Best True Wireless Earbuds
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200
Top 10 Inspirational Movies Every Entrepreneur Must Watch
Microsoft Corp. is a personal computer pioneer and one of the world’s top video gaming console manufacturers. However, when it comes to the junction of those two worlds: PC game development, it’s mostly immaterial. This is something the company hopes to change in the near future.Age of Empires IV, the first instalment in 16 years, is the outcome of this effort. It’s a mediaeval strategy game in which players control either the Holy Roman Empire or the Islamic Abbasid caliphate in an attempt to conquer the world. The game, which will be released on Thursday, has received positive reviews. It has an average Metacritic score of 83 percent, putting it in the top ten new PC games.
Although the Xbox and related content account for most of Microsoft’s $15 billion in annual game revenue, Loftis saw an opportunity. “I said, ‘Hey, you know this console thing, it seems like it’s been OK, but if we really want to speak to gamers, we’ve got to go beyond console,’” Loftis, 56, recalled. “We’ve got to speak to PC gamers as well.”
Leading the project is Shannon Loftis, who secured the job five years ago after she told her bosses it was time for Microsoft to take computer games more seriously. As Loftis tells it, she “begged” to oversee work on rebooting Age of Empires, a franchise that dates back to the 1990s.
The original Age of Empires helped demonstrate Microsoft’s ambitions in PC games, but the company’s commitment to the medium has wavered over the decades. Now, though, it’s reinvesting in the hope of attracting a population of gamers that exceeds that of consoles. There are 1.4 billion people worldwide who play games on computers, according to research firm Newzoo. Although the console market is more lucrative, the PC has a dedicated fan base and is a key game platform in places where the Xbox isn’t strong, like in China and South Korea.
Sony Group Corp. is laying plans to emulate Microsoft’s strategy, said George Jijiashvili, an analyst at Omdia. The Japanese company has said it’s working on bringing several PlayStation titles to the PC, and a few months ago, it acquired a Dutch outfit called Nixxes Software that specializes in doing just that.
PC games are valuable to Microsoft in other ways, too. They drive customer demand for high-end Windows computers and are drawing more players to Microsoft’s broader game empire. The company is repackaging many of its console games for purchase on Steam, the most popular PC game store, and has shifted from console sales as a driver of sales to focus on its subscription services that work across PC, consoles and mobile devices. Some of the most popular Xbox games started on the computer, like Minecraft and PUBG: Battlegrounds. Last year, Microsoft released a new Flight Simulator, the first in 14 years. It was rated the third-best PC game of 2020, according to Metacritic. Three months ago, the company put out a version for the Xbox Series X to similar acclaim.
But console thinking doesn’t exactly translate to a PC, said Loftis, a 26-year veteran of Microsoft’s games division who has been seen around the office wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Think Outside the Xbox.” Age of Empires IV and Flight Simulator were built specifically for the keyboard-and-mouse crowd and play to their sense of nostalgia. “There are some of us who never stopped playing Age,” Loftis said. “In fact, it’s actually a fairly significant number of people.”
Loftis’s pitch in 2016 fit squarely in the company’s expansionist vision for gaming. It’s a priority for the company. Satya Nadella, the chief executive officer, has already plopped down $10 billion for games-related acquisitions and added Phil Spencer, the head of gaming, to his senior leadership team in 2017.
“If we’re going to connect with a global gaming audience, that means meeting them where they like to play,” said Matt Booty, the head of Microsoft’s game studios who approved Loftis’s original pitch. “We also know that PC gamers and console gamers can have different needs and expectations, and it’s important for us to be as good at PC as we are at console. That hasn’t always been the case, and we know we will have work to do.” Age of Empires II came two years later. Partly distributed in Kellogg’s cereal boxes, it was the most popular installment in the series, but the company was becoming distracted with the Xbox and left the game developer, Ensemble Studios, to toil in obscurity. “Over time, Xbox ate my whole group,” said Fries, who left in 2004. During the financial crisis of 2008, Microsoft shuttered Ensemble and abandoned Flight Simulator a few years later.
© Bollyinside | All rights reserved 2021.
Heat vs. Grizzlies: How to watch NBA online, TV channel, live stream info, game time – CBS Sports
Icarus tree sap guide: How to craft this sticky stuff – PC Gamer
PC Gamer is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
By published 6 December 21
Tree sap is used to create epoxy for high-tier crafting in Icarus. Here’s how to make it.
Need to craft some Icarus tree sap but don’t know how? There’s quite a lot of stuff on the Icarus tech tree, and it can be difficult to tell exactly what every item does. So when you see a recipe that includes tree sap, it’s not entirely clear how to find or make the sticky stuff. Tree sap is an ingredient for crafting epoxy, which is important for upper-tier crafting recipes like a machining bench—the item you use to make guns, armor, and steel tools. Yep, you need tree blood in order to make military equipment. But where do you find it?
Trees are a sensible guess, and there’s no shortage of trees in Icarus. But it’s not quite the answer. Below we’ll explain exactly where to find tree sap, and what you’ll need to craft a whole bunch of it.
First you’re going to need a crafting bench, which means being at least level 10 and having a spare blueprint point to unlock it. You’ll find the crafting bench at the start of the Tier 2 tech tree. To build it you’ll need 12 fiber, 20 sticks, 50 wood, and 12 stone.
With the crafting bench built and placed, you’ll need to unlock the mortar and pestle, which you’ll also find on the Tier 2 tech tree. This is the item you need to make tree sap, and you’ll see on the top half of the list, just past the potbelly stove and cooking station. Unlock the mortar and pestle with a blueprint point, and build it at the crafting bench with 4 silica ore and 12 stone. Take it from the device inventory and put it in your inventory or hotbar slot.
Next, place the mortar and pestle somewhere—nicely, it can be placed on a lot of stuff you may already have set up, like the top of your storage crate. You can even place it right on top of the crafting bench if you want.
Interact with the mortar and pestle and you’ll see tree sap in the recipe list. It requires 4 sticks, which you probably already have in your inventory. Craft tree sap and it’ll appear in the mortar and pestle device inventory so you can use it in any recipes that require it, like epoxy.
At some point you may need to mass produce tree sap, and you probably don’t want to spend all your time running around picking up sticks off the ground or hoping you get enough while chopping down trees. No worries, you won’t need to. Spend a blueprint point to unlock the carpentry bench and craft it with 80 wood, 12 rope, and 120 copper nails. At the carpentry bench you can take wood you’ve harvested and turn it into sticks. Then turn those sticks into tree sap.
Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he’d stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He’s also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.
Sign up to get the best content of the week, and great gaming deals, as picked by the editors.
Thank you for signing up to PC Gamer. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
PC Gamer is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site.
© Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036.
EA's efforts to catch up to its responsibility – GamesIndustry.biz
You are not signed in.
Thursday 26th August 2021
Share this article
Companies in this article
It’s been one year since Electronic Arts published its Positive Play Charter, refreshed community guidelines designed to encourage better behaviour between players and stamp out toxicity.
Abusive behaviour in gaming communities, particularly around multiplayer games, is no secret and the FIFA publisher has tried to be a little more public in how it handles this, especially since the charter. Most recently, the company issued a permanent ban to a FIFA player who sent racial abuse to former footballer Ian Wright, even though that occurred outside EA’s platforms.
Chris Bruzzo, executive vice president for Positive Play, marketing and commercial, says that such an initiative is necessitated in part due to the “massive explosion” in online interaction through video games over the last decade – especially since the start of the pandemic.
“The video game industry is catching up to, ‘Wow, we have massive communities, and with that means we get all of the good and the bad associated with that,'” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “And so that’s why I think you’re still seeing tools just catching up to things like, how easy can we make it to report inappropriate behaviour? How clear can we make our code of conduct so that it’s so much more obvious when you’re breaking one of the rules?
Chris Bruzzo, EA
“This is going to be an ongoing area that will be dynamic and moving fast, and the industry has a lot of work to do to catch up to its responsibility in terms of the size of the communities that we now host inside our games.”
EA has been trying to publicly demonstrate its efforts in this space. Earlier this year,EA released new tools specifically to help tackle racism and toxicity in FIFA 21, and this month it launched the Play Together/Play Smart campaign with Internet Matters to educate parents about family settings and other systems that can help protect younger players from the inappropriate aspects of playing games. And, of course, there’s the Positive Play Charter – the key to which, Bruzzo says, was being very clear about expectations.
“The Positive Play Charter in very clear human language communicates how important it is to only share clean content, to only play in a way that’s fair,” Bruzzo says. “And we’re very, very clear. Nobody wants to play with a cheater. Treat others as you would like to be treated. We’ve been super clear about that, and what that’s allowed us to do is hold players accountable to it.”
These expectations extend not just to player interactions in multiplayer games, but how they can interact. Speaking about EA’s Accessibility First Patent Pledge earlier this week — whereby the publisher made the patents to technology like Apex Legends’ Ping System freely available — Bruzzo told us the company was in no way obliged to enable free speech in a title like its popular battle royale game.
“We don’t believe that we have a responsibility to create features and tools that allow you to say or do anything, including hate speech,” he says. “The Apex Ping System is highly constrained, but extremely effective. The same is true for our ability to use technologies to identify hateful language, user and account names that include racial slurs or hate speech.
“The industry has a lot of work to do to catch up to its responsibility in terms of the size of the communities that we now host inside our games”
“I think that we’re doing a good job of using software to root out as much of this as we can through automation, and then we’re going to have to continue to apply lots of human intelligence to screening and taking action and so on. EA has definitely stepped forward, and we’re being more aggressive about standing behind our commitment that play should be fair and safe and fun for everybody.”
Quantifying that commitment is slightly tougher. Bruzzo is able to tell us that EA has a team of 25 people working around the clock dedicated to monitoring and acting on issues around players breaking the code of conduct, and this will grow over time. We’re also told that last August, EA took action against over 9,000 accounts using offensive player and club names in NHL 20.
The company continues to review its games and the actions taken, and we’re told the vast majority of disruptive content and behaviour is actually minor in nature, and that most players who receive anything from a warning to a suspension do not repeat this behaviour. There’s also a strong focus on promoting positive behaviour, including reporting toxicity, which leads Bruzzo to expect an increase rather than a decrease in the number of incidents EA has to deal with – at least, at first.
“We’re encouraging people to raise their hands,” he says. “We’re trying to make it easier for them. So I think we’re going to have a ballooning of incidents, so that we can actually identify more of the things that are disruptive and take action on them.”
Toxicity between players is just one aspect of the industry’s issues with discrimination, harassment and hate. AAA publishers are under particular scrutiny for toxic work environments, especially in light of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit and ongoing reports emerging from Ubisoft. EA, so far, has largely escaped the level of exposés its rivals have been subject to, but Bruzzo isn’t about to paint the publisher as a utopia for its staff.
“We’re a community of over 10,000 employees. Are we going to have issues? Are there going to be places where some bad actors or toxic environments exist inside the Electronic Arts employment culture? Of course,” he says. “Once you get to that level, that size of a population, you almost can’t avoid it.
“[But] just like on the player toxicity side, you have to have a team that investigates complaints and takes action. So, yes, we have had to take some significant actions and dismiss employees, etc., over the last several years.”
(Most recently, the publisher fired the lead game designer behind Apex Legends over sexist and racist comments made in 2007.)
Bruzzo points to Apex Legends’ Ping System as a way to tackle toxicity in multiplayer games, asserting that free speech is not essential to multiplayer games
Bruzzo reports employees are given regular surveys and training in order to ensure everyone is aware of the company’s code of conduct. We’re also told that, in addition to employees being able to report to their managers, there is an internal ‘raise a concern’ platform, which is followed up by the company’s People Experience team, and there’s an external hotline for those who wish to seek support elsewhere.
The exec recognises that the issues these systems are designed to resolve stem in part from the industry being “historically super overrepresented by men… with a lack of diversity in general” – something he believes is true of most general technology companies.
“We’re a community of over 10,000 employees. Are there going to be some bad actors or toxic environments? Of course. Once you get to that size, you almost can’t avoid it”
“It’s going to take a lot of work to change that over time,” he says. “If we just talk about women, we have to hire women at every level of the company, in technical roles, in management roles, etc., and that takes a multi-year commitment to turning the shape of an employee population that has more than 10,000 people in it to something that is actually more diverse and representative. But we’re making really great progress.”
Bruzzo claims that 50% of the leaders who oversee EA’s studio organisation are women, and that the Hispanic and Latinx population in the company’s total workforce has grown by more than 35% in two years. Leadership has also been given unconscious bias training and receives annual sexual harassment training – but, again, he recognises the publisher is not immune to the type of accusations we’ve seen in recent years.
“Is it possible that, two weeks from now, we’re going to hear that there was somebody who was behaving badly at EA for some period of time? I’m sure that’s going to come up again, just by virtue of the large numbers of the people that we employ,” he says. “And our job will be to deal with it, to take action, and to keep making things better.”
Another area of scrutiny EA faces is executive compensation. Alongside Activision Blizzard, the company has been singled out by the Change to Win Investment Group over its “excessive equity granting problem.” The group’s campaign helped convince shareholders to reject last year’s proposed compensation plans, prompting EA to make several changes to how it rewards its top execs earlier this year.
Bruzzo reflects on his experience serving on the board of directors at various other companies, alongside his duties at EA, and notes that executive compensation has been “a hot topic for a decade now.”
“The biggest companies in every industry are getting scrutiny, not just video games,” he says. “They’re getting scrutiny. ‘Executives are paid too much.’ That’s the first level — if you want a headline, that’s the headline. But that’s not really getting at the issue.
“The issue is are you creating programmes that incentivise your executives to do things that are in the best interests of shareholders? And where companies got it wrong was when executives could be compensated or rewarded for things that didn’t deliver shareholder value. And so, that’s where a lot of the scrutiny is coming from, and as a result, companies have to respond to that and they have to change. They have to adjust their practices.
“I think there’s a desire to call it a crisis and make it seem like it’s some kind of an indictment on leadership or an industry, when actually it just represents the next area of attention and focus. And companies like us, we have to come to the table, and say, ‘Alright, here are some adjustments we can make that would address the concerns we’re hearing about, and that’ll better align executive rewards with shareholder interests.’
“I’m sorry if I’m making that seem so much less interesting, but in truth, it’s just another one of those areas where public companies need to engage and find common solutions that address the concern. And unfortunately, it is quite boring, in that it is mostly about aligning rewards with shareholder interests.”
FIFA Ultimate Team continues to draw criticism for its business model, which many argue is akin to gambling
Perhaps the area EA has faced the most heat in over the past few years has been its monetisation practices – specifically the use of loot boxes in its premium games like FIFA. While things have been somewhat quieter on this front in the past year, the UK government is soon expected to reveal the results of its call for evidence, which will help decide whether loot boxes are included in the nation’s amended gambling laws.
Bruzzo claims that, as with executive compensation, the headlines are not the full story. He says that 78% of FIFA 21 players never spend money in-game, and that nine out of ten FIFA Ultimate Team packs are earned rather than purchased.
“The premise that Electronic Arts is succeeding because players don’t understand how much money they’re spending is false”
“Nobody wants to talk about that,” he says, adding; “We’re waiting for the UK call for evidence report to come back. We’re actively engaged with the UK government in that work. We’re going to be sitting right at the table, shoulder to shoulder with the government regulators, with our industry partners, and just like we do when we hear reports of toxic behaviour, or players being upset about cheating, when we hear the evidence that comes back from the call for evidence, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work on it together.”
He points to the fact that EA last year launched FIFA Playtime, a new tool to help players monitor their spending (among other things), and are now testing preview packs that let players see which Ultimate Team cards are included before they buy.
Bruzzo also adds that, while Belgium and The Netherlands have taken a tougher stance against loot boxes, other countries such as Australia, France, Sweden and Denmark have seen regulators decide not to class this model as gambling.
“Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be some desire to regulate in this space in some way, but it’s more likely that we’re going to have to have conversations about parental controls, spending amongst young people, toxicity amongst online communities,” says Bruzzo. “Those are likely to be the really meaningful things we can do together, because at the end of the day, FIFA Ultimate Team is a beloved mode that players all over the world love to play. It creates ongoing engagement for the full year of football.
“Do we really want to eliminate a mode that allows people to collect real-world players into a team and play with them in a video game? Is that really our intent, to reduce player fun and choice? We want to take that away? Why? So, I think we just have to have more constructive conversations about this, as opposed to just hyperbole.”
Ultimate Team modes alone make up a significant portion of EA’s revenues – more than 27% in the company’s previous financial year – so their importance to the company’s bottom line is hard to understate. So it’s interesting to see EA actively campaigning through Play Together/Play Smart to get more parents limiting children’s spending. Does Bruzzo see this as a conflict between public image and overall company interest?
“I don’t see any conflict there, no,” he says. “What makes our games successful is when they’re fun and there’s enough content and competition and community in them that people want to play them for a really long time. If the premise is, ‘Electronic Arts is succeeding because players don’t understand how much time and money they’re spending in games,’ that is false. We’re not succeeding because we’re hiding information from players, which is why we’re just being utterly transparent now.
“You want to know more about what you’ve spent, and how much time you’ve spent, and how many matches you’ve played? Here you go. And parents of minors, people under eighteen, same thing. We want them to have a positive experience with gaming. When we hear stories about young people where parental controls weren’t used, where they had unlimited access to a credit card attached to their Xbox account, and as a result, they spent way too much, that pains us. We don’t want that to happen.”
F1 2019 was the first Codemasters game to be released after the acquisition and benefitted from EA’s marketing reach
With the publisher waiting to see the impact of the UK government’s decision on loot boxes, it’s worth also looking at EA’s operations on these shores. In the last year, it has tripled its footprint, thanks to the hefty acquisitions of Codemasters ($1.2 billion) and Golf Clash developer Playdemic ($1.4 billion). Now with 1,179 employees, the UK has become the third largest country in terms of EA’s workforce, following USA and Canada.
While the acquisitions came as big news — especially the shock takeover of Codemasters, beating out previous bidder Take-Two Interactive — Bruzzo says we shouldn’t expect to see any similar purchases in the near future and the company focuses on integrating the two studios. But he points out the fruits of this labour can already be seen with the “outsized success” of F1 2021, the first Codemasters title to be released after the acquisition.
“FIFA Ultimate Team is a beloved mode… Do we really want to eliminate that, to reduce player fun and choice? We need more constructive conversations, not just hyperbole”
“They did a phenomenal job with the delivery of that game. And then we did a really nice job of bringing it to market and getting it a level of attention that it hadn’t had before, and the results, in terms of players playing F1, are going to be better than anybody expected,” he says.
The pressure is on to maintain these high standards, especially as CEO Frank Sagnier and CFO Rashia Varachia chose to leave Codemasters just a few months after the takeover. Bruzzo is all too aware of the bar these two have set.
“Frank created a great culture, and the innovative spirit that has led to the kind of creativity of excellence that Codemasters has produced,” he says. “And that will be his ongoing legacy. He’s created that, and it will follow on. Same thing with Rashid.
“It’s important for us to realise, those are some of the top roles in the organisation. They were driving that as an independent company. It’s now part of Electronic Arts. What happens next? The two companies work as fast as possible to integrate, in order to get the value for players, for shareholders, for employees, and we’ve been very successful.
“That enables leaders who were going to transition out over a longer period of time to go ahead and transition out earlier, because it’s going so well. And I think that’s the case for both Codemasters, and the recent departures from Glu Mobile’s leadership as well.”
The acquisitions of both Glu and Playdemic also speak to another major strategy at Electronic Arts: a renewed push into mobile. The company has already confirmed it will be bringing new Apex Legends, Battlefield and FIFA offerings to smart devices and Bruzzo emphasises that EA does very well in this sector, holding six of the twenty most downloaded games since 2012.
“You can’t argue with the expansion of mobile,” he says. “It’s the biggest gaming platform in the world. It continues to grow faster than anything else, for all kinds of obvious reasons that are endemic to mobile, and continues to be a key growth area for EA. These acquisitions came up as an opportunity for us to continue our investment and focus in mobile.”
He concludes: “We expect the impact [of Apex Legends and Battlefield on mobile] will be a rising tide that lifts all boats in the franchise. That all of Apex Legends will benefit from having the mobile game. That all of the various PC and console versions of Battlefield are going to benefit from having an excellent Battlefield mobile game. We’re an interesting publisher in that we’re not as dependent as a lot of publishers are on having one hit game. We have a portfolio of games, and that puts us in a position to be one of the top publishers in mobile.”
Sign up for The Publishing & Retail newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox.
Common sense should prevail, but there’s more to the FIFA game series than the brand
By Christopher Dring
Samantha Ebelthite discusses EA’s awareness campaign with Internet Matters and her new role as vice chair of UKIE
By James Batchelor
Senior 2D Animator – Barcelona, Spain – Casual Mobile Games
Animation Programmer – Action/Open-World Console & PC Game – Sweden
Full Stack Coder Gaming Studio Northern Europe REF 729
Sign in to contribute
Need an account? Register now.
Latest articles from our team
“The next frontier for AR”: Why Niantic is sharing its tech with Lightship
Does the gaming press of old hold up today? | This Week in Business
Shortages amid record sales: Consumers face a frustrating Christmas | Opinion
Head of Games B2B
Xbox is the games publisher of 2021 | Opinion
Growing leaps and bounds: Polyarc on the trajectory of VR and Moss
Miniclip at 20: "I think the console experience was an abject failure for us"
Jeaneane Falkler appointed president of Technicolor Games | Jobs Roundup
EGX Birmingham 2021
3rd Mar 2022 – 5th Mar 2022
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
22nd Sep 2022 – 25th Sep 2022
ExCeL, London, United Kingdom
Ron Dippold posted a comment in
Ubisoft HR head: "People lost trust" in reporting process
Peter Bond posted a comment in
Valve says it will not allow exclusive titles for Steam Deck
Fernando Brischetto posted a comment in
Does the gaming press of old hold up today? | This Week in Business
How To?3 weeks ago
How to use technology in your life? – The Times of India Blog
Mobile1 month ago
Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro hands-on
Tech1 month ago
Facebook is now Meta! Metaverse good or bad?
ERP1 month ago
All you need to know about the provisioning tool for users available in Microsoft Azure with SAP SuccessFactors
Tech2 months ago
First Blog after my old website crashed!
Mobile2 months ago
What all the tech bloggers are saying about iPhone 13?
How To?3 weeks ago
News blog, November 18: Nearly all restrictions to stop from 11.59pm; an Everest challenge for a good cause – Shepparton News
How To?4 weeks ago
Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 Review – The best 13.3 e-note money can buy – Good e-Reader