Gaming CEO Shares Nightmare Scenario Of Using AI To Spy On Devs

At least one video game company has considered using large-language model AI to spy on its developers. The CEO of TinyBuild, which publishes Hello Neighbor 2 and Tinykin, discussed it during a recent talk at this month’s Develop:Brighton conference, explaining how ChatGPT could be used to try and monitor employees who are toxic, at risk of burning out, or simply talking about themselves too much.

“This one was quite bizarrely Black Mirror-y for me,” admitted TinyBuild boss Alex Nichiporchik, according to a new report by WhyNowGaming. It detailed ways that transcripts from Slack, Zoom, and various task managers with identifying information removed could be fed into ChatGPT to identify patterns. The AI chatbot would then apparently scan the information for warning signs that could be used to help identify “potential problematic players on the team.”

Nichiporchik took issue with how the presentation was framed by WhyNowGaming, and claimed in an email to Kotaku that he was discussing a thought experiment, and not actually describing practices the company currently employs. “This part of the presentation is hypothetical. Nobody is actively monitoring employees,” he wrote. “I spoke about a situation where we were in the middle of a critical situation in a studio where one of the leads was experiencing burnout, we were able to intervene fast and find a solution.”

While the presentation may have been aimed at the overarching concept of trying to predict employee burnout before it happens, and thus improve conditions for both developers and the projects they’re working on, Nichiporchik also appeared to have some controversial views on why types of behavior are problematic and how best for HR for flag them.

In Nichiporchik’s hypothetical, one thing ChatGPT would monitor is how often people refer to themselves using “me” or “I” in office communications. Nichiporchik referred to employees who talk too much during meetings or about themselves as “Time Vampires.” “Once that person is no longer with the company or with the team, the meeting takes 20 minutes and we get five times more done,” he suggested during his presentation according to WhyNowGaming.

Another controversial theoretical practice would be surveying employees for names of coworkers they had positive interactions with in recent months, and then flagging the names of people who are never mentioned. These three methods, Nichiporchik suggested, could help a company “identify someone who is on the verge of burning out, who might be the reason the colleagues who work with that person are burning out, and you might be able to identify it and fix it early on.”

This use of AI, theoretical or not, prompted swift backlash online. “If you have to repeatedly qualify that you know how dystopian and horrifying your employee monitoring is, you might be the fucking problem my guy,” tweeted Warner Bros. Montreal writer Mitch Dyer. “A great and horrific example of how using AI uncritically has those in power taking it at face value and internalizing its biases,” tweeted UC Santa Cruz associate professor, Mattie Brice.

Corporate interest in generative AI has spiked in recent months, leading to backlashes among creatives across many different fields from music to gaming. Hollywood writers and actors are both currently striking after negotiations with movie studios and streaming companies stalled, in part over how AI could be used to create scripts or capture actors’ likenesses and use them in perpetuity.


Last Of Us Part II Composer Hints That PS5 Upgrade Is Coming

Ellie sits under a tree and plays her guitar.

Image: Naughty Dog / Sony

More Last of Us may be on the way, at least in the form of a “next-gen” PlayStation 5 upgrade for The Last of Us Part II. Composer Gustavo Santaolalla suggested during a recent interview that “new editions” of the game are in the works that would expand on his character’s cameo appearance.

Santaolalla’s character plays only a brief role in the PS4 version of the game, strumming on a banjo in Jackson City. He said in an interview with Blender that the new version of the character will be more interactive, potentially letting players select which music from the game’s soundtrack he plays, according to the Spanish gaming site Vandal (via VGC). He quickly added, however, that he can’t reveal anymore yet.

Kotaku reached out to Naughty Dog for comment.

The musician probably wasn’t even supposed to reveal that much, as there’s been no official tease yet for a new version of The Last of Us Part II. It wouldn’t be a shock that Naughty Dog is working on one though. Sony has been developing PS5 versions of recent PS4 hits like Death Stranding and Ghost of Tsushima, as well as porting some to PC like God of War and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It would make sense that Part II would be next in line, especially considering the recent success of the HBO adaptation.

In addition to bringing more content, improving visuals and performance, and introducing new accessibility options, “next-gen” upgrades are also a great way for companies to “double-dip” on sales, as outlined in a 2021 report by Bloomberg. Coming out at the tale end of the PS4 console generation, a PS5 port of Part II would be a good way to get it in front of new PlayStation owners who haven’t already played the game using backwards compatibility. It’s also a way to start charging $70 for it.

It’s also the most “new” Last of Us content fans are likely to see in the immediate future. Naughty Dog has been coy about any plans for a Last of Us Part III sequel, and the planned multiplayer spin-off, Last of Us Factions, reportedly hit production snags earlier this year. Season two of HBO’s adaptation is also in limbo at the moment as Hollywood writers and actors go on strike.


The Witcher Netflix Views Are Down, Prepare For Discourse

Prepare for The Witcher Netflix series discourse to get even more insufferable—Witcher fan site Redanian Intelligence crunched some numbers and reports that viewership has dropped 30 percent between Season Two and Season Three.

Read More: The Best And Worst Witcher Season 3 Looks

Now, before you start regurgitating the “Henry Cavill is leaving because he didn’t like the direction of the show” argument that is all over the internet, let’s look at some details.

The Witcher Season Three Netflix views

First, The Witcher Season Three is split in two parts, with the first half debuting on June 29. The rest of the season won’t hit Netflix until July 27, so it could be that some viewers are waiting to binge the entire season at once.

Second, the way in which Redanian Intelligence calculated viewership needs explanation, as it can be very confusing. Netflix used to only release information based on how many hours a season has been viewed by people across the world, which naturally favored shows with longer length episodes and more episodes per season. Now, however, Netflix divides viewed hours by the season’s overall runtime, so the lack of a second half of The Witcher Season Three doesn’t affect the way viewership is calculated.

According to Redanian Intelligence, The Witcher Season Two had 310 million hours viewed within the first ten days of its release, and if you divide that by its official runtime, that’s 41.8 million views. Volume One of The Witcher Season Three had 139.5 million hours viewed within the first 11 days of release. And if you divide that by its runtime, it’s gotten 29 million views—a 30 percent drop.

Now, I myself have wondered if The Witcher can survive Henry Cavill’s departure, and I can’t deny that the most recent episodes have felt bizarrely edited and therefore confusing (there’s a reason Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett thinks it needed a map). But, I believe the series still shines whenever it remains focused on the trio at its center: Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri. I don’t think the show deserves the ire it’s getting, but it’s unsurprising considering how often Witcher superfans are cis, white, straight dudes who are still mad that Philippa Eilhart is Black in the show.

Either way, I’m still gonna tune in for the second half of The Witcher Season Three, as it will cover some of the most intense, crucial moments from Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels. Even with Jaskier’s horrible wig, I remain a Witcher apologist.

Assassin’s Creed Haptic Shirt Lets You Feel Getting Stabbed

The OWO Haptic Gaming System Assassin's Creed Mirage edition is shown next to a render of Basim.

Image: OWO / Ubisoft

Technology has not quite caught up to the Animus virtual reality tech of the Assassin’s Creed series that lets people experience the violent history of the franchise, but Ubisoft is trying to emulate the idea with a haptic feedback…shirt? It will make you feel “sensations” similar to the ones Assassin’s Creed: Mirage protagonist Basim will have when the game launches on October 12.

The OWO Haptic Gaming System is a teched-out shirt used in some VR setups to give players some physical feedback on their bodies that coincide with actions in a game. While Assassin’s Creed: Mirage isn’t a VR game, Ubisoft is partnering with the manufacturer to make an Assassin’s Creed-branded shirt that has the game’s logo and will be implementing haptic functionality with the game on all systems. According to the OWO website, the haptic feedback in the shirt will let you “feel your precise movements when you take down your targets.”


On the flip side, it sounds like you’ll “feel the consequences” of incoming attacks, as well. So I guess if you want the vibrated approximation of getting stabbed with a sword, this is for you.

As of this writing, the Assassin’s Creed version is not available to order, but the standard edition will run you 499€ (approximately $560 USD), and won’t show up for three months after you order it. It remains to be seen if the Assassin’s Creed shirt will cost more or less than the original version.

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, and is scaling things down after games like Valhalla and Odyssey made a pretty strong pivot to open-world RPG. From the sound of it, Ubisoft is dumping a lot of resources back into the franchise, with over 800 developers shifting focus to it earlier this year.

There’s A New Worst Game Of 2023, And It’s A Switch Exclusive

Remember that awful looking The Last of Us clone, The Last Hope, that got released earlier this month? Well, it turns out the game is much worse than the trailer first suggested. Apparently, the whole game is only about 20 minutes long, takes place in one street, and is a broken mess.

Let’s cast our minds back to last week. That’s when a horrible-looking Nintendo Switch The Last of Us clone went viral online. A trailer for the game looked like a blatant copy of Naughty Dog’s award-winning franchise, complete with its own Ellie-like companion. It was even called The Last Hope. Yeah, the people who made it weren’t being subtle about where they were pulling their “inspiration” from. Most would agree, it looked bad, but now thanks to Digital Foundry, it’s clear this is much worse than we thought. In fact, it might be the worst game of 2023.

In a new upload on Thursday, the video game tech analysts at Digital Foundry ripped The Last Hope apart in a video that is about as long as the actual game.

Digital Foundry / West Connection Limited / VG Games

Where to even begin? For starters—this might be the most shocking—the entire game seems to take place mainly on one U-shaped street in a generic city. Thanks to the game’s reliance on Unity store props, it’s a rather confusing place. American flags can be seen next to European power outlets. Other assets also don’t seem to work together, with some being far too detailed compared to other, lower-res objects scattered about.

Playing The Last Hope is a frustrating, bad experience

When you actually start to play The Last Hope, you’ll also notice that the framerate is horrendous, often dipping well below 30. This makes it hard to play, as the game’s performance goes up and down constantly. What also makes it hard to play is that the game seems to have barely been playtested. As shown in the Digital Foundry video, it gives the player very limited resources.

For example, your stamina meter doesn’t recharge over time, limiting how many times you can swing your baseball bat. And there are only three MREs, that partially refill your stamina, in the entire game. Bullets are also rare, meaning that if you miss too many shots you could end up in an unwinnable situation.

At one part, players have to use a lockpick to unlock a police car, and while doing this you can be killed by zombies. The problem is the game doesn’t tell you this is happening. So you do your lockpicking, finish, and exit to a screen that simply states “You Dead.” This means that you’ll need to clear out the area of zombies before starting the lockpicking mini-game. But based on Digital Foundry’s math, you can only kill around 65 zombies with the resources offered in-game. So don’t miss a single shot, don’t sprint (as that wastes stamina), and also hope the game doesn’t randomly crash during all of this, erasing your progress in the process.

Oh and keep in mind that it’s only about 15 minutes long, assuming you manage your limited resources correctly and don’t get stuck trying to open a door that can only be opened with the “E” key. (Note: The Switch doesn’t have an E key.)

The Switch’s digital store is filled with this crap

The Last Hope is a comically bad video game from developers who have a track record of awful Switch shovelware, stuff like World War: Battle Heroes Field Army Call of Prison Duty Simulator.

And it’s easy to laugh at it, which I did and continue to do. But it’s sadly not an oddity on the Switch’s eShop, which in recent years has become filled with shovelware garbage that, some might say, is getting very close to scam territory. Not that I’m calling The Last Hope—a game that can be completed in 15 minutes and looks to be directly ripping off The Last of Us using poorly cobbled together Unity assets—a scam. Just, you know, some people might be saying that.

I think some folks just assume these shovelware games are bad and don’t think much of it. But I think Nintendo should try to bring back some quality control to its store.

For one, so many indie devs are working really hard on games that end up getting lost in a massive sea of content. Pruning some of the worst, most broken shovelware from the store might help these devs find more success. The Switch platform also has a lot of younger players and they or their parents might not know better and waste some money on something awful, broken, and terrible. Something like The Last Hope.

Major Nelson Is Leaving Xbox After Two Decades

Larry Hryb is shown speaking into a microphone.

Screenshot: Xbox / Kotaku

Xbox’s Director of Programming and long-time public figure in the company’s history, Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb has announced he’s leaving Microsoft after 22 years at the company.

Hryb has been a figurehead for the Xbox brand for a long time. Even looking back for examples of Kotaku’s past coverage of his career brings up (now broken) podcasts and articles dating back over 15 years. Alongside public-facing work like the Xbox podcast, Hryb has been one of the more fan-focused members of the Xbox team, even taking part in fan meet and greets. So while his colleagues at Microsoft will likely feel his absence, it’s fair to say that much of the Xbox community will feel it, as well.

Hryb made the announcement on his personal Twitter account, where he thanked Xbox fans and his colleagues at Microsoft as he looked toward the “next chapter” of his career.

“After 20 incredible years, I have decided to take a step back and work on the next chapter of my career,” he wrote. “As I take a moment and think about all we have done together, I want to thank the millions of gamers around the world who have included me as part of their lives. Also, thanks to Xbox team members for trusting me to have a direct dialogue with our customers. The future is bright for Xbox and as a gamer, I am excited to see the evolution.”

At the end of his Twitter thread, Hryb also confirmed that Xbox’s official podcast (originally called Major Nelson Radio), will be taking a hiatus for the summer and will return in a new format without him.

As of this writing, Hryb has yet to publicly say what his next career move is but says he will be taking some time off for vacation.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Is Faltering, But Fans Feel Konami’s Ignoring Them

During a recent Konami shareholder meeting, the game company’s president addressed concerns that its latest free-to-play Yu-Gi-Oh! game, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, has negatively affected the franchise’s growth. A shareholder noted that Master Duel’s play style poorly translates to the popular trading card game’s tabletop and official card game tournament rules, echoing what fans have been saying. But Konami President Hideki Hayakawa only doubled down.

Read More: The New Yu-Gi-Oh! Card Game Is Taking Over The Steam Charts

Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a cross-platform trading card game where players can purchase booster packs, build personalized decks, and compete against one another in online matches that was released in January for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC.

The issue is that its gacha game rules and streamlined play are vastly different from Yu-Gi-Oh! table card and online card games. Yu-Gi-Oh! is notorious for having a revolving door of rule and regulation changes related to banned cards and moves, which would make hopping from Master Duel’s streamlined approach to an online or tabletop version difficult to adjust to.

“New users who started with Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel may give up when trying to start Yu-Gi-Oh!. This was the case with a player I actually met at a Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG [official card game] Duel Monsters tournament. Isn’t it necessary to consider how to eliminate such cases?” the shareholder said during the June 28 meeting.

“I found it extremely regrettable that players who had started playing [the] Yu-Gi-Oh! card game were not able to do so for long,” Hayakawa responded during the meeting, according to a browser translation posted to Twitter by pro duelist and Yu-Gi-Oh! champion Jeff Jones.

Master Duel literally does not allow anyone to get used to the actual TCG,” Jones wrote in agreement on Twitter. “Besides being automatic and not explaining why things work the way they do, the completely different forbidden list and card pool makes it even harder for new players to transition.”

The same shareholder noted the poor reception to Master Duel’s official live-streamed tournament matches, which he blamed on the lack of ability to surrender a game where defeat was a foregone conclusion.

“As someone who tried to get into Yu-Gi-Oh! recently, the card game basically being just ‘You win in a few turns’ kinda put me off from wanting to play,” ResetEra user Jawmuncher wrote, echoing the shareholder’s critique. “Like I bought a deck that had all these cool ideas but good luck seeing any of that shit actually play out.”

The unnamed shareholder suggested Konami change the Master Duel rule preventing players from pre-emptively quitting, saying it could allow players to “be able to make a strategic choice to start over with the next game, which would also improve the appeal of live streaming.”

Not only [do] we want Yu-Gi-Oh! to be more enjoyable to play, but there is also that valuable perspective that ‘enjoyable to watch’ is a very important subject that has been relevant for several years,” Hayakawa answered. “I think your opinion is absolutely correct and I will convey it to our company to make the proper considerations for the next livestream.”

Hayakawa concluded his response by plugging the upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship which will be held in Japan and livestreamed across the world.


The Flash Movie Trainwreck Reaches A New Low

The Flash is shown looking at something above with a shocked expression.

Image: Warner Bros.

The Flash has been a disaster for DC and Warner Bros. The Ezra Miller-led superhero film is securing a record as one of the biggest box office flops in the business. There are a lot of factors that led us to that point, but Warner Bros. attempts to get any money out of the film before the DC cinematic universe reboots once more have reached a new low: the blockchain.

Warner Bros. Digital Collectibles, the company’s official NFT/Web3 branch, posted today that it’s rolling out The Flash Web3 Movie Experience, which is the first “new” movie to be released on WB’s blockchain nonsense service after it released similar “experiences’’ for older films like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the 1978 Superman film. The limited edition Flash experience includes weird interactive environments you can swipe around on your phone based on locations from the movie, as well as digital collectibles like cards and models. Packaged into the whole deal is a digital copy of the film, access to bonus features, and all the normal shit you’d expect from buying a movie through a digital service.

None of these things are inherently objectionable, but when it’s all tied into a manufactured scarcity based on a market that has already come and gone, it reeks of desperation to get any return on a movie that has bombed in the usual markets.

There are a lot of reasons for The Flash taking a nosedive. On top of Miller’s frequent controversies and actual crimes, DC has already announced it’s rebooting its film universe again under The Suicide Squad developer James Gunn, and is still releasing a movie in a defunct continuity. It also sounds like the movie is just not that spectacular, and fans have had a pretty good live-action Flash series for almost a decade. I think we’re just good on the scarlet speedster these days, and given everything else, people just didn’t show up. And I’d be very, very surprised if a Web3 experience changes that.

Activision, Microsoft Set To Merge After FTC Fails To Stop Deal

Image for article titled Activision Set To Become Part Of Microsoft After FTC's Last-Ditch Effort Fails

Photo: Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the Federal Trade Commission’s final request to pause Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard, likely paving the way for the biggest-ever merger in gaming to finally move forward after a more than year-long regulatory saga.

The FTC had sought to have the acquisition kept on hold ahead of a July 18 deadline while appealing a ruling from the Northern District of California that sided with Microsoft. It was the antitrust agency’s last chance to stop the historic $69 billion merger that would see major gaming franchises like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush all become an extension of Xbox.

Regulators argued that the federal court had ignored evidence that Microsoft would have reasonable incentive to potentially make those franchises exclusives to its console and cloud gaming platforms in order to corner the market. Microsoft in turn blamed the FTC for using delay tactics and underselling a massive $3 billion breakup fee Microsoft would have to pay to Activision if the deal ended up not going through for some reason.

The Ninth Circuit will still handle that appeal, but denied the FTC’s motion to block the merger until that ruling was made, giving Microsoft the greenlight to close its deal on July 17.

It’s been a long journey up to this point, full of twists and turns, including abroad in the UK, the only country to block the deal so far. That country’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had denied the merger on the grounds that it would give Microsoft too much of an advantage in the nascent market of cloud gaming.

Following the FTC’s initial court defeat earlier this week, however, the CMA announced it was back negotiating with Microsoft over new ways to resolve the antitrust conflicts. It’s now extended its final deadline for approval of the deal into August, suggesting it’s prepared to accept the tech giant’s latest concessions.

While nothing’s final until it’s final, it now looks like Microsoft’s shocking acquisition of one of the biggest game publishers in the world is about to become a reality, and will soon have the potential to completely reshape the video gaming landscape in the process. Or maybe Xbox owners will just get a bunch more free games on Game Pass. Time will tell.

Microsoft And Sony Reach Deal For Future Of Call Of Duty On PS5

Art for a Call of Duty operator sits in front of dueling Xbox and PlayStation signs.

Photo: Barone Firenze / Activision / Kotaku (Shutterstock)

Microsoft and Sony have finally reached a deal for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation once the Activision Blizzard merger goes through. The surprise agreement comes after months of fighting between the two companies and is a sign the acquisition is all but inevitable.

“We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tweeted on July 16. “We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games.”

It’s not immediately clear what the terms of that agreement are, and whether they are similar to proposals Microsoft recently signed with Nintendo and other cloud gaming providers. In the past, Sony has paid Activision for special benefits relating to Call of Duty, including timed-exclusive content and special marketing rights. It was also revealed during the recent court battle over the deal that Activision had leveraged its partnership with Sony to negotiate better commission rates for the franchise on Xbox.

Read More: Sony Won’t Share PS6 Info With Call Of Duty Devs If Owned By Microsoft

Sony had been vigorously contesting Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the publisher in regulatory proceedings across Europe, the UK, and the U.S. After the recent legal defeat of the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block the deal, however, the PlayStation 5 maker seems to have decided it’s time to settle. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan had reportedly said in the past that his only interest was in blocking the deal.

Sony’s current agreement with Activision wasn’t set to expire until 2025, and the new agreement seems likely to carry through for at least the rest of the PS5’s life. Microosft has claimed all along that it’s not in its financial interest to make the series exclusive as the games generate billions in revenue on the competing platform.

Microsoft declined to comment. Sony did not immediately respond.

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