This is a portion of mock news articles I wrote in my Feature Writing class at HPU. Video games was my beat, of course!


13


Uncharted Writer Amy Hennig Finds A New Job In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Amy Hennig has made quite a name for herself in the game industry. She was developer Naughty Dog’s creative director on the “Jak and Daxter” series and game director and writer for the “Uncharted” games. The next, mysterious “Uncharted” would have come to the PS4 under her guidance as well, but on March 3, she left Naughty Dog under strange circumstances. Her situation has been up in the air for several weeks, but now we know that the Force is with her.

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Amy Hennig: a prominent story writer in the male-dominated  game industry. (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

Hennig has recently signed on as creative developer at Visceral Games, known for its renowned “Dead Space” franchise. The developer is currently working on an unannounced “Star Wars” game since its publisher, EA, acquired the rights to make games under this license after LucasArts disbanded and went bankrupt. Hennig will be creative director on the project, as announced by Steve Papoutsis: Visceral Games’ vice president and general manager.

“Over the last few weeks, Amy and I have spent a lot of time talking about what her first project would be. There are a lot of different directions we could have gone, but I could sense that what really excited her about this opportunity (because let’s face it, we weren’t the only ones knocking at her door) was Star Wars,” he said on April 3. “Amy’s a huge fan. We happen to be making a Star Wars game. Just thinking about the possibilities made both of us even more excited about having her join the team.”

When this news originally hit, rumors spread that Hennig was “forced out” by Naughty Dog employees Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, who were the lead directors on the critically acclaimed game “The Last of Us.” However, Naughty Dog released a statement responding to this.

“We feel it necessary to clear up a very important point that was unprofessionally misreported when the story broke.  Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann were NOT involved in what transpired,” the developer said. “It was very upsetting to us that dozens of stories were run, linking back to the same hurtful accusations in the original report.”

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Nathan Drake defends himself in a sun-scorched desert seen in “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.” (Photo courtesy of Naughty Dog)

To further remedy this situation, Sony’s Scott Rohde, who’s the head of software development for PlayStation’s first party studios, said in an a conversation with IGN that “[I] love Amy. How can you not love Amy, right? … I’m always going to have the deepest admiration for her. But things change, and sometimes change involves very high profile individuals. That’s all that’s happened here. There’s nothing else. There’s no more to dig at.”

Being someone who has won two Writers Guild of America Video Game Writing Awards for her work on “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” and “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception,” Hennig is one of the most influential women in the game industry. Her sudden departure from Naughty Dog is still mysterious and troubling since the next “Uncharted” has yet to be fully unveiled, but with her writing expertise and Visceral Games’ skills from working on “Dead Space,” this collaboration on a “Star Wars” project will be something to keep an eye on.


14


Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Is Ascending To The PS4

The Last of Us” is one of the most popular and successful video games released in recent years. It has accrued dozens upon dozens of awards, sold over 6 million copies as of March and received critical acclaim with a 95 percent average on Metacritic, making it the fifth best PS3 title on the website to date. It’s been about 10 months since its release date, but the game has just been slated to get even better this summer on the PS4.

“The Last of Us: Remastered” has been officially unveiled by Naughty Dog after much rumor and speculation. It will be the definitive version of the game according to the developer, similar to what Crystal Dynamics did by remastering its 2013 “Tomb Raider” with “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition,” which has upgraded visuals, extra content and more on the PS4 and Xbox One.

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This is the official box art for “The Last of Us: Remastered.” (Photo courtesy of PlayStation.Blog)

In an official post on the PlayStation Blog, Naughty Dog’s community strategist, Arne Meyer, listed some of the graphical improvements that will be made to the game.

“Moving our efforts to the PS4 has allowed us to remaster an already phenomenal looking The Last of Us in 1080p with a list of upgrades,” Meyer said, “including higher resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting, upgraded textures, along with even more improvements.”

It will also run at 60 frames-per-second compared to the original game’s 30 frames-per-second, according to community strategist Eric Monacelli’s response to someone in the comments of the article.

Other additions will be be put in the game, such as an exclusive director’s commentary for all of the in-game cinematic clips, which will have creative director and writer Neil Druckmann and voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson in it, who respectively voiced Joel and Ellie, the game’s main characters.

The package also includes all of the game’s downloadable content, including the single-player expansion “Left Behind,” which expanded on Ellie’s background story by allowing players to play as her. All of the multiplayer mode additions will be here, too, with the Abandoned Territories and Reclaimed Territories map packs.

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One of the official promotional images for “Left Behind,” this one features (from right to left) Ellie and her best friend Riley. (Photo courtesy of Naughty Dog)

However, this whole announcement isn’t as much of a surprise as it could have been since rumors began spreading when Sercan Sulun, PlayStation’s Eurasian software market manager, accidentally shared the news too early.

“There is no information about a new ‘The Last Of Us’ game, but I can share this knowledge; as of this summer, The Last Of Us will be on the PS4. Both on PSN and physical,” he was translated as saying in an interview with Turkish website Multiplayer. “The PS4 version will also include the DLC so you will be able to play ‘Left Behind’ as well.”

Although Sony declined to comment or confirm what Sulun said for a few weeks, another mistake was made just hours before the official unveiling on the US Sony Entertainment Network website, which displayed an advertisement banner for the game. It could be seen for a short while before being taken down.

Other information on “The Last of Us: Remastered” will be reported over the months until its summer release, but in the meantime, you can choose to preorder a physical copy of the game at several major retailers (such as GameStop or Best Buy) or digitally through the PlayStation store to unlock rewards listed in Meyer’s official post.


15


Award-Winning Composer of Halo Fired From Bungie

For over three years, video game composer Martin O’Donnell has stuck with developer Bungie after it partnered with Activision to create “Destiny:” a brand new game that blends multiple genres together to create a Halo-like shooter with RPG (role-playing game) and MMO (massively multiplayer online) elements, something that has never truly been done before on a massive scale like this. When it comes to O’Donnell, his epic, spacey and spine-chilling tunes should certainly be a part of this upcoming sci-fi adventure, but he won’t be returning for any possible sequels.

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This is concept art for “Destiny” with two Guardians fighting off the Cabal. (Photo courtesy of Bungie)

In a shocking reveal on his Twitter account, O’Donnell tweeted on the night of April 16 that he had been fired from Bungie. “I’m saddened to say that Bungie’s board of directors terminated me without cause on April 11, 2014,” he said.

This unexpected, shocking news has caused an uproar, leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what could have led to one of the most respected game developers letting go of video game’s most talented, popular composers.

To alleviate the impact of this controversial move, Bungie quickly released a statement responding to it, but have only made matters worse since it was cryptic and strangely short in nature.

“For more than a decade, Marty O’Donnell filled our worlds with unforgettable sounds and soundtracks, and left an indelible mark on our fans, Bungie community manager David Dague said. “Today, as friends, we say goodbye. We know that wherever his journey takes him, he will always have a bright and hopeful future. We wish him luck in all his future endeavors.”

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Martin O’Donnell is in the middle of this trio, with The Beatles’ John McCartney on the left and long-time friend Michael Salvatori on the left, who has helped O’Donnell with many of his scores. (Photo courtesy of Edge)

Martin O’Donnell is arguably the most well-known composer in the game industry. He has scored every soundtrack for five Halo games from 2000 to 2010 until Bungie handed over the franchise to 343 Industries, with Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi taking over the musical department for Halo 4.

He’s also known for composing commercial jingles for Mr. Clean and Flintstones Vitamins, moving on to video games around 1997 with titles like “Riven,” “Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator” and “Myth II.”

The “Halo 2” album may still be one of the best-selling video game soundtracks of all time and just one reason why O’Donnell is such an influential figure in video game culture, but a great altercation of some sort must have happened between Bungie and him for his firing to occur. So far, neither of them seem ready to discuss what happened until the dust settles, leaving thousands of concerned gamers awaiting any information with bated breath.


16


After Months Of Silence, Epic Games’ Fortnite Is More Than Alive And Well

Dec. 10, 2011. That’s the day when Epic Games unveiled its first trailer for a completely new game that represented a surprising change in direction. From the video, you could conclude that “Fortnite” is a sandbox game with vibrant, cartoon-like visuals that seems heavily inspired by “Team Fortress 2” and “Minecraft.” Compared to its previous work on the gory, so-called “bro shooter” franchise “Gears of War,” this could be considered a drastic shift in tone for the developer. However, since the game’s debut over two years ago, very little has been said about it, which has had people questioning whether or not Epic Games has canceled or abandoned it.

On April 8, the developer has crushed these rumors, making a roaring comeback with an in-depth cover story of “Fortnite” courtesy of Gameinformer.

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This month’s magazine has this beautiful artwork on the front and back covers. (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

It wasn’t easy over those two, silent years for Epic Games because they experienced a massive transition in its employee infrastructure and financial backing. When it finished “Gears of War 3,” the developer sought a new publisher besides Microsoft that would be a good fit to help it publish free-to-play games. After speaking with several publishers, Epic Games found Tencent: a Chinese Internet company – which is even bigger than Facebook – that specializes in social networking, multiplayer online games and more. In June 2012, it finally joined forces with Epic Games by making a $300 million dollar stake in the developer.

“It was the first time in Epic’s 21-year history that we had taken an outside investment, and that ended up being a life-changing event for some really long-time members who were shareholders in Epic,” founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said. “That gave everyone an opportunity to reevaluate what they wanted to do. Everyone was in a different situation.”

This led to the departure of major employees like Cliff Bleszinski, Adrain Chmierlaz and Rod Fergusson all around the same time, which had many people thinking that something terribly upsetting must have happened inside the developer. This wasn’t the case at all, according to Sweeney. It was a time of natural transition for several people, which made way for a host of new employees to join the ranks of Epic Games.

With these great changes came new inspiration and talent, which has subsequently brought in “a new era at Epic Games,” and it starts with “Fortnite.”

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These characters represent two out of the four classes players will be able to choose from: the Commando and the Scavenger. (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

Described in a nutshell, Gameinformer editor Dan Ryckert sums it up perfectly in the reveal article on its website.

“[Fortnite] challenges you to explore the environment for resources and build fortresses while fending off waves of attackers at the same time,” he said. “With an RPG-like progression system, Diablo-like looting, multiple campaigns of varying lengths, procedurally generated worlds, and the promise of player vs. player battles, Epic is offering plenty of replayability that it hopes will provide the game with a long lifecycle.”

The game takes place in a land simply known as “the world” where four players must fight against a malevolent force called “the Storm.” During the day, players must collect resources, create various weapons and equipment and build fortresses. During the night, all of this work pays off as monsters of all shapes and sizes assault the players until they run out of reinforcements. Afterwards, the fun cycle of discovery and invention continues as players explore the world of “Fortnite.”

What’s impressive about this world is that it’s procedurally generated, meaning that every time a player enters a new game match, the layout of the environment is always different. “[This encourages] exploration, discovery, that feeling of possibility, those are all big parts of the game and the upside for the player is huge,” vice president of product development Paul Meegan said.

When it comes to the creativity involved with playing this game, it rivals the great simplicity and freedom of constructing imaginative ideas that “Minecraft” allows players to do so well. Large, seemingly complex structures can be built with an excellent set of crafting tools and options that “Fortnite” offers, focusing more on practicality and efficiency rather than detail.

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The bizarre enemies of “Fortnite.” (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

There is much more to be said about the game, such as how many different kinds of weapons players will be able to use; how the art style went from a more realistic, darker tone to a more playful, stylized approach; how the enemies differ in their abilities and strengths; and how different player classes will function. More of this can be seen on Gameinformer, which is gradually revealing more information about the game this month.

However, the one fact that anyone interested in “Fortnite” should know is that it will be absolutely free, and there’s a good reason why.

“It’s a great way to have a conversation with players because they’re not obligated to like it. We have to do our jobs; we have to be awesome game creators to say ‘It’s worth your time to play this game,’ and I think we’ve done that,”  producer Roger Collum said. “We want [players] to tell us what they want because we’re gamers, too, and we recognize that … we don’t have all the right ideas.”

With this game, Epic Games wants to build a trust and partnership with its consumers, allowing anyone to jump into the experience and help shape “Fortnite” for the better. Players can pay to earn special items and equipment if they want, but no one is at a disadvantage if they don’t do this. It’s a fair experience that does “free-to-play” right, and the development team is excited to see how their game will resonate with everyone upon its release in 2015 for the PC.