE: Keegan-Michael Key hosts Brain Games. The series uses an assortment of challenges to test myths and assumptions about the human brain. Dax Shepard and Kristin Bell guest star. 8:00 PM ET on National Geographic

ALSO TONIGHT

Mike Attebery is Senior Editor at Primetimer and the author of seven mystery thrillers. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeattebery.

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9-1-1: Lone Star is Ready to Make Waves in its Regular Timeslot - PRIMETIMER

New Update: Full Hands-On Preview Of The Perilous Space Puzzle Game, Filament – Happy Gamer

What substance do puzzle games come with? Do they have the ability to tickle ones cortex? Or what exactly? In the new puzzle game, Filament, one puzzle adventure from Beard Envy and Kasedo Games.

GameplayStoryline

A dangerous space vessel known as The Alabaster is left hanging about in space and the player must go aboard and piece together what happened to the crew and whatever other secrecy laying beneath.similar to the Return of the Obra Dinn.

The game begins when the player, Mr pluto, tries to connect the anchors dispersed throughout the ship and connect vital systems via the hacking tools of your robot companion. And also solve hundreds of maze puzzles to solve the greater mystery hidden beneath.

However, Filament was built using just one style of the maze puzzle. Still, it performs exceedingly well so far, in this instance, connecting guideposts with the ever-extending trail of filament. In so much ways, Filament takes inspiration from The Witness and The return of the Obra Dinn in its narrative and puzzle make-up. Also, there are no guides or tutorials to read up on before going into space to unravel the puzzles aboard The Alabaster.

Theres a lot more than just environmental narratives to guide the player along in the Filament. Even so, often, the female attendant aboard The Alabaster, who calls herself Jupiter, talks to the player as the vital point of contact aboard the perilous space ship. The several one-person speaking sceneries that spring up between puzzles help to add to the mystery, which is sufficiently filled in with collectibles and logs depending on what sort of collector the player chooses to be.

In the space, each area uses a different take on the same formula of wrapping and navigating through the players infinite filament that wires around guideposts to unlock the exist. Like in one area, there may be several posts that need to be chained in a particular order, while in another, it could be matching colors together without disrupting the chain order.

Moreover, these areas tend to blend early on, so it wont be anything remotely close to changing of seasons in The Witness to guide the player but would have to unravel the mystery.

Also, one of the trickiest parts in unraveling the puzzles in Filament is the rope the player must use within the puzzle space. This often poses as a detriment, removing a pathway or a bit too solid to prevent one from slipping past a guidepost towards the exit the player opens. Since the goal is not only to solve the puzzle but also make it out of the exit gate into the next arena, there would be times when the right solution is applied, but a missing loop around an arbitrary post is enough to keep the player locked in place.

To combat this impediment, instead of relying on stopping and restarting a Filament puzzle from the beginning, the robot companion comes as a handy tool to help rewind a Filamentand reverse the steps quickly. A quite handy feature!

Puzzles are typically arranged together in groups of five; in that case, the 300 plus puzzles that the developers spoke of will feel much shorter at last.

Filament is available now to wishlist on Steam and would be hitting screens on significant platforms like Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Linux, with a plan to release the first quarterQ1 this year, 2020.

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New Update: Full Hands-On Preview Of The Perilous Space Puzzle Game, Filament - Happy Gamer

Designing the mind-bending perspective puzzles of Superliminal – Gamasutra

Pillow Castle'sSuperliminal is a particularly unique puzzler that snuck onto the Epic Games Store last year. Its test chamber-themed perspective puzzles owe a lot to Valve's Portal, but it manages to stand out by constantly toying with the player's sense of scale, shape and size.

Recently,Superliminal lead developer Albert Shih dropped by the GDC Twitch channel for a chat about the game's design and development, and was able to share some insight on what it took to make a mind-breaking puzzler while walking in Valve's footsteps.

Below, we've gathered some of his explanations about how the object re-sizing mechanic works, and explanations for how he and his colleagues turned them into fantastic puzzles.

First, a quick explainer for how Superliminal's puzzles work on the player end. In this game, players can pick up different objects, and depending on the distance they are picked up at, the game will scale the object's size to be exactly what it seems to be on the screen.

"It's all based off the idea that if you pretend to pinch the leaning Tower of Pisa it looks like it should be a certain size," said Shih. "In this game, I'm trying to fulfill that illusion."

The trick here, Shih explained, is that the game is generally trying to keep objects as large as possible and as far as possible as it can always be. "So it's always projected as far into the distance...so if theres a wall behind it well try to find the point on the wall that you know it will be before it kind of collides with anything."

According to Shih, the "easy" part of this game logic is that the game then calculates if an object is twice as far away, it gets twice as big, and vice versa. This even works in different fields-of-view, a possibility Shih himself admitted he didn't fully understand.

"The hard part is actually finding out how far the object should go. Imagine you have a very weirdly-shaped object...let's say you have a sponge. It has a ton of holes in it and maybe you have a background that's really complicated and you want to make sure it doesn't clip into the background.

"We did a lot of trial and error and it's just like a very dense layer of raycast that we're doing to more or less estimate where it should land. Even if it's just a little bit off, it's a little bit closer than it should be, it's fine, as long as it doesn't feel unfair."

From here, Superliminal uses these resizing objects to essentially be a series of solvable optical illusions. These go hand-in-hand with some other clever optical illusions that are created in Unity, ranging from two-dimensional paintings that appear to be 3D objects, hallways that turn out to be painted walls, and a host of other twisted shapes and tricks that mess with player perception.

"Some of [these illusions] are surprisingly simple and some of the hard parts are surprisingly hard," said Shih. "The easy part is if you're trying to do a simple projection that looks like something else, you just have a camera stacked on a projector, right? The camera takes the image and the projector spits out the image.The hard part is actually where depth is involved because the projectors in Unity don't have good depth."

Shih credited Superliminal graphics programmer Phil Fortier with solving these unique programs. "He basically hacked some kind of a system that uses shadow maps that ends up taking into account for depth and all that."

Shih explained that originally, Superliminal was just two puzzles created during his years at college that evolved for a demo opportunity at the Tokyo Game Show.

When it came time to develop a full commercial product, Shih explained that he evolved the game's puzzles by sticking to his preferred philosophy of puzzle design. "The ones that I found the most interesting was kind of like Antichamber, you know puzzle games that were more about seeing something new and trying to think outside the box as opposed to like a sudoku puzzle, right?"

"Like you know the mechanics and you know all the elements, but its more about mastery, its more about a series of steps. So I definitely tried to focus on finding ways that would give players different types of epiphanies.If some people play this game, they might say oh, its not necessarily scratching that mastery itch but theres a lot of cool and interesting stuff in it."

Shih pointed out that Portal is in fact, one of these kinds of games. He analogized Portal's momentum puzzles with Superliminal's scale-driven ones, pointing out that in both games, players are trying to use the tools they have to achieve those "ah-ha!" moments.

To add more depth to the game's puzzles, Shih explained that the game's level and environment design needed to evoke a specific sense of curiosity with players as well. "We [wanted] this space to be interesting enough that people will want to look around and be like oh what is this, is this part of the puzzle? Is this something? Because then that makes the space feel more alive as opposed to just like Im going from point A to point B I dont need to care about anything in between," he explained.

This then led to a discussion about puzzle difficulty and playtesting. While game players are usually invested in learning a puzzle game's logic and language, there's still a fine art in making sure a game's puzzles are something worth solving.

Shih had some interesting observations on this particular learning curve. "Usually Im actually happy when players miss the most obvious things, because...even if you miss [the solution], eventually youll look around enough and find it, right? I think the opposite case is when players go in the room and they immediately figure it out."

To help players make sure they were solving the "right" puzzle, Shih said one key feature to develop was the game's clamber mechanic (which he credited to designer Logan Fieth). The mechanic was created to essentially solve if a player needed "two jumps" instead of "one jump" to climb over and object, but Shih said its existence is an acknowledgement of a need for discrete states in puzzle games.

"Usually in puzzle games you want really discrete states, right? And what that means is like you want people to know exactly when youve kind of achieved or failed a state. You dont want to keep it ambiguous. So if they get it, they immediately get it, and if they dont they know theyre not there," he explained.

"Whats difficult about a game where you can resize stuff and...that it makes for example jumping on things much more difficult. In this game, because scaling is on a range, it means that your jumping can also feel uncertain at times...and that just feels bad."

"So thats why in the end we decided that adding this mantling thing would help make the game feel a lot more discrete, help make it more easily understandable when you solve the puzzle or not."

This mindset proved helpful especially for scaling the complexity and context of Superliminal's puzzles, which eventually take players into the corridors "behind" the experiment labs, and introduce an array of mind-bending possibilities that stretch player notions of perceived space.

Be sure to follow the GDC Twitch channel for more developer interviews and select GDC talks.

Read more here:
Designing the mind-bending perspective puzzles of Superliminal - Gamasutra

8 people shaping PC gaming at the start of the decade – PC Gamer

Nobody needs to be told that someone like Valve's Gabe Newell is important to PC gaming in 2020. The decisions made by company presidents, CEOs, and hardware manufacturers have effects that travel all the way down the very long ladder from their sky castles to where we sit at home, trying to remember our GeForce Experience passwords. But PC gaming is bigger than any company. It's an entire ecosystemlike the biosphere, except where approximately 80 percent of the Earth's biomass by weight is made up of plants, the PC gameosphere is 80 percent indie games you've never heard of.

The people on this list are not billionaire CEOs, and they're not creative directors or lead designers who've attained celebrity status. But they are shaping the present and future of PC gaming in significant ways. They're changing what we play, how it's made, and how it's talked about.

A Shell in the Pit is a studio that collaborates with indie developers on game audio. It began as the solo project of Gordon McGladdery, now studio director, who lent his audio skills to games like Rogue Legacy before deciding he needed a team.

"Em [Halberstadt] was actually our first hire," McGladdery says, "so she's contributed to almost every game we've worked on which may be too many to list. The most notable games on which she truly led SFX work and direction are Untitled Goose Game, Night in the Woods, and Wandersong."

For Untitled Goose Game the most important sound is of course the honk, which had to be equally obnoxious whether you're holding a harmonica or have your head in a bottle. "If I recall correctly," says McGladdery, "since it was the first thing we tackled, the honk was very carefully curated & layered from library soundsit took a really long time to get dialed in because it had to be perfect!"

The other audio, the normal sounds of an English village, help ground the game's comic sensibility. Much of it was recorded in Halberstadt's backyard, sometimes with her baffled neighbours looking on. For the goose's footsteps she slapped a rubber glove against different surfaces, and each pick-uppable prop had to be recorded being dragged across varied surfaces too, as well as being thrown around. She really did record herself throwing a rake into a lake.

Halberstadt is about to be promoted to the role of Audio Director, McGladdery explains, "so that we can support more junior artists and get further reach with her vision. She is wrapping up on Ikenfell with Rachel & Millie, leading audio on Greg Lobanov's next game Chicory, does most of the design for Colin Northway's interactive VR Art Gallery The MOR (Em even made an exhibit for it!), is Audio Director on Awaceb's Project Caillou as well as on another very ambitious, long-term project we probably won't be able to announce for quite some time."

Sound design is an underappreciated element of videogames, as every article about it is obliged to point out. But high-profile work like Halberstadt's is being recognized, with Untitled Goose Game recently being nominated for an IGF Award for best sound, and deservedly so.

Feng Zhu's concept art has informed the look of plenty of well-known games, including Guild Wars, Prey (2006), Gears of War, Command & Conquer 3, Dead Space, and The Sims 3. That's a pretty diverse portfolio right there. But his influence is set to go further than that, as Zhu runs the FZD School of Design, and has taught a generation of concept artists who are following his footsteps. Artists like John Liew, who worked on The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, Natasha Tan, who worked on Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Sims 4, Rowena Wang, who worked on Sekiro, and Dan Iorgelescu, who worked on Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Baldur's Gate 3.

Even those who aren't enrolled in his Singapore school can benefit from his expertise thanks to over a hundred episodes of YouTube tutorials called Design Cinema, which teach everything from sketching and cinematic lighting to building your own visual library.

Zach Barth's early game Infiniminer is now remembered as "that game Notch ripped off to make Minecraft," but don't feel bad for Barth just because somebody else made $1.5 billion off his idea. He's continued making games, often critically acclaimed ones, and also he seems to be happy.

Among Barth's creations are a series of puzzle games dubbed Zach-likes by their fans. Whether they're about chemistry (Spacechem), alchemy (Opus Magnum), or assembly line construction (Infinifactory), they all require a kind of thinking that resembles computer programming. And in the case of TIS-100, Shenzhen I/O, and Exapunks, they straight-up are computer programming.

Kevin Simmons, designer/producer at Asymmetric Games (creator of West of Loathing), and a fan of Zach-likes himself, explains their appeal. "I think the common theme through all of them is the way you are presented with a problem and invited to make free-form solutions within constrained spaces," he says. "You're given a small set of tools, a medium-sized area to work, and a goal, and then just set freeit's up to you to figure out how you want to get there."

Zach-like games don't end when you solve the puzzles. They have leaderboards, scoring puzzles across multiple metrics, meaning that it's worth going back to the earlier levels with tricks you discover later to refine your solutions. As Simmons says, something unique to Zach-likes is how easy it is to "lose hours trying to find a more elegant solution to a problem that you have already solved!"

Last year Zachtronics published two games. MOLEK-SYNTEZ is a classic Zach-like in which the aim is "to create small molecules with various pharmacological effects from the comfort of your small Romanian apartment." The other was a visual novel about an AI counseling program called Eliza. Though at first Eliza seems removed from Barth's other projects, his games often have plots running through them as a motivation to push through once the puzzles get hard, and they're better written than most (thanks to his frequent collaborator Matthew Burns).

"Something that I love about most Zachtronics puzzle games is that they have really carefully considered and well-developed stories as a setting to exist within," says Simmons. "There are reasons for the goals you're presented with, and implied stakes for failure or success. The narrative never gets in the way, but provides a texture that makes everything else feel more alive."

Barth's games, whether in the subgenre he's marked out for his own, or the occasional steps he takes outside those bounds, are always standouts.

One of the great successes of the last decade on PC was Terraria, which, since 2011, has outgrown its original dev team, outlived a sequel, and remains omnipresent on Steam's most-played games list. Terraria's developers pay a lot of attention to their community, updating the game to take into account the ways people play it. That includes nerfing anything prominent Terraria streamer Badger (aka William Bishop) relies on. Badger's importance to Terraria is the reason he was put on stage at AGDQ this year to speedrun the nine-year-old game, and his personality is the reason the run was so watchable.

After setting himself the challenge to get to the Moon Lord boss in one hour, Badger started strong but had some bad luck later on. Eventually he failed to defeat three bosses before sun-up, which meant he didn't have the Hallowed Pickaxe later on when he needed it (Terraria is complicated). He stayed positive, however, and the audience loved him for it, cheering him on through further disasters. The donations rolled in, including several $500 and even $1,000 donations, which he was visibly flabbergasted by. In the end the producers had to call time and he never did get to fight the Moon Lord, making it technically a failed run. But during that hour and change he helped raise over $30,000 for charity, which is more important than any boss fight.

Badger says he'll be back with more Terraria speedruns and new tactics, and if they work the game's developers will be sure to nerf those too. It's the circle of life.

David Gaider was a writer and designer at BioWare from 1999 through to 2016, working on Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, and all three Dragon Age games. (He also wrote several Dragon Age novels and comics.) After that he was creative director of Beamdog for a couple of years before leaving to found Summerfall Studios, alongside managing director Liam Esler.

Summerfall's first project is Chorus, a videogame musical, complete with branching musical numbers. As Esler explains, "There haven't been many attempts to explore the medium of the musical in videogames, short of smaller indie titles like Dominique Pamplemousse and the occasional song in larger games, so we're excited to see how we can make a musical truly interactive."

It may not seem like an obvious stepfrom fantasy RPGs to an interactive musicalbut Esler points out that Chorus contains a lot of what Gaider brought to games like Dragon Age. "So much of Chorus is directly influenced by David's past work," he says, "from deep and fascinating character design through to complex relationships and a lot of careful worldbuilding. The interactive musical numbers build upon David's work with branching dialog, and of course the game will have plenty of that as well. Plus, of course, romance and big emotional story beats!"

Summerfall plan to continue making games that share these elements, which is good news for those who loved the games BioWare made back when they were focused on dialogue and relationships.

"Right now we're focused on making Chorus the best game it can be," Esler says, "but long-term we want to continue building character-focused games with an emphasis on story. We want to keep pushing the limits beyond where we're comfortable, while making games for those who don't necessarily want to focus on combat and deep strategy."

Sam Barlow's late '90s experiments with interactive fictionthe most fondly remembered of which is IF Award winner Aisle, a one-move game set in a supermarketdon't immediately suggest a future in FMV. But what those early text-based games have in common with his later full-video games, Her Story, #WarGames, and Telling Lies, is a focus on uncovering a story through lateral thinking.

In Aisle you control an ordinary man doing his grocery shopping, wistfully staring at the gnocchi. You have one chance to give him a command before Aisle resets and you're playing a parallel version of the same character, similar but different, whose background and personality will be defined by the next action you choose.

In Her Story there's no suggestion of parallel universes, just a woman sitting at a police database choosing what to search for. Each search term brings up more video evidence, suggesting what to type nextin a way it is like Aisle, all about building up an understanding of events that guides you to the next words you need to type.

It's a different approach to FMV and one that helped revitalize the genre. Without it there's be no Contradiction, or forthcoming games like "dystopian newsroom simulator" Not for Broadcast and rotoscoped road trip Road to Nowhere. As Barlow continues iterating on his formula, so too will other developers.

Kitfox Games are a Montreal indie studio responsible for games like The Shrouded Isle, a management sim about running a Lovecraftian cult, and the forthcoming Boyfriend Dungeon. Tanya X. Short is the studio's co-founder and "captain."

As Kitfox communications director Victoria Tran explains, the reason for that title goes back to their debut game, Shattered Planet, which gave players a spaceship base. "The team decided to give each other pseudo-nautical titles to fit around that theme," she says, "which is how Tanya, as the leader, got the title 'Captain'. As our co-founder Xin Ran Liu puts it, while 'President' or 'CEO' would be more appropriate for Tanya's actual corporate position, it didn't feel like it actually encompassed her fully hands-on role."

Kitfox emphasizes the importance of a healthy work culture, of sensible hours and an absence of crunch. As Tran explains, "Tanya doesn't just implement policies and leave them there. She'll actively promote it, and be one of the first people to notice when someone seems exhausted, stressed, or sick and ask them if they need to go home or take a vacation."

Short's influence is felt not just on the studio culture at Kitfox, but in the games they make. Boyfriend Dungeon is both an action-RPG and a dating sim, where the dates are with magical weapons that transform into romanceable hotties between dungeon crawls. Imagine if that BioWare NPC you had a thing for was also a +3 sword.

Tran says making a game that serves two genres like this can be difficult. "Varied combat styles and ever-changing dungeons is challenging enough, but what sets it apart is that Tanya has lead the team to make it a cozy, warm experience. She writes a lot of the dates in the game, of which people who've played it have said they felt an actual connection with the characters, rather than just as stereotypes of some trope."

Tran summarizes the studio's ethos like this: "In short, if Kitfox were to have any effect on the games industry, it would be this: that we should put people in front of projects, always." And Short's vital to that. She may have been dubbed the Captain as a gag, but it stuck because it proved apt. As Tran says, "Tanya's there steering us in the right path, battering the storms for us, and making sure we as a crew are happy and working together."

On itch.io, where Grace Bruxner's early free games like Alien Caseno and The Fish Market were distributed, her variety of short, low-interaction experiments are not out of the ordinary. But the games in her Frog Detective series, The Haunted Island and The Invisible Wizard, are available on Steam for actual money. That meant putting them in front of an audience who aren't as familiar with the idea that a game you can finish in less than an hour is still valuablewhich is why the words "this is a short game!" appear in wobbling letters on both Steam pages.

The Frog Detective series resembles adventure games, in that it's about talking to weird characters who want things for ridiculous reasons, building up an inventory of stuff, and then distributing it. The games boil that format down to its most basic elements, removing roadblock puzzling and aiming for simplicity.

Her games aren't interested in mechanical innovation, they do not feature permadeath or deckbuilding or "RPG elements" or a way to rewind time. They are just about talking to cute animal people until you unravel a ridiculous mystery. Along the way you watch wonderfully animated bugs and other creatures amble about, laugh at some goofy dialogue, and appreciate the sight of a reindeer chilling in a hot tub. Bruxner's games do not outstay their welcome, do not come back for a fifth encore, do not have "endgames." They do what they do and then let you get on with your life, and that's a a philosophy more videogames should follow.

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8 people shaping PC gaming at the start of the decade - PC Gamer

Whos No. 1? Whos No. 20? The weekly puzzle of the mens basketball Top 25 – syracuse.com

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Shakeup in the mens basketball Top 25 has been routine this season. Every week, seemingly bizarre results happen, which by now makes them not all that bizarre.

At any rate, it was a good week for New Jersey in the Top 25. (Hello, Rutgers.) And yep, theres a new No. 1. Baylor, which has been my No. 1 for a couple weeks, convinced more voters to move it to the top spot.

The ACC is represented by Florida State (5), Louisville (6) and Duke (8). Syracuse, by the way, has yet to play any of those teams and faces them just once each this season. Duke is at home, FSU and Louisville on the road.

Heres the poll, which was delayed today by technical trouble:

1 Baylor 1591 (33) 15-1 2

2 Gonzaga 1588 (31) 20-1 1

3 Kansas 1470 (1) 14-3 6

4 San Diego State 1422 19-0 7

5 Florida State 1335 16-2 9

6 Louisville 1303 15-3 11

7 Dayton 1139 16-2 13

8 Duke 1065 15-3 3

9 Villanova 1055 14-3 14

10 Seton Hall 1034 14-4 18

11 Michigan State 1004 14-4 15

12 Oregon 886 15-4 8

13 Butler 867 15-3 5

14 West Virginia 758 14-3 12

15 Kentucky 755 13-4 10

16 Auburn 637 15-2 4

17 Maryland 525 14-4 17

18 Texas Tech 399 56 12-5 23

19 Iowa 398 61 13-5 -

20 Memphis 394 53 14-3 22

21 Illinois 280 54 13-5 24

22 Arizona 225 40 13-5 -

23 Colorado 154 36 14-4 20

24 Rutgers 152 41 14-4 -

25 Houston 151 38 14-4 -

Also receiving votes: Wichita State 94, LSU 83, Michigan 73, UNI 42 , Ohio State 36, Stanford 28, Wisconsin 28, Penn State 24, Liberty 21, Florida 21, Arkansas 19, Virginia 13, Creighton 13, Duquesne 13, Purdue 9, East Tennessee State 6, Indiana 6, Southern California 4, Marquette 2, Brigham Young 2, Harvard 1

Im voting again this season in the Top 25. Scroll below to see the ballot I submitted Sunday.

Florida State guard Anthony Polite (2) reacts to the team's 54-50 win over Virginia in an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser) APAP

The top three on my ballot seemed pretty simple. But then, the rest of the ballot was a difficult, daunting exercise.

I kept Baylor at No. 1, but moved Gonzaga to No. 2 after Duke inexplicably lost twice last week. The Blue Devils were a bit exposed in both of those losses: How do they play without foul-plagued Vernon Carey? And who can make jump shots? Also, they did not guard Clemson all that well in that loss.

Florida State has won nine straight, just barely surviving on the road in Miami on Saturday. Louisville beat Duke, but just slipped past Pittsburgh. Seton Hall, to me, had the best week, with big wins over Butler and St. Johns to stay unbeaten in the competitive Big East. The Pirates have two home games this week; they have been very good in their own building.

I dont know how good San Diego State is, since it has rarely been challenged in its league, but 19-0 is 19-0 and that record includes wins over Iowa and Creighton. Dayton is one of those national treasure teams that hasnt registered yet with me. I think the Flyers are good. But are they Top 10 good? Not sure about that. I dont think the A-10 is all that special this season and at this point, a win over St. Marys is the best win on Daytons resume.

I added Houston this week at No. 23. I added Rutgers at 24. I added back Florida at 25. The Gators, to me, might be the most puzzling team in college basketball, though there are plenty of contenders. They seem to have a ton of talent. But they havent won a ton of games. Still, they throttled Auburn, which has finally played some good teams, and they have decent wins over Alabama and Xavier. This week, theyve got LSU and Baylor to prove themselves.

And welcome, Rutgers. Its been awhile. (1979, to be exact.)

My ballot:

1) Baylor

2) Gonzaga

3) Kansas

4) San Diego State

5) Florida State

6) Seton Hall

7) Louisville

8) Michigan State

9) Duke

10) Villanova

11) Dayton

12) West Virginia

13) Butler

14) Kentucky

15) Maryland

16) Oregon

17) Iowa

18) Auburn

19) Texas Tech

20) Arizona

21) Illinois

22) Wisconsin

23) Houston

24) Rutgers

25) Florida

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Whos No. 1? Whos No. 20? The weekly puzzle of the mens basketball Top 25 - syracuse.com

Neko Ghost, Jump! Is a Cute Puzzle Platformer Where You Swap Between 2D and 3D – Push Square

Do you like 2D platformers? What about 3D ones? Wherever you stand on this age-old genre of games, you may be interested in Neko Ghost, Jump! -- a cutesy action game that allows you to swap from one viewpoint to the other.

As you can see in the gameplay video above, you can play the game in either a side-scrolling view or in three dimensions. It seems like you'll be swapping between the two in order to progress through each stage, which is certainly a novel idea. It doesn't look like a particularly complex adventure, but it certainly has style, and there aren't too many games with this perspective switching hook.

The game is coming to PlayStation 4 sometime in 2020, as announced by developer Burgos Games. What do you think of Neko Ghost, Jump? Hop into the comments below.

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Neko Ghost, Jump! Is a Cute Puzzle Platformer Where You Swap Between 2D and 3D - Push Square


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