Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter curating the best content in video games.
To receive this newsletter in your inbox weekly, consider subscribing if you haven’t already
📜 This Week’s Notable Product
In lieu of this notable news, we’re highlighting a cool product we came across: Anything.world. Voice is the medium. Virtual worlds are the playground.
From Playbyte to Manticore, game engine tools that simplify the game development process are all the rage, and Anything World is no exception in pushing the boundaries. Platforms like Anything World and Roblox demonstrate how people are increasingly interested in game experiences and ease of creation that can be scaled out to a wide audience vs. necessarily graphics and story (still important components).
It doesn’t stop at games. The originator of the Metaverse himself, Neal Stephenson, chatted with The Economist about the Metaverse, building virtual worlds in filmmaking and architecture. No longer are game engines limited to game development; rather, there are so many other use cases that can leverage the physics and 3D simulation of game engines. Game engines are eating other industries.
So, what exactly is Anything World?
Anything World is a no-code-if-you-don’t-want-to-code developer tool for Unity that helps you create limitless experiences.
From their launch video on Product Hunt, they’ve summarized a few key points:
They’ve compiled over 500,000 (and counting!) free 3D animations from around the internet
You can use code to create your virtual worlds. Or not! They give you templates and an interface to put together assets and environments
Your voice can be a way to interact with assets and develop your environments i.e “I want a campsite with three squids fighting Godzilla”
Let’s take a minute to let that sink in… this is natural language processing to a point where voice commands can literally create games and give actions to characters. Obviously there’s more magic involved like their “secret machine learning sauce” that gives dynamism to their assets, but the gist is that simple logic can be executed on more complex game mechanics. For us, what’s so exciting is that they’re leveraging [forgotten] assets that already exist on the internet and giving them new life/opportunity. Why go through all the effort of making your own, right?
Anything World is made on Unity, a game engine that’s typically inaccessible to someone unfamiliar with programming. Their plugin lets anyone make a game on the Unity platform and then, by virtue of Unity’s cross-platform tech stack, export to any device. We can’t wait for them to integrate with other engines like Unreal or Roblox Studio, there will be so many interesting partnerships. Expect to see platforms like Fortnite Creator mode and Minecraft Creative mode leverage voice for their creators.
The Future of Game Engines & Infrastructure. Link
💡 Industry Content
A Serious Problem at Twitch: Late last week an article was released highlighting serious issues with workplace sexism, racism, and harassment at Twitch. The article included testimony from previous employees, including ex-VP Justin Wong, highlighting a number of historical issues that have taken place at industry events and in the workplace. For a company that already has opaque standards of content moderation, to see a continued lack of awareness on what is basically gaming’s most well-documented problem is incredibly distributing. There are very few companies that have the influence or platform like that of Twitch, and they (and parent company Amazon) have an obligation to employees to enforce standards that are at least able to do the bare minimum when it comes to making people feel included and comfortable at work. Link
Time to Get Educated: Niko Partners, a gaming market intelligence firm and employer of Twitter-superstar gaming analyst Daniel Ahmad, released a handful of reports on some of Asia’s biggest publicly traded gaming companies, including the likes of NetEase and Tencent. All the reports are free to download, and serve as an excellent primer for anyone looking to dive deep into the future prospects of what massive gaming companies could be doing in the next few years. Link
A Crack in the Crucible: Less than 12 hours after we sent out last week’s optimistic take on Amazon’s gaming future, the company pulled the plug on their most recent title Crucible. While this will certainly stoke the flames of the Amazon + Gaming detractors, this still isn’t the end of the company’s foray into games. Protocol’s Seth Schiesel explores his continued optimism on Amazon Gaming, what happens next, and why Microsoft might be executing on Amazon’s games strategy right under their noses. Link
A New Personal Best: One of the coolest corners of gaming is speedrunning, where players set parameters and attempt to complete a game as quickly as possible. The perennial home speedrunning leaderboards, Speedrun.com, was acquired earlier this week by Elo Entertainment, a data analytics company. We love that real-business recognition is coming to one of the most fan-driven pockets of gaming. Link
Get a Job in Games: Earlier this week, popular start-up accelerator YCombinator announced a Gaming Tech Talk + Job Expo. This application only event will pair people interested in engineering, design, marketing and operations jobs with some of YC’s fastest growing gaming companies. Link
🎮 Fun & Games
Feel Good In Your Skin: One of the coolest parts of the Fortnite community is the subsection of people who spend their free-time designing “concepts” for in-game skins. The game has been around long enough at this point to develop recurring events & characters, and independent creators are taking notice. This profile highlights the work of 22-year old Denni, who has designed custom concept skins that span from pop star Ariana Grande to streaming-giant Pokimane. Link
😎 Other Cool Reads
VR Films + AI: Not quite a movie and not quite a video game either, Agence falls in a liminal space that casts AI as characters in a film, an interesting application of reinforcement learning to a largely passive viewing experience. How do you interact/view/play with something that’s fundamentally different every time? How can the audience interact with the environment such that the viewing experience is augmented? And what implications might that have? Link
A lot of interactive films have decision moments, when you can branch the narrative, but I wanted to create something that let you transform the story at any point.
Representation in Tony Hawk Pro Skater: 2020 has been a landmark year for representation in video games. Titles like The Last of Us: Part II and others have elevated the role that trans characters play in video games from background sidekick to major contributor. But given the broad appeal and wide reach that sports games have, the inclusion of trans skater Leo Baker in the recent Tony Hawk Remake might be the most important development of the year so far. Check out this piece from Gayming Mag highlighting how the inclusion the first-ever non-binary skater in a Tony Hawk game is pushing back on the very culture behind skate boarding and sports video games. Link
“Scaling a Game Studio: How to Win”: Joseph Kim hosts the all-star team of Travis Boatman (Improbable), Gigi Levy-Weiss (NFX), and Kristian Segerstrale (Super Evil Megacorp) in a conversation about leading a game studio to success. We watched and rewatched this one. Link
📊 By The Numbers
3 Steps to get up and running with Unity’s latest program called Game Growth. Unity is beginning to verticalize their model by incubating studios, providing them the marketing budget, live ops support, and mentorship to grow their free-to-play game. This will be a 50/50 revenue share model, a win-win scenario for both parties.
100/100 is the Google Trends relevancy score for the term “sus” in late September. The phrase blew-up alongside indie social game Among Us, and is usually used to describe anyone who might be hiding as an imposter within the game. Seeing the expansion of popular culture terminology being driven by gaming is one of our favorite side effects of new genres/games. Link
😍 Our Current Favorites
Max always gets on my case for not having downloaded the Smash Ultimate DLC, but I was huge into Minecraft a few years back and this week’s release of Steve to Super Smash Bros is actually tempting me into the DLC. My favorite content of the week is by far jam1garner’s mod to import your Minecraft Java skins into Smash Ultimate. Yet another example of how UGC and modding contributes to a better game experience, however small the addition might be. Link
On a related but unrelated Minecraft note, I’ve seriously enjoyed watching Dream’s Manhunt videos on Youtube lately. They’re quite long but I was literally on the edge of my seat with Dream as he speedruns the Ender Dragon. Link
Earlier this week Playstation released a first look at the UI behind the PS5. The new Playstation will almost certainly be my console of choice for the next generation, and tracking the software powering it over time leads to some interesting trends. One of Xbox’s biggest missteps in the last generation of consoles was creating too much UI clutter across the consoles' variety of use cases. Good UI should supplement the core use case, video games, and make the experience easier to understand and use. Sony’s choice to implement concepts like “Activities”, which will give players in-game access to tips and info about their gameplay, or the integration of the Playstation store into the OS (as compared to a separate app) is exactly the kind of development I want to see in the menus powering my $500 purchase. Link
P.S. Like The Pause Button?
You can help make it even better by: