Jeff Kaplan Leaves Blizzard Entertainment

Jeff Kaplan, the game director of Overwatch, has parted ways with Blizzard Entertainment after 19 years with the company. Kaplan started out as a game designer on World of Warcraft in 2002, developing quests for the iconic MMORPG. He was credited as a game director for World of Warcraft before leading Project Titan from 2009 to 2014. Elements of Project Titan eventually made their way into Overwatch, where Kaplan served as game director until today.

Kaplan oversaw the iconic game’s development, which won numerous Game of the Year awards and resurrected the team-based shooter genre. Overwatch‘s popularity also spawned an esports league called the Overwatch League, which is currently in its fourth season. He announced his departure in a letter on Blizzard’s website. You can read the full text of the letter below.

Greetings, Overwatch Community,

I am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years.

It was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience. I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at Blizzard who supported our games, our game teams and our players. But I want to say a special thanks to the wonderful game developers that shared in the journey of creation with me.

Never accept the world as it appears to be. Always dare to see it for what it could be. I hope you do the same.

Jeffrey Kaplan

Development on Overwatch and Overwatch 2 will continue with assistant game developer Aaron Keller as the new game director. “Jeff’s been a great leader, mentor, and friend, and he knows how much we’re going to miss him,” Keller wrote in a letter to the community. “I’ve been lucky to work alongside him and the rest of the Overwatch team for many years in building something that continues to inspire people all around the world, and I’m honored to carry the torch forward.”

Rapper DMX dies at age 50

It has been reported that rapper DMX (real name Earl Simmons) has died at age 50 of complications from an alleged drug overdose. Bleacher Report was one of the first to confirm the rapper’s death, after days of confusion over the rapper’s status. DMX was hospitalized on April 2 in New York, with numerous celebrities paying tribute to him, such as NBA superstar LeBron James, NFL star Julian Edelman, and fellow musicians such as Chance the Rapper and Missy Elliott.

DMX was born in Mount Vernon, New York on December 18, 1970, and underwent a rough childhood. His father left the family and he suffered abuse from his mother and her various boyfriends. DMX wandered the streets to escape his mother’s abuse and eventually met others over their shared interest in hip-hop music. He would also spend time in and out of prison in his youth before producing and selling his own mixtapes in the mid-to-late 1980s. DMX had also admitted to being addicted to crack cocaine during this time period and also claimed to have bipolar disorder.

In 1998, DMX released the album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and sold over five million copies. The album included the single “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” which became one of his best-known songs. Later that year, DMX released the album Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, which also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and went quadruple platinum. In December 1999, he released …And Then There Was X, which also went number one on the Billboard 200. The singles “Party Up” and “What’s My Name?” were major hits from this album. …And Then There Was X went platinum six times.

While legal issues started to dominate DMX’s life in the 2000s, he continued to release albums that topped or nearly topped the Billboard 200 such as The Great Depression (2001), Grand Champ (2003) (which also made him the only artist in history to release five albums that debuted at number one), and Year of the Dog…Again (2006), which barely missed the top spot by a few hundred copies. During this time, DMX had also pursued a career as a preacher, having studied the Bible while in and out of prison in the 2000s. Unfortunately, during the 2010s, more legal issues began to overshadow his music career, including a stint in jail for federal tax evasion from 2017 to 2019.

DMX is survived by his 15 children from various mothers. We will miss DMX and his contributions to the hip-hop industry. May he rest in peace.

Kanye West Named Creative Director of The Sims

Rapper, producer, fashion designer, and 2020 presidential candidate Kanye West is taking on yet another project. West has been named the new creative director of the long-running video game franchise The Sims, according to sources familiar with the deal. It is rumored that the award-winning celebrity plans to bring much of his expertise to the video game world through this venture.

“Kanye is very excited about this new project,” a source close to West said. Electronic Arts spokesperson Yu bin Plaid has said that Kanye’s home in Cody, Wyoming will feature in the game for players to customize and that all characters created in the upcoming Sims game will be able to wear Yeezys and other Kanye-created apparel. “We know the new Yeezys sold out in under a minute, so Kanye wants to apologize to the fans by making them available virtually, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Plaid said.

Fans have previously paid tribute to West and his soon-to-be ex-wife Kim Kardashian in the game. Now Kanye is preparing to have him take over the game’s creative direction. Despite West’s marriage deteriorating in recent months, he is optimistic about this new venture. In a series of texts sent exclusively to DVS Gaming, he said, “If this project is successful, I might just buy the entire Sims franchise,” he said. West has been reported as the richest African-American man in United States history by Entrepreneur. “In fact, I might just bring the whole Sims franchise into my mansion, create a VR version. Now you can live the Kanye experience fully!”

West also described a bunch of other projects he’d like to get done in conjunction with The Sims, including Sonic the Hedgehog-inspired Yeezys, and a soundtrack for a future video game. “I’d love to do a soundtrack for Minesweeper,” he told DVS Gaming. “It’s such an iconic game and brings me back to the creative process I did with my music, fashion, and other interests.”

West will take over as creative director of The Sims immediately.

The Ultimate Guide to Online Casino Bonuses

The online casino industry is a competitive one, with the hundreds of leading casinos out there all trying as hard as possible to snatch players from their competitors. With more people playing online than ever before, that competition has heated up.

As such, virtually every big casino site offers a dizzying array of bonuses as part of the ongoing battle to attract players to their platform. The homepages of most casino websites will feature dozens of bonuses ranging from straight-up cash offers to free games.

Navigating the world of casino bonuses can be a tricky one, especially if you don’t understand the lingo. To ensure you get the best possible value from your online casino experience, read on to get the complete lowdown of all of the different types of online casino bonus in 2019. 

Cashable and Non-Cashable Bonuses 

Source: Pixabay

The first thing you need to know about online casino bonuses is that the “cash” bonuses often come in two different forms. The first of these, which tends to be less popular among online casinos, is the “cashable” bonus. This bonus is typically pegged to a deposit that you might make, often being a percentage of that amount (ranging from anything between 10% and 100%). If it’s cashable, then you reserve the right to withdraw the bonus whenever you see fit. 

More common is the “non-cashable” bonus. Such bonuses are frequently referred to among gamers as “sticky bonuses”, given that you can’t actually withdraw them right away. Rather, these bonuses can be used to play games. Of course, any winnings from these games are yours to keep, as long as you’ve fulfilled the “playthrough” requirement – ie. as long as you’ve bet a certain amount of money, usually calculated as a multiple of your bonus. Out of everything you need to know about online casino bonuses, this might just be the most important point. For instance, you may be required to play through 20x the bonus amount you received. Non-cashable bonuses are usually much higher than in cashable bonuses. They are essentially a bonus in the form of credit that lets you play for free. Of course, anything you win from these bonus games is yours to keep. 

Non-cashable bonuses are designed to give the player as much time to explore and enjoy the range of games on offer at a certain casino in the hopes of gaining a loyal customer. Bonuses can range between 100% and 300%, meaning that you get significantly more to play with than a cashable bonus.

Deposit and No-Deposit Bonuses 

Source: Pixabay

To access a deposit bonus you are required to deposit some of your own funds into an account with the casino. These bonuses can generously reward your loyalty, often consisting of a match bonus that is several times higher than the amount you have deposited.

The amount varies wildly from casino to casino, but the goal is to be as generous as possible. It is not uncommon for a deposit of $50 to be rewarded with several hundred dollars worth of casino credits, so make sure to shop around to find the most lucrative offers possible. You are also able to use your original deposit to play casino games, although if you withdraw that deposit you will lose access to any bonuses that were originally offered.

As you might have guessed, no-deposit bonuses are the inverse. They don’t require the player to commit to putting any funds in a casino account whatsoever (although you do have to sign up with that casino). The bonus amounts are naturally smaller, but they offer you some free playtime and a shot at winning something for nothing, still usually subject to the aforementioned playthrough requirements.

Free Play Bonuses

Source: Pixabay

The final common type of online casino bonus is what is known as free play bonuses. These are bonuses which do not offer any form of cash or credit, but rather a number of free games on the casino’s dime. The most popular version of this kind of bonus is known as “free spins”, which is when players are offered free spins on a variety of slot machines, with any winnings being theirs to keep. 

The amount offered can be pretty generous and there are relatively few strings attached. In exchange for simply setting up a free account, a casino will often offer hundreds of free spins on slot machines of your choosing, often throwing in a few free rounds of other popular casino games at the same time. Even if you win the slot jackpot from a free spin, every penny of that jackpot is usually yours to enjoy.

Free play bonuses aren’t just limited to the slot machines; many popular casinos offer free rounds of blackjack, poker, roulette, and more in exchange for either a deposit or absolutely nothing. It’s a good way for newcomers to get a feel for a certain casino and decide whether or not they like it enough to stick with it. Naturally, the casino hopes that you will. 

Now that you know what you need to know about bonuses, it’s time to take advantage of them. 

Blizzard layoffs due to COVID-19 include $200 gift cards, $200 million for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick

Have you ever been laid off from a job? You either get severance pay or continuing benefits until a certain date. Activision Blizzard recently announced a round of layoffs affecting around 190 people. The latest round of Blizzard layoffs include $200 gift cards. These layoffs mostly affected live events, which have been suspended for a year due to COVID-19 lockdowns. This is also a signal that there may be a (temporary) shift away from live events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick received $200 million while layoffs were happening. “While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” CtW Investment Group researcher Michael Varner said. Kotick’s track record of emphasizing the bottom line at the expense of rank-and-file employees has been well documented. His compensation as CEO in 2019 was the 21st highest CEO compensation in the United States, and his handling of previous rounds of layoffs has also come under fire.

“Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events,” a company spokesperson said. This year, BlizzCon was held online due to COVID-19. It is expected for BlizzCon to hold a live event in 2022, but that is all dependent on how many people worldwide get vaccinated and if COVID-19 and its variants are still undergoing community transmission.

The bright news at the end of the tunnel is that the company expects to hire 3,000 people in 2021. We hope those laid off find new jobs soon. Hopefully live events also return so that we can start enjoying social events that are centered around gaming.

Black History Month: How Jerry Lawson Revolutionized Gaming

Black History Month is for raising awareness about issues affecting the black community and celebrating the achievements of black people. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, and Morgan Freeman, among others, are universally known in their fields. Video games also have a black man to thank for revolutionizing the gaming industry: Jerry Lawson. While not as well known as the people mentioned before, Lawson has had an impact on gaming that continues to the present.

Jerry Lawson was born in 1940 in New York City, and his own teachers encouraged him to be someone like George Washington Carver (a black scientist and inventor who people mistakenly believe invented peanut butter, although he did make numerous contributions to the advancement of agriculture). Lawson got an early start to his career, earning an amateur ham radio license at the age of 13. Lawson also showed his aptitude for technology, earning money by repairing television sets. Lawson also created his own radio station in his room.

Lawson joined Fairchild Semiconductor in San Francisco in 1970 and created the arcade game Demolition Derby in his own garage in 1975, possibly also making him the first black man to develop his own video game. He also recalled interviewing (but not hiring) Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for a position at Fairchild. Along with Ron Jones, he was only one of two black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a computer hobbyist group located in Menlo Park, California that met from 1975 to 1986. The group’s membership also included Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Lawson was eventually promoted to Chief Hardware Engineer at Fairchild, as well as the director of engineering and marketing for the company’s video game division. Lawson led the development of the Fairchild Channel F, which was also the first video game console to feature swappable video game cartridges. Previously, games were built into the hardware. This also made Lawson the inventor of the video game cartridge. The Fairchild Channel F also had other revolutionary features: a pause button and an 8-way joystick. While it was not commercially successful, it would lay the foundation for the wildly popular Atari 2600.

Lawson left Fairchild in 1980 and founded Videosoft to produce games for the Atari 2600, but the company was one of the many casualties of the video game crash of 1983, folding in 1985. Lawson eventually went into consulting work until his death in 2011. So whenever you play a video game, just remember Jerry Lawson helped make it all possible.

Fry’s Electronics: An Obituary (1985-2021)

Like a certain iconic electronic music duo that also disbanded this week, Fry’s Electronics is no more. For me, that is a big deal. Fry’s Electronics was one of the biggest electronics stores that I frequented growing up. There were TVs, computers, video games, mobile phones, appliances, tools, toys, books, software, hardware, and in some locations, restaurants. At one point, one could spend hours in Fry’s looking at the massive selection of products they had to offer. Before you headed to the checkout line, there was also a huge selection of snacks for your gaming sessions, including organic sour gummy worms and some extremely rare snacks that I still can only find online (looking at you, Mauna Loa Kona Coffee Glazed Macadamia Nuts).

When Fry’s chose to close up shop on February 24, 2021, this put an end to an electronics retailer that offered far more than just products—they offered services such as PC building, audio installation, the list goes on and on. The very first parts that would end up in my PC came from Fry’s Electronics. It was also an excellent place to find the latest video games. Even the tiniest electronic parts could be found at Fry’s, like those little transistors that go in some circuit board for some project. Another thing that caught customers’ eyes were the thematic stores. The location in Palo Alto, California was Wild West-themed, while the location in Sacramento was Gold Rush-themed. One of my favorites, the original Sunnyvale location, detailed the history of Silicon Valley, while the Las Vegas location (where I live now) was Las Vegas Strip-themed (obviously).

While there is no doubt that Fry’s has had a reputation among customers as being empty shells of their former selves in more ways than one even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an institution that has fostered my interest in consumer electronics that led me to build my first PC a decade ago. From the early 2000s to the mid-2010s, I frequented Fry’s at least once a month (if not more frequently) with my family and friends. While the writing was on the wall in the late 2010s, it took a global pandemic to put the final nail in the coffin of Fry’s Electronics.

On their website, Fry’s said: “After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders. The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021. It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the Company’s assets for its creditors and other stakeholders.”

It’s been a great run, and may all their employees land on their feet and find something new as soon as possible.

World of Warcraft News: Patch 9.1, Burning Crusade Classic leaked

Ahead of this weekend’s virtual BlizzCon event, a Blizzard employee mistakenly posted PR information about World of Warcraft that discussed both Patch 9.1 and The Burning Crusade Classic. The leak was immediately posted to the MMOChampion forums. BlizzCon is being held virtually from February 19-20, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is free of charge.

Patch 9.1

While not much about Patch 9.1 has been set in stone yet, there will be a new 10-boss raid, the Sanctum of Domination, as well as a new eight-boss mega-dungeon, Tazavesh, the Veiled Market. In addition, there will also be a new zone, Korthia, the City of Secrets. The new PvP season will be released with 9.1 in addition to the next Mythic+ season.

There will also be additions to the covenants, such as upgrades to soulbinds and (possibly) new conduits. You can also fly in the Shadowlands in 9.1, although it is not clear what achievements will be needed to unlock flying. Flying will be similar to Legion with players only being able to fly in the four original Shadowlands zones of Revendreth, Maldraxxus, Bastion, and Ardenweald.

It is not yet known when 9.1 will release, but several reports have speculated a late May to early June release due to the amount of content involved.

The Burning Crusade Classic

While this was a matter of when and not if, The Burning Crusade Classic was also leaked. While all features of The Burning Crusade return (along with being free to play for World of Warcraft subscribers), there is also an option to advance characters straight to The Burning Crusade or opt to remain in WoW Classic. This is an interesting addition and may spark some debates in the community.

We’re looking forward to more information during BlizzCon Online this weekend. Stay tuned for more news about Blizzard games in the upcoming days!

Kingdom Hearts coming to PC on March 30

One of Square ENIX’s best-selling series, Kingdom Hearts, is coming to PC on March 30. The Kingdom Hearts collection will be available on the Epic Games Store. This ends nearly 20 years of console exclusivity for the franchise. The first Kingdom Hearts game came out in 2002, Kingdom Hearts II came out in 2005, and Kingdom Hearts III came out in 2019 after being in development for over a decade. In between, there were lots of spin-off games in the franchise which can also be found on PC.

Epic Games announced the release of the Kingdom Hearts series on PC in a tweet. “The iconic @KINGDOMHEARTS series is coming to PC for the first time ever on March 30th!” they said. “Are you ready to join Sora and friends in their battle against the darkness? Pre-order all the titles in the @KINGDOMHEARTS series starting today!”

Epic Games has announced that the following games are coming out for PC at $49.99 for Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix:

  • Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD remastered cinematics)
  • Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD remastered cinematics)

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue includes the following at $59.99:

  • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
  • Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A fragmentary passage –
  • Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (movie)

Kingdom Hearts III and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory will be both $59.99 on PC.

Kingdom Hearts

Square ENIX has not yet confirmed whether or not this will remain an Epic Games exclusive or if it will be released on Steam in the future. Fans were hopeful for a Steam release in the future in response to the announcement. Are you buying these games (again) on PC? Are you excited to see this franchise hit the PC? Let us know in the comments below!

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Remaster Coming September 4, 2020

Skateboards out this September.

It’s time to get back on the skateboard—Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on September 4, 2020. Today also happens to be skateboarding legend Tony Hawk’s birthday. Original publisher Activision and developer Vicarious Visions (who also did the Crash Bandicoot remasters) are working on the project.

The last game in the series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, came out in 2015. The licensing deal between Tony Hawk and Activision was set to expire at the end of the year, and fans were disappointed in the game. There were rumors of a remaster of the series in 2019, and today, the remaster has been officially announced.

“Thanks to all the fans of our series for keeping this dream alive,” Hawk said on Twitter. The original cast from the games will be returning. Skateboarding fans will recognize faces such as Steve Caballero, Geoff Rowley, Bucky Lasek, Elissa Steamer, Kareem Campbell, Andrew Reynolds, Bob Burnquist, Eric Koston, Rodney Mullen, Jamie Thomas, Rune Glifberg, and Chad Muska.

The 4K resolution graphics aren’t the only new thing coming to this remaster.

While everyone would love to skate their favorite levels in 4K resolution, you can also do tricks like wall plants, reverts, and lip tricks. The game is also known for its iconic soundtrack, but due to licensing issues, some of the tracks from both games will not be available in the remastered version.

You can even create your own skater and your own skatepark, and even share those parks with your friends online. The game will be available on September 4, 2020, for $39.99. You can purchase the digital deluxe edition for $49.99, or even get the collector’s edition for $99.99, which includes a full-sized Birdhouse deck autographed by Tony Hawk himself.

What do you think about the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Are you ready to get on the sticks and start grinding and kickflipping your way to skateboarding supremacy? Let us know in the comments below.