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BioWare loses its general manager and Dragon Age executive producer
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
BioWare today announced that two major pillars of its development teams are leaving the company, with studio veterans Casey Hudson and Mark Darrah exiting. Their latest positions had Hudson serving as the BioWare general manager while Darrah was the Dragon Age executive producer, both touts over two decades of experience at the company. No changes are being made to the projects in development at the studio.
"It’s not an easy decision to make, and big changes like this always come with a certain degree of sadness," said Casey Hudson in a farewell blog post. "I will miss being able to work every day with our inspiring developers on the biggest and most exciting projects I can imagine. But I also know that this is a good time for a change, for both myself and BioWare."
A separate blog post from Mark Darrah added the following:
The BioWare Austin studio director Christian Dailey will be taking over the duties of Darrah at being the Dragon Age executive producer. Meanwhile. the senior director of development operations Gary McKay will serve as the BioWare interim general manager while a new soul is being searched for the position.
BioWare is currently developing the next Dragon Age game, a new Mass Effect entry, remasters of the original Mass Effect trilogy, as well as an Anthem reboot. The studio saw two high-level departures last year also, with Anthem Lead Producer Ben Irving and the Dragon Age Lead Producer Fernando Melo exiting BioWare.
By Jay Bonggolto
NFL will virtually bring fans into stadiums via Microsoft Teams
by Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft announced today that it will provide virtual game day experiences to NFL fans using Teams as part of efforts to observe health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL will display spectators on LED screens in stadiums and on broadcast during key games.
Fans will be featured via a virtual feed called Fan Mosaic, where the home team can invite them to watch games together through a VIP Teams meeting. They will also see the live game alongside a gallery view of other spectators in a dual screen display. Audio from the Teams meetings will be mixed with augmented crowd noise tailored for each stadium.
The NFL will also install LED screens at each end zone in key games to let the players celebrate moments with fans when they score a touchdown. For each touchdown celebration, players can see the Fan Mosaic on the LED screens and connect with fans through the Bud Light Showtime cam.
Teams will also be used by the league to manage operations throughout the season every week as the number of representatives onsite will be reduced. The NFL staff will use the videoconferencing tool for communication, document collaboration, and reporting, among others.
Microsoft and NFL have been working since 2013 on many initiatives to provide support to coaching staff and referees as well as improve the fan experience. That partnership was extended earlier this year.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft is extending its Surface deal with the NFL
by Rich Woods
Image via AP Today, Microsoft announced a multi-year extension of its partnership with the NFL, which has provided Surface hardware to the league since 2013. While there have been hiccups in the partnership over that time, such as with announcers calling them iPads or Patriots coach Bill Belichick ranting about them, it seems that those hiccups were exactly that.
Aside from that extension, the partnership will also include Microsoft Teams, the company's collaboration service. Teams will be able to use Teams (pun intended) for general collaboration, for drawing up plays with Whiteboard integration, and more. In fact, several teams are already using Teams.
"Since 2013, Microsoft has helped transform the NFL through technology around our game. Microsoft Surface has quickly become an authentic tool to the game of football and is vital during all NFL games for coaches, players, and NFL officials.," said Renie Anderson, Chief Revenue Officer and Executive Vice President of NFL Partnerships. "And now by working together to integrate Microsoft Teams across the League, together we aim to improve on communications and collaboration in a modern way."
The Miami Dolphins used Teams to plan Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium, the New York Jets use it for their football and business operations, including the draft, and the Kansas City Chiefs use it to coordinate scouts.
"In Microsoft Teams we can easily collaborate on files, manage shared calendars, host meetings, and utilize existing integrations," said Kim Rometo, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Miami Dolphins. "Teams made cooperation with the NFL possible throughout the regular season and with Super Bowl planning."
Microsoft says it will continue supporting the Surface Sideline Viewing System and the Surface Instant Replay, and it will continue to develop new solutions for teams and for the league.
BioWare says Anthem's core systems are being reinvented, halts seasonal updates
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
BioWare's online action RPG Anthem released just under a year ago, giving players a brand new alien world to explore using Iron Man-like exosuits. However, overall reactions to the title haven't been positive from both critics and players alike since then. The game's lead producer Ben Irving also departed from the studio in August last year.
Today, BioWare general manager Casey Hudson took to the studio's official blog to reveal what the game's future looks like as the one year anniversary approaches. In the coming months, the studio will be working on a fundamental "longer-term redesign of the experience," as it has come to the conclusion that the game's shortcomings in the loot experience, progression, and end game aspects cannot be fixed using just updates or expansions.
The studio will be "working to reinvent the core gameplay loop with clear goals, motivating challenges and progression with meaningful rewards – while preserving the fun of flying and fighting in a vast science-fantasy setting." Hudson said that unlike the work that was done previously, now there will be a team that will take its time to "test and iterate, focusing on gameplay first."
However, pivoting the development team to making a new experience like this means that Anthem's current seasonal update approach is coming to an end. Events, store refreshes, and repeats of previous seasonal content will be the only pieces of content the current edition will see while behind the scenes work is being done to revitalize the game.
Anthem joins EA Access and Origin Access Basic subscriptions
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
BioWare's most recent action RPG, Anthem, is now available on all subscription services that EA offers across PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Origin Access and EA Access subscribers can now play the Standard Edition of the live service-focused title without any restrictions.
Previously, only those enrolled in the more expensive Origin Access Premier tier service on PC had the game available to them, with other subscriptions only getting a 10-hour trial. It's not a secret that the game has had a troubled journey. The game's lead producer Ben Irving also left BioWare recently. Hopefully, its injection to all of the Access services should pump up the player numbers by quite a margin for a while.
Alongside Anthem, EA also announced seven more games for the Origin Access services on PC, with two of them being Premier exclusive. Note that some of the Basic additions were on the Premier tier previously. Here's the full list:
Origin Access Premier
FIFA 20 (September 19) Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Founder's Edition Origin Access Basic + Premier
Anthem Ultimate Chicken Horse Yooka-Laylee Out of the Park Baseball 20 The Escapists 2 Vambrace: Cold Soul Origin Access and EA Access services cost $4.99 a month, while the PC exclusive Origin Access Premier service comes in at $14.99 per month. All services give subscribers unlimited access to a massive collection of games, discounts on EA titles (across all games on Origin), and trials for upcoming games. The Premier variant adds on access to all newly released EA games and some other third-party recent releases on top of all that.