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Design ideas we love and want more of in 2015

When dissected, our favorite games are usually composed of many ideas and designs that make the entire package worthy of our time.

In 2014, there were countless game ideas and design choices that we were enamored with: from the educational value of Never Alone to the co-op found within the crazy world of Bayonetta 2. In this feature, Team Joystiq recalls a handful of ideas that made 2014 a great year for gaming. Here are designs we hope to see more of in 2015.

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Rumor: Joystiq closing shop

cane corso puppy portrait
'AOL is likely to shutter' Joystiq, reports Recode. Hey, wait a minute... that's us! Well, we may as well handle this the same way we've been covering the video game industry for ten years.

"We do not comment on rumor and speculation," one staffer told us, wishing to remain anonymous, preparing for their lucrative PR career. Others are still trying to figure out next steps. Another anonymous staffer said, "We're still working until we can't."

Sources tell Joystiq that the staff is aware of the closure, but corporate hasn't officially told them, so they are unable to acknowledge anything out of concern that it will cause immediate shutdown. We've reached out for more information. We will update, as we always have, when we know more.
[Image: Shutterstock]

The Witcher 3 on consoles can simulate world states, can't import Witcher 2 saves

On PC, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt can import a Witcher 2 save file to "impact your playthrough" of the third entry, but on consoles CD Projekt is taking a different approach. In a roundtable interview Level Designer Miles Tost told Joystiq that The Witcher 3 will look to simulate world states based on decisions taken in an in-game conversation.

"The way how it works is that the game on the consoles will ask you whether you want to simulate a specific state of the world, coming from previous games," Tost explained. "If you choose 'yes,' then you will get a special conversation at one part of the game - I don't want to spoil where it happens. It's basically a conversation with a character and the conversation is about the adventures of Geralt of Rivia. And you can basically deny or confirm whatever [the character] has heard of whatever tales of [Geralt.] It's actually kind of a cute mechanic. If you don't want to simulate the state then this conversation doesn't take place."

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League of Legends Amumu music video is a tear-jerker



Amumu is the saddest of all League of Legends champions – as he wanders around Summoner's Rift, he says things like, "Come play with me," "Let me give you a hug" and "Where are we going?" with the most broken, depressing inflection. See, Amumu is cursed with eternal sadness and an inability to make friends, as Riot's new music video, "The Curse of the Sad Mummy," demonstrates with beautiful, terrible clarity.

Ugh. You can sit with us, Amumu! See the video and Amumu's creative spotlight on the official League of Legends site.
[Image: Riot]

Golem to follow Omen's lead onto Killer Instinct roster


Following a reveal earlier this month, developer Iron Galaxy has issued a proper trailer for Omen that, like past Killer Instinct character trailers, is nearly overshadowed by a cameo at the end.

The walking mass of rocks and shrubs that crashes onto camera and squishes Orchid is named Golem. Whether or not words can hurt you is irrelevant, as Golem brings both sticks and stones - two items notorious for bone trauma - to the Xbox One-exclusive fight. Unfortunately, beyond that brief footage, none-too-surprising name and the pun about sticks and stones, we know nothing about this new fighter. Outside of this brief footage, Iron Galaxy has yet to reveal any useful information on Golem.

We can tell you, however, that Omen will join Killer Instinct later this week. On January 30, the character will be available for owners of Killer Instinct Ultra Edition, while those with Killer Instinct Combo Breaker Edition will be waiting until February 5.

Sony accepting claims on 2011 PSN data breach settlement

If you were a PSN, Qriocity or Sony Online Entertainment user at the time of the April 2011 Sony hack that disrupted the PlayStation Network for nearly a month and compromised 70 million user accounts, now's your chance to get a piece of the class action settlement levied against Sony last year.

To qualify, you must have held a PSN, Qriocity or Sony Online Entertainment account on or before May 14, 2011. Each service is eligible to receive different claims, but PSN users are able to receive either one or two games - if you already received a free game in Sony's 2011 "Welcome Back" promotion, you're only eligible for one; if not, you're eligible to choose two - from a list that includes standouts like LittleBigPlanet and God of War HD. Notably, none of the games on offer are for the PlayStation 4. If none of the games tickle your fancy, you can instead choose free dynamic themes for your PlayStation 3 or free PlayStation Plus subscription time.

After wading through multiple pages of bureaucratic legalese, you'll find everything you need to make your claim at the PSN-SOE settlement website.
[Image: Sony]

Smash Bros. creator Sakurai also has trouble tracking down amiibo

If you've been unsuccessful in finding an amiibo of your favorite Super Smash Bros. character, you're not alone. Series creator Masahiro Sakurai recently vented similar frustrations on Twitter, noting that he went home empty-handed when he hit up local retailers in Japan in the hopes of tracking down Meta Knight, Sheik, Lucario, and Rosalina & Luma.

Nintendo of America announced last year that it would phase out many amiibo after an initial print run, leading to shortages and price hikes on secondary markets like eBay and Amazon. The Lucario figure also remains elusive in the weeks leading up to its release in North America, with exclusive distributor Toys R Us recently raising confusion over whether customer pre-orders are still valid.

First-wave amiibo figures Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and Marth have not yet seen a second print run in North America, leading Nintendo fans to import cheaper equivalent figures from Japan. Amazon additionally sold out of its initial allotment of Sonic the Hedgehog figurines after opening pre-orders last week, hinting at another impending post-launch shortage.

Destiny dev: DLC mistakes won't be repeated

Destiny designer Luke Smith recently addressed concerns over Bungie's future updates for the game. Namely, Smith said "the mistakes [Bungie] made with the DLC1 reward economy will not be repeated," in a NeoGAF thread, admitting the developer's previous attempts at expanding the first-person shooter with add-on content resulted in a few problems for players. Smith claims the developer will avoid mistakes such as "vendor gear invalidating the effort of [Vault of Glass] Raiders" and exotic gear upgrades resulting in a talent reset.

"Our philosophy about rewards/loot continue to evolve as we see how players play and react," Smith wrote. He noted that item drop rates appear to be "much improved" in the Crota's End DLC compared to Vault of Glass, and that Bungie plans to "improve acquisition stories and frequency" as well as "lessen the grind and get players to the fun parts of their arsenal faster." It issued a hot fix for Destiny in December to boost the drop rates for the Crota's End raid mission.
[Image: Activision]

Silence: The Whispered World 2 also has words for the PS4

Alongside its "early 2015" PC, Mac and Xbox One debut, publisher Daedalic Entertainment has announced that lovely, snowbound adventure Silence: The Whispered World 2 will be released on the PlayStation 4.

A sequel to 2010's The Whispered World, Silence: The Whispered World 2 casts players as Noah, a 16-year-old boy attempting to find his younger sister in the ethereal world of Silence. The duo enter Silence in an effort to escape from a war in their world, but quickly find that the wondrous land of Silence is also embroiled in conflict (not to mention populated by nasty beasts and self-serving political factions). It's sort of a Chronicles of Narnia situation, only with fewer Christian allegories in the form of sage predatory felines.

Though the original Whispered World featured 2D graphics, Silence: The Whispered World 2 employs 3D models and a method the developers call "camera projection" that "allows [the artists] to maintain the high detail level of our hand-drawn art, while still being able to use the benefits of 3D game design."
[Image: Daedalic Entertainment]

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Joystiq Deals: Android Game Developer Bundle

Today, Joystiq Deals serves up the Android Game Developer Bundle, a seven-course selection that will put you on the road to launching a fully fledged mobile game studio.

The package includes the No-Coding-Required Game Building Course, the Beginner Game Reskinning Course, the Android Lollipop Complete Development Course, the Unity3D 2D-Game Development Course, the All-Level Unity3D C# Game Development Course, the Intro To C# Programming & Scripting for Games in Unity, and the All-Level Android App Development Course. All seven courses can be yours for $49 through this Saturday.


Joystiq Deals is a partnership between AOL and StackSocial. A portion of sales goes to funding this site. Deals are curated by StackSocial independently of the Joystiq editorial team.

Gravity Ghost swirls through Steam's solar system today



Ivy Games' Gravity Ghost is on Steam today for PC, Mac and Linux for $15, a reasonable price for a trip through the stars. Plus, it's two-for-one, forever – pay $15 on Steam, get two game codes.

"Why?" Gravity Ghost Designer Erin Robinson asks in an email. "I'm encouraging everyone to give that second copy to someone special in their life who doesn't play video games. My hope is that it will open the door to this amazing hobby and allow people to share that joy with their loved ones."

Gravity Ghost is a physics puzzler with a twist (or a twirl): Players soar around planets, using gravitational pull to gain momentum, alter direction and collect pieces of a shattered galaxy. There's no "fail" state, though there is a rich story with hints of darkness, plus voice acting by Ashly Burch (Borderlands 2), Logan Cunningham (Bastion) and Sarah Elmaleh (Gone Home). The soundtrack comes from FTL composer Ben Prunty. See the story trailer after the break.

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Here's how to steal from NPCs in Elder Scrolls Online

"Justice is coming to Tamriel," according to ZeniMax's latest website notice. It's probably more accurate to say that criminality is coming to Tamriel, though. More specifically, Elder Scrolls Online's upcoming Update 6 features the justice system which will enable your avatar to participate in a variety of underhanded activities including murder and thievery.

The latter involves relieving hapless NPCs of their valuables while avoiding those pesky town guards, and the former involves assaulting and even killing AI citizens. At some point you'll end up with a bounty on your head, which in turns affects how guards react to your presence. Click through the links below to read the rest of the details.

Gearbox seeks help crafting the next Borderlands entry

Given the massive success of Borderlands 2 and the lesser but still significant success of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, it comes as little surprise that Gearbox is planning another entry in the over-the-top post-apocalyptic shooter franchise.

"We are recruiting for next Borderlands. This is the big one," Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford recently tweeted, before offering his business email address to anyone who could be described as an "industry badass." Pitchford outlines no other qualifications, as the studio is seeking myriad people, from writers to art designers to engine programmers.

Beyond the help-wanted ad, neither Pitchford nor Gearbox has offered any further information on the next Borderlands game. It will probably feature some iteration of robotic irritant Claptrap and vibrant, color-coded weaponry, but otherwise we're in the dark.
[Image: Randy Pitchford/Gearbox]

The Game Awards will return, Keighley confirms

Following a year-end debut that attracted 1.93 million viewers, producer Geoff Keighley has confirmed that The Game Awards will return again in 2015.

"As I announced this morning at PAX, I'm excited to already be working on @thegameawards for 2015," Keighley recently tweeted. "Will share more later this Spring." Keighley makes no mention of when the next show will take place, nor does he mention any changes he might have in mind.

For those unfamiliar, think of The Game Awards as long-time industry journalist and presenter Geoff Keighley's attempt to capture the gravitas and importance of an event like The Academy Awards, but for gaming instead of films. While his previous gig as host of Spike's superficially similar VGX Awards lacked a certain maturity and refinement, we were pleasantly surprised by the "classy" Game Awards.
[Image: The Game Awards]

Dragon Age: Inquisition gets special recognition from GLAAD

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has given a special recognition award to Dragon Age: Inquisition. The 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, which has a laundry list of award categories, including comics, singled out the BioWare RPG from the video game pack.

David Gaider, lead writer for the Dragon Age series at BioWare has spoken in the past about the "hump of assumptions" involved in creating and including lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters in video games. Inquisition featured the first "fully gay" characters in the series. Straight and bisexual characters have been a BioWare standard for over a decade.

Bioware parent company, Electronic Arts, has also repeated received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. The publisher earned the achievement again in 2015.
[Image: C. Felichidá]

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