The People’s Republic of China has strict censorship laws regarding media in all formats for the sole purpose of protecting national security and maintaining social stability. While it has made some strides in regards to lifting gaming bans, Reuters reports these laws are now targeting a different form of communication: livestreaming.
China has reportedly contacted three major social media and news websites to take down all video and audio streaming services due to politically charged social commentary. China’s Twitter-esque social media website Sina Weibo, video-sharing and game streaming platform ACFUN, and news website Ifeng.com are being affected by the ban.
The move is due to the presence of politically charged material that violates China’s censorship laws within these websites’ livestreaming content. User commentary is also inciting “negative opinions.”
Because of its censorship laws, China’s government regularly combs through its social media websites for potentially harmful comments and content. This includes, but isn’t limited to, politically charged comments, anything that slanders and insults others, promotion of cults or superstitions, mockery of China’s culture and traditions, and the showing of drug use and violence. While pictures and written comments that include these things can be deleted, it’s harder to regulate livestreams, videos, and audio content.
Foreign social media websites like Facebook and YouTube are banned in China entirely. Videogame streaming platform Twitch is banned; even Google is banned. Although China in 2015 lifted its videogame console manufacturing and ownership ban made in 2000, while its laws regarding content censorship remained in place. To this day, the content of video games is subject to the government’s censorship for the same reasons as its internet and media censorship: national security and stability.
Sina Weibo has acknowledged the notice issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) of the People’s Republic of China and is in the process of evaluating who the ban will affect from the staff to its major influencers. But what’s most interesting is that the SAPPRFT notice states that Sina Weibo does not have the proper licenses for internet livestreaming services, in addition to its content violations.
Sina Weibo, like other livestreaming social platforms like Momo and YY, is part of a booming livestreaming market in China, which grew 180% in 2016 alone, according to Technode. The same story includes a report from the China Internet Network Information Center, stating that there were over 344 million livestreaming users in China in 2016, which constitutes about 47 percent of all of the internet users in the country. Video game streaming was the largest part of this market to grow, led by gameplay streaming platform Douyu and gaming and social media giant Tencent.
Without question, this ban will have effects on that livestreaming market, and the bans on Sina Weibo, ACFUN, and Ifeng.com could just be the beginning.
It is currently unclear when these livestreaming services will be taken down from the websites under the ban.
The content updates continue to roll out for World of Warcraft, with last week’s patch 7.2.5 unleashing flying, a new raid, and bunch of other changes into Azeroth. Just prior to the content launch, we talked with Paul Kubit, senior game designer for World of Warcraft, about how Blizzard approaches these “.5” patches, the state of micro-holidays, and keeping players engaged regardless of whether they’ve been playing since launch or they’re just starting now.
While Paul does a deep dive into the WoW’s design, the game’s class designers recently held an AMA on Reddit that you can check out here.
GameSpot: The timing for this update, hitting during E3. Was that intentional? Is it just that this is the time in the development calendar to put out the update? Or do you feel like these are different audiences–that E3 has a more console-centric feel versus what hardcore World of Warcraft players are looking for?
Paul Kubit: I don’t think we thought about it that hard. With Legion, we had a pretty holistic plan of making sure that we had a lot of patches come out; lots of times for that content train to leave the station. Whether that particular patch was delivering a new outdoor zone for questing or a new raid or just the additional side content or class updates like we’re seeing a lot of in Patch 7.2.5. We knew that those patches should come out pretty regularly, so 7.2.5 just kind of ended up landing around that E3 date, but it’s probably more coincidence than anything else.
And it has become such a regular rollout of content. It must feel like you’re almost on a well-oiled machine at this point.
Yeah, it feels a little oiled. I mean, there’s still a lot of work that goes into each one of these little patches, big or small, but yes, we’re really happy that we have been able to, up to this point, provide plenty of patches. 7.2 was not that long ago; we just landed on Broken Shore, and have been pushing towards The Tomb of Sargeras. Now with 7.2.5, we’re going to have that raid actually opening and also some additional little bits of content landing in as well, whether that’s a Chromie scenario, some new micro-holidays, new brawls, and so on.
How carefully does the team have that roadmap laid out? Obviously, for 7.2.5, you know what’s coming up, but for the ones further out, are you guys partly playing that by ear and seeing how things work out?
It really kind of depends. We don’t just work on one patch at a time. We always have lots of different wheels spinning, and how much of a head start you get on that wheel depends on how big the wheel is. For something like 7.2, that was being worked on either as original Legion was launching, or maybe even a little bit before it. For something like 7.2.5, the team that works on that is a little bit more agile. We’re able to respond more to what the game needs, so if that’s a particular change to something like a class mechanic, we can make those changes. If it’s something like just deciding when it feels right for the Tomb of Sargeras to unlock, we make those changes, as well as just adding content.
I mentioned the Chromie scenario earlier. One of the things about the Chromie scenario is, as we were building it, we were making a decision how often you can actually run the scenario, and after hearing a lot of feedback that some of the content in 7.2 felt, maybe it was a little bit gated, that definitely weighed into some of the decisions of how Chromie ended up playing, which there’s not really any time-gating at all.
What separates the raids specifically from the patches done, in terms of your development process? Compared to the past, the raids are not as closely timed to the patches as they were before. They come a little after. How has that impacted the development of the patches themselves?
It’s been freeing. We’ve started thinking about the game and the way we release parts of the game a little bit differently. In the past, it was more discreet patches–a patch is just “this much” content, and you get it on this date, and everything that’s in there is available. As we start building content a little bit earlier, if we have the Tomb of Sargeras in the game before it’s actually ready, it’s really time for us to be in the Tomb of Sargeras. Then we can release that raid or any type of content that’s time-gated at the time that feels right. We wouldn’t want to release it too early.
If we’d released it in 7.2, I would argue that it would probably feel like we didn’t have enough time to explore Nighthold. I know there’s lots of guilds who are still working their way through some of the last bosses, and if we’d waited much longer, then it would probably feel like we were in Nighthold too long. Sometimes a raid tier can drag on and lose your interest, so decoupling those two things has been freeing. It gives us a little bit more freedom to listen to feedback, feel out the way that the community’s responding to what they’re playing now, and then release content when it feels right.
Given how big 7.2 was, do you feel extra pressure in order to deliver more with the subsequent patch? Or do you feel like that gives you the freedom to just focus on class changes and the sort of things that you do expect from the .5 patches to begin with?
I don’t know if it’s “pressure” that we feel. I mean, as WoW’s development rolls on, our team has gotten a little bit bigger, and our efficiency’s probably increased as well, so you will see patches have tended to get bigger as time’s passed. But that doesn’t mean that every patch has to be bigger than the last. 7.2.5 for sure is not as big as 7.2, but it was never intended to be. This is more of an opportunity to explore other parts of Azeroth that aren’t as closely tied to the Legion storyline. 7.2 covered the assault on the Broken Shore and the Legionfall campaign, and that’s very much in the story of Legion, working alongside Illidan and fighting against the Legion.
The story stuff that’s happening in 7.2.5 is a little bit more evergreen. You’re working with Chromie, and she’s not even in Dalaran. She’s in Wyrmrest, in Northrend, so this content, as well as things that we’ve seen in other smaller patches like the Brawlers Guild, they’re not really tied to Legion. That also means that they’re going to be around for longer, or at least relevant for longer. You will probably not be playing through the Legionfall campaign one or two expansions down the line, but you’ll still be able to do the Chromie scenario or play through any of the micro-holidays or anything like that.
What has the feedback to micro-holidays been? I think it’s been about six months now since they were introduced. Are there plans to expand those further? Is there a certain point where you feel like you would have too many?
We’re still kind of feeling out the space that. Some of the answers to those questions–how often they should be and how many we should have–the response has been good. It varied from one micro-holiday to another. Some had more players playing in them than others. A lot of that had to do with just how long the micro-holiday is or, in some cases, just how far away and hard it is to get to. You know, we saw a lot more people participate in the salute-a-guard day just because it happened to be right there in Orgrimmar or Stormwind or any of your capital cities, you could flash “salute a guard” and then be participating in the holiday, whereas something like Hatching of the Hippogryphs, not as many people played because you actually had to fly all the way down to Feralas to get it.
But that’s okay for micro-holidays, as well. We intentionally built micro-holidays to feel like something that you opt into. You don’t feel like you need to absolutely do this unless you want to because, for something like Hatching of the Hippogryphs, all you really get as a reward is a little baby hippogryph who sits on your shoulder for the next five days or so. There’s no 500 gold or 100 million artifact power or anything like that. And, for a lot of people, that means they don’t want to do them because they want to get that artifact power. And that’s fine, but there are a bunch of people who are very interested in having a little baby hippogryph on their shoulder and will go hunt that down.
I imagine with the holidays, that you have really good insight into both who starts the proceedings for those and who actually goes through and completes them. Have you guys been surprised by the popularity of any of them, or, in the same way, surprised that people weren’t as interested in a holiday you thought was going to be a big hit?
I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the popularity that we’ve seen of these. One of the interesting things about it is that you do see different people being interested in different micro-holidays. It’s not just the same handful of people who are running them. For example, a lot of the people who chose to participate in the Glowcap Festival, were people who were a little bit more interested in reputation hunting because that one actually did give a reward which was a permanent thing for your character–the Sporeggar rep.
That kind of ties in with the point of micro-holidays, is that they’re not necessarily built to be for everyone, but some of them might be more interesting for you as a player than other people, people who are our peers, who are really into the Balloon Festival, because they had a lot of baked-in opportunities for players to RP their characters and interact with other characters.
I think you’ve said that the new Trial of Style thing was originally envisioned as a micro-holiday, but it seems to have graduated beyond that to being something bigger. What caused that change? Is there just a certain point where you feel like this is too substantial to simply be a micro-holiday?
Yeah. It was more of a feeling, that micro-holidays are, to be honest, a term we came up with very recently, so the actual definition of what one is is still up for debate. But up to this point, they’ve only been one to three days long, and the Trial of Style felt like a big enough event that you wouldn’t want to miss it, and it’s a little bit more miss-able, even at three days, so we extended it out to five days and, in doing so, said, “Well, let’s not call this a micro-holiday. We’ll just call it an event.” And that also frees us up to be able to release it at a different cadence if we choose to later, depending on how it feels once players start playing it.
Going more broad, it seems like new technology has been sort of an emphasis during the life of this expansion. Is that something that you sort of see as a continued focus moving forward?
I definitely think that. This isn’t just a Legion thing. Maybe we’ve done more of it in Legion, but since the original WoW, we’ve always been adding tech into the game. We didn’t have the capability to make a daily quest until BC came out, and then we decided we wanted tech for that. Our water didn’t look very good for a long time, and then all of a sudden, it started looking pretty good. There’s always tech being put in.
Legion is no exception. Even simple things like in the Chromie scenario, we needed bits of tech just to make the Order Hall talent tree work on Chromie, since she was not representing a class but just a character. Just getting the 1’s and 0’s to work behind the scenes to make that work was little bits of tech which all add up here and there, that makes it easier for people like me and other designers on the game to really make the experiences that we want to make.
Thinking about somebody like Chromie, when people come into the game, and especially maybe another year or two down the road, they’re not necessarily going to experience this patch in the same way that we experience it now. Are you guys giving thought to how you want to make that, accessible to players, no matter when they come in or when they Yes. For sure. We’re always thinking about stuff like that, and that’s really a big guiding principle in a lot of the content which goes into these .5 patches. We want to make content we call evergreen: things that you can play at any point in the expansion or future expansions. Chromie is an example where, the way it actually works is it uses time-walking, another little bit of tech we had to get, which is the ability to time-walk your level higher and item-level higher up to Level 112, item-level 1000. But that doesn’t mean that you can only run this at Level 110. If at some point in the future your character is higher than 112 and your item level is higher than 1000, it’ll still work. You’ll still be able to talk to Chromie on top of Wyrmrest and say, “I want to help save you because I heard that you’re going to get killed,” and it’ll still work.
Things like that, they help, instead of extending the length of the game, blow out the breadth of the game a little bit, giving you more things to do. It’s a different way of storytelling. It feels a little bit more incidental, a little bit more exploratory, as well as things like that, go to make the world of Azeroth bigger. When there’s more stuff to do, then the world actually feels bigger and more impressive.
One thing people have been talking about recently, not necessarily related directly to this patch, are the recent class mounts. Some people, of course, are really excited about their new class mounts, and some people, particularly druids, are a little bit disappointed, since for them, it’s just a form change rather than a new mount. Is that something you guys are also still addressing and talking to the community about?
It’s something we’re looking at and talking to the community about, for sure. Listening, absolutely. Things like this are. We want class mounts to feel great, so if people have feedback on them, they’re giving it to us through the right channels–via forums, via elsewhere–we’re listening. Nothing to announce in terms of changes right now. The class mounts just came out, but, “We are listening,” I guess is the important message there.
And naturally, the question always becomes, as soon as one patch hits, when will we start to hear about the next one? Do you anticipate that 7.3 will follow sort of a similar schedule, in terms of how long the gap was between the most recent, 7.1 and 7.2 patches?
Like I alluded earlier, when it feels right is when those patches come out. But one thing I do know is that 7.3 is being worked on. We know what Argus looks like, and that’s where we’re going next. Shortly after 7.2.5 goes live, PTRs will start rolling up with 7.3 builds. As far as actual release dates, nothing to announce at this point. It’s still a little early for that, but it is on the horizon.
And for this patch, I think the biggest thing that’s going available day one, outside of class changes if your class got any changes, is that Chromie scenario. I would say, in addition to anything else you’re running that day–your normal raids or mythic classes or world quests or whatever you’re doing–I would encourage checking that out, even if it’s not something that immediately catches your attention. It’s an iteration of a type of gameplay that we started just playing with in Legion with the Wizard Army Training, and something we learned a lot of lessons from. We’re very curious to see how people respond to it this time.
Another thing that I would point out for people to look for is micro-holidays. We’ve added a couple new ones, and they’ve been a little bit more miss-able in the past. You actually have to know they’re coming. You need to see it in the launcher or look at your calendar. Not everybody opens their calendar every day. I know I don’t. Those are going to be a little bit more visible–all of them will be in 7.2.5. We’ve added kind of advertisement characters into Dalaran who will be there a day ahead of time, so a day before the Moonkin Festival, you’ll see a couple druids and Moonkin show up there in Dalaran, in a very visible spot. You can talk to them, and they’ll say something like, “Oh yeah! The Moonkin Festival is here!” Or, “It’s coming tomorrow.” If you want to have a little Moonkin buddy who follows you around, be there. That’s something I guess people could be looking out for, as well.
Sega’s Yakuza series has been around for more than a decade, garnering both critical and commercial success in Japan since the release of its first entry in 2005. While the series consistently sold well in its native country thanks in part to its appeal to mature audiences and its portrayal of Japanese culture, its sales never managed to meet the same numbers in the West.
At the head of the Yakuza series is its creator, Toshihiro Nagoshi, a longtime Sega producer and designer notable for his work on classic games like Virtua Racing, Daytona USA, and Super Monkey Ball. His resilience during the series’ early days and his leadership across the development of every subsequent entry played a large part in establishing Yakuza as one of Sega’s flagship franchises, which is a major surprise given the company’s previous focus on games aimed at younger audiences.
We recently caught up with Nagoshi at E3 to discuss Yakuza 6, the future of the series, and his thoughts on the recent resurgence of Japanese games in the West.
What are some of the new ways Yakuza 6 evolves the mechanics and storytelling from past games?
First of all, the main thing is Yakuza 6 is built from the ground up with an entirely new engine. We’ve taken the storytelling, battles, mini-games, and all the series’ core underpinnings from previous games and have made the entire experience seamless. On top of that, there’s a lot of stuff that’s occurring in real-time, so there’s more of a rhythm to everything happening in the world, so there are often surprise encounters or small details around every corner that you might not expect to see or run into.
Yakuza 6 is set to be the final chapter of Kazuma Kiryu’s saga. What fueled the creative decision to do this?
Back during Yakuza 4’s development, we started to think, “How are we going to bring Kazuma Kiryu’s story to a close?” Since the games are made to have all the characters age with each consecutive entry, we had to consider when to put an end cap on each character’s story. Yakuza’s story doesn’t contain characters with superpowers who can use magic; this isn’t fantasy. The game tells stories with real people and real drama. This has always been a major underpinning of the series, so we always knew that, at some point, Kiryu’s story had to come to a close.
Similar to the way the 007 series hires new leads to keep the franchise going, we intend to have different protagonists appear in the Yakuza games in order to keep the series alive. When Sean Connery passed on the James Bond torch, a lot of people complained, but eventually people grew accustomed to the new actors. Each actor put their own flair to the 007 character, so in the same way, we believe that the different protagonists we’ll end up using will ultimately be able to carry the torch for Kiryu.
Yakuza continues to have an incredibly devoted fan base in the West. Why do you think the series resonates so much with western audiences?
Yakuza’s asian setting makes it different than the typical places gamers get to explore. And in that same way, the human drama surrounding the series heavily differs from the more Hollywood-esque storytelling you see in western games. People recognize [the Yakuza games] as different, so I think people are attracted to them because it’s new and fresh.
Would you equate that interest to the way someone enjoys watching a foreign film?
Yeah, I’d say that’s a possible equivalent–maybe like a Japanese person watching a Korean film or an American watching a Swedish film. But the one difference I see in Yakuza is, for example, Korean films often end on very dark or sad notes. I don’t really enjoy these sorts of endings, and it’s one of the reasons why Yakuza ends on more uplifting notes, which is more of a quality you see in Hollywood-style film narrative.
Japanese games have been making a comeback these days with western audiences, with quality games like Resident Evil 7, Nier: Automata, Persona 5, and of course, Yakuza 0. Why do you think Japanese games have finally returned to the limelight in the West? What would you attribute this phenomenon to on your side as a Japanese developer?
I don’t really have a strong opinion about this nor do I know the true answer myself, but when I’m here at E3 and see games like Call of Duty: WWII or God of War, I can’t help but notice each game’s incredible standard of quality and how they’re likely set to make a lot of money. That said, it’s not always about the sales–of course, the Yakuza series does sell a lot in Japan–but I believe there’s starting to be people here in the West who are looking for games they’ve never played before or have never touched. I think these people are starting to look at games, like Persona 5 and Yakuza 0, to discover something completely new.
One of the things that fans love about the series is its juxtaposition between its relatively serious main story and the absurd comedy of its sub-stories and side-activities. Why do you feel humor is such a necessary element to the Yakuza series? Is it tough balancing these tones to work together, given how they’re essentially polar opposites?
Having humor alongside more serious subject matter is absolutely necessary because when you have too much of one over the other, people often grow tired of it. There’s no variety. That’s always a fear for us, so we always add a little humor on the side to mix things up.
Another aspect to our reasoning for adding humor into Yakuza is that in the real world, there’s a lot of serious issues and unfortunate events, but if you sit down and pull at the strings long enough, you’ll notice at its core, there’s always something really stupid and hilarious about it. That realization that humor is at the core of everything is what makes up the seriousness and over-the-top comical moments you see in Yakuza games.
You’ve been involved with the Yakuza series since the beginning. Do you think there will ever come a day where you might move on from Yakuza? Or is the series too close to your heart for that to ever happen?
It’s difficult to discuss things too far in the future for me, but as far as I’m concerned, I don’t feel like everything is finished for Yakuza. Of course, Yakuza 6 is the end of Kiryu’s story, but that doesn’t mean the series is done or that we don’t have any more ideas for it, so stay tuned.
Kiryu is a super-cool and masculine guy, but since he’s a well-established character with a specific personality, there are things that he would and wouldn’t do. That’s why I believe having a new character with different caps and limitations opens the doors for all sorts of different kinds of narrative explorations. I want to leave the door open for possibility for the Yakuza series.
Can we expect a Yakuza Kiwami-like remake for Yakuza 2 someday? Or better yet, could we maybe expect Yakuza 2-5 on PS4 or PC?
Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on that at this time, but I do understand and am aware that there are a lot of people asking about that.
GungHo Online Entertainment, the publisher of Suda51’s hack-and-slash game Let It Die and the Puzzle & Dragons series, has a game in development for Nintendo Switch. While the company couldn’t reveal much information about the project, it did confirm the title will be an “original action game.”
“This has been in the works, for about four to five years, and we’ve been kind of thinking what to do with it,” explained GungHo CEO Kazuki Morishita via an interpreter. “And then when the Switch was announced, we decided with the kinds abilities the Switch brings to the market for different ways of playing, we felt that it would be a good fit.”
GungHo rose to prominence thanks to its Puzzle & Dragons series, a match-three puzzle game for mobile devices that was a phenomenal success in Japan. The series made its 3DS debut in the West with Puzzle & Dragons Z, which was also bundled together with the crossover Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Edition. The studio seems to have similar global ambitions for its Switch project. “We’re developing it to be a global-centric title,” Morishita said. “We’re making it for a global audience.”
As for Let It Die, there’s new content in store for the game. At E3, GungHo unveiled the Tower of Barbs, a new area that players will have to battle their way through. Along with new gear and enemies, the reveal trailer also gives fans a quick glimpse at the next Four Forcemen. You can get a peak at the Tower of Barbs in the video above.
Let It Die is available free-to-play exclusively for PlayStation 4. GungHo hasn’t announced a release date for the Tower of Barbs content.