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Nintendo

Smash Bros. Ultimate Freebie Available For Switch Online Members

Nintendo is offering Switch Online subscribers another freebie for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For a limited time, members can claim the Vault Shopper Set 2 bundle, which comes with 3,000 Gold and five Classic Tickets. The latter can be wagered before a run in Classic Mode to earn additional rewards.

To claim the Vault Shopper Set 2 pack, you’ll need to open the Switch eShop and select the “Nintendo Switch Online” option from the left sidebar. After you’ve done that, you’ll find the pack listed among the other free offers near the top of the page. Click on the pack and select Download to claim it.

Like previous Smash Bros. freebies, the Vault Shopper Set 2 is only available to those who have an active paid Switch Online membership; you can’t download the pack during a free trial to the service. You can learn more about subscription costs and benefits in our Nintendo Switch Online guide.

The latest DLC character for Smash Bros. Ultimate is Steve from Minecraft. The blocky fighter arrived alongside the game’s 9.0 update on October 13. Like previous DLC characters, Steve brings his own new Minecraft-inspired stage, as well as new music tracks and additional Spirits to unlock in the game’s Spirit Board mode.

Steve is the second DLC character to arrive as part of Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Fighters Pass Vol. 2, following Min Min from Arms. Four more DLC fighters are still on the horizon, but Nintendo hasn’t teased who those will be. The Fighters Pass Vol. 2 costs $30 USD. Each character pack can also be purchased individually for $6 USD.

Nintendo Switch News & Announcements

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News

Reebok Reveals First Look At Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Shoe Line

Reebok and viking footwear don’t seem to belong in the same sentence together, however, the Boston-based company is marching ahead with its Assassin’s Creed Valhalla line. A new promo video showed the new line in full, showcasing additional merch for the upcoming title.

Reebok’s reveal of its viking-themed shoe line was met with a few furrowed brows within the gaming community. What we pictured as sturdy, weathered boots – air-tight against the fjord elements – transpired as regular sneakers with a color palette inspired by the northern lights. What were we expecting, really?

The headlining Club C Revenge design – branded with the line’s slogan “Like A Viking” – showcased the footwear’s teal detailing, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla logo on the tongue, and a pair of axes on the rear with “Like A Viking” branded on the side.

Related: Gunnar Enigma, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Edition Review – Eagle Vision

The promotional video debuted Reebok’s Capsule Collection, which also featured a multitude of new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla clothing merchandise. Socks, hats and hoodies accompanied our first look at the shoe line’s black variant titled Zig Kinetica, which featured a raised sole sporting a mesh fabric with Eivor’s raven Synin at the rear. The third and final design featured a plump build within the Classic Leather Legacy collection, that merged teal with dark grey on the shoe’s fabric, adding a thicker, white sole.

While the sneakers remain true to Reebok’s vintage style (as expected), its clothing apparel is rather attractive in its subtlety. The black hat, socks and hoodies feature the collaborative logo of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Reebok, that stand as notable entries into the game’s merch catalogue.

The hoodies come in at $49.95, with the hat at $22.95 and the socks at the lower price of $14.95. The three footwear variants retail at the higher price of $69.95 for the Club C Revenge and Classic Leather Legacy editions, and $89.95 for the Zig Kinetica variant.

With the game supported with some fashionable apparel, fans will now be kitted out with merch when they welcome the arrival of Ubisoft’s twelfth Assassin’s Creed title on November 10. The developer recently announced its roadmap for the game’s post-launch content outlined in a new trailer, which will include expansions Wrath of the Druids and The Siege of Paris.

Next: Bears In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Use The Same Sound Effects As Trolls From Harry Potter On PS2

  • Game News
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Jo recently got served a nostalgia trip playing Sony’s Spider-Man, as it brought back the exhilarating feeling of web-slinging from the PS2 days. While the giddiness of gaming still remains, Jo has put the adult brain to good use by spending the last few years dissecting the games industry and marveling at its insides.

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Reviews

On The Level: Taking A Joyride Down Super Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road

For many who played Super Mario Kart, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) game that marked the beginning of the Mario Kart franchise, the words “Rainbow Road” bring mixed emotions. It’s hard to forget the colorful track, floating in a dark backdrop in some unknown part of the Super Mario Bros. universe. The race was both fun and frustrating, primarily due to the track’s lack of barrier rails. Any miscalculation could send a player off the edge and into a bottomless aether.

Rainbow Road is ostensibly the most iconic course in the Mario Kart franchise. The track reappears in numerous forms numerous throughout the series’ 28-year history.


The Magic of the Original Rainbow Road for SNES

Capitalizing on the Super Mario Bros. name, Super Mario Kart sparked consumer interest immediately upon its 1992 release. The game was relatively simple to understand, even for people who’d never before played racing games. Battle-like features that included speed-boosting mushrooms and a lightning power that would slow and shrink opponents turned up the competition, inspiring countless mini-tournaments among friends.

Players who successfully earned gold medals against the game’s AI in the Mushroom Cup, the Flower Cup and Star Cup at the 100cc level would then unlock the Special Cup. This four-race series then culminated in Rainbow Road, a level where just a few mistakes could mean the difference between first place and last place.

By design, Rainbow Road is the most challenging course in Super Mario Kart. Players must stay ahead of their enemies throughout the bright and distracting raceway. Combine this with competitors throwing turtle shells and banana peels and it’s clear only genuinely skilled players could take home the gold on Rainbow Road.

The lack of guardrails means players had to be able to master control of their karts to succeed. Should they fail to do so, the player would be apt to drive over the edge. Such a fall added valuable seconds to their track time while they waited for Lakitu, a Koopa in a cloud, to pick them up and put them back on course.

As if that weren’t tough enough, the course also featured several other challenging aspects. In certain areas, Thwomps could randomly crash down right on the player’s kart, therefore causing them to spin out and potentially fall.

One part of the course splits in two, leaving a gaping gap in the middle of the raceway as the player navigates a thinner piece of track.

Falling more than once practically guaranteed the player wouldn’t take first place. In some cases, a late-game nosedive could cost the player precious points in the overall series, shifting them from a Special Cup gold trophy to silver or bronze.

The magic of the original Rainbow Road is that it genuinely feels like a finale. With its upbeat music and the possibility of a fall around every corner, it created the perfect frantic finish to an overall great game, particularly at the more challenging 150cc level. It’s no wonder Nintendo chose to continue to include reimagined versions of the fan-favorite course in nearly every major Mario Kart release that followed.

28 Years of Rainbow Road: An Ever-Evolving Course

Of course, by today’s standards, SNES’s Rainbow Road looks like an amateur designed it. But at the time, it offered a portrayal of the fun and innovation that defined the Nintendo brand. As time went on, Nintendo continued to include different iterations of Rainbow Road in many of the Mario Kart games that followed, particularly its major console releases. As it lives in on subsequent Mario Kart games, it’s almost always the longest course in the game. It’s also typically the hardest.

In Mario Kart 64, released in 1996 for the Nintendo 64, the track became much longer and presented a different trajectory with more peaks and slopes. The console’s 64 CPU graphics capabilities allowed a smoother, more refined texture. However, the most significant difference is also the most surprising: the inclusion of railings throughout the track.

As it appeared in Mario Kart: Double Dash, released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube, Rainbow Road drew evident influence from its previous iterations. However, it also deviated substantially from its predecessors. Though it mimicked the N64 track’s flowing color aesthetic, it also includes additional obstacles and changes in the course’s flow.

In this version, some portions of the track have rail barriers, while others do not. Some areas provide speed boosts. Failing to navigate them properly can cause their kart to shoot off the raceway. At one point, drivers even get to shoot through a giant space tube.

Almost all of these features are also present in 2008’s Mario Kart Wii version of Rainbow Road. The split-track and gaping hole concept from the Super Mario Kart version reappeared, but this time players experienced several of them in a row. The possibility of launching from track waves that manifested as launch ramps made it more difficult to control the kart upon encountering this obstacle.

The space tube also returned, but this time in a much more colorful fashion.

With 2011’s Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS, Rainbow Road evolved once again. This time, the track included new obstacles, such as ring-like objects that allow players to hover through the air and the chance to drive on planetary terrain.

2014’s Mario Kart 8 for Wii U introduced a new, futuristic take on Rainbow Road. This version would also appear in the game’s counterpart, 2017’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Switch. This version is much more industrial, trading the surrealist approach to the track for one that’s more influenced by machinery and technology. Despite the differences in colors and textures, its unique obstacles mean it still feels like Rainbow Road.

These titles also included a remade version of Rainbow Road for N64. This version had a much more impressive graphic range, yet was designed to feel fundamentally similar to the original. However, in an apparent determination that the original course was too long, the Nintendo team opted to shorten the race itself by diving the track into sections instead of using the previously-favored lap format.

In a later DLC, the games introduced a reimagined version of Rainbow Road for SNES. This blocky approach to the original made the level accessible to a generation too young to remember the days of 8-bit and 16-bit technology.

It All Comes Back to the Original Rainbow Road

It’s little surprise that the developers behind the Mario Kart series continue to breathe new life into this particular track. Still, the course wouldn’t have evolved to what it is now without the classic SNES version.

Rainbow Road springboarded a tradition of colorful designs, exciting mechanics and substantial challenges to become a cornerstone of the Mario Kart series. In doing so, it began a longstanding tradition of all-around nostalgic fun.

READ NEXT: 150cc: 8 Ways Mario Kart 8 Is The Best In The Series And 7 Ways It’s Not

  • TheGamer Originals
  • Nintendo
  • Mario Kart
  • mario kart 8 deluxe

Whitney Meers is a lifelong gamer and professional writer whose credits include Newsweek, Comedy Central, HuffPost, NBCUniversal, Samsung, The Discovery Channel and truTV. She regularly contributes to Frederator Digital’s YouTube gaming channel The Leaderboard, which recently surpassed a million subscribers.

As a former Top Writer on Medium, she wrote several of the site’s most widely circulated satirical pieces throughout 2017 and 2018. Her personal essays have appeared on xoJane and Everyday Feminism. Additionally, she served as the consulting lead on Newsweek’s Fortnite Special Edition, securing interviews with numerous gaming personalities including Ninja, DrLupo, TimTheTatman and Pokimane.

Whitney has a comedy background and has written and performed in various live shows including 8 Bits: A Sketch Show About Video Games at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. She was a house team member on the sketch comedy team Slap Fight at The People’s Improv Theater, also in NYC.

A versatile content creator, Whitney also produces gaming videos, makes gaming-related fan art and writes genre-bending scripts for film and television. Her pilot script Recession Proof was nominated for the TVWriter.com People’s Pilot award in 2011 and was later optioned and produced by an independent production company.

Occasionally, Whitney streams on Twitch, where you can watch her battle royale her way through code:leaf errors in Apex Legends. Twitter / Instagram: @whitneymeers YouTube: youtube.com/wmeers

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eSports

How a retooled playstyle from Caps has worked wonders for G2 at Worlds 2020

The improvements made over the course of the last 365 days have propelled G2 and its star mid laner all the way to the top.

It’s no secret that Caps has been carrying G2 Esports to new heights at this year’s League of Legends World Championship.

The 20-year-old superstar with a lifetime of experience under his belt has managed to reinvent his playstyle at this year’s tournament, allowing the LEC champions to look like an entirely different beast when compared to their performance at last year’s World Championship. The mid lane position has become a point of focus for G2 and Caps has turned into an ever-present threat over the course of the past few weeks. 

He’s having the tournament of his life so far. A stretch of consecutive unbelievable performances has turned Caps into the literal and figurative centerpiece of a G2 team that’s on pace to redefine greatness in 2020. 

In comparison to Worlds 2019, Caps is performing miles better at this year’s World Championship. Statistically speaking, he’s found himself in a meta that suits him. G2 has been able to play in a manner that revolves around Caps and allows victories to grow through advantages in the mid lane. 

As a result of becoming a more focal part of G2’s gameplan, Caps has posted higher numbers in DPM, KP, and GPM at this year’s World Championship when compared to last year’s tournament, according to League stats website gol.gg. Additionally, all of those stats have, in turn, led to a much higher KDA from Caps. During the 2019 World Championship, his KDA sat at 3.4. This year, that number has ballooned nearly a full two points higher, all the way up to 5.3. 

His DPM of 609 blows every other mid laner at Worlds out of the water. That mark sits 89 points higher than the next best player at his position. Additionally, his damage percentage of nearly 27 percent is by far the highest out of all mid laners to make it out of groups this year. Compared to Caps’ DPM at last year’s tournament, which was nearly 200 points lower at just 426, he’s having a monstrous tournament this time around. 

And frankly, it’s because G2 flipped a switch that allowed Caps to have a stronger presence all around the map. During last year’s tournament, where control mages like Orianna and Ryze reigned supreme, Caps was largely relegated to applying pressure on the center-most parts of the map while G2 built its advantages elsewhere. 

This time around, control mages are still prevalent, but G2 has turned its eyes to building a sense of cross-map pressure in each of its games. By placing Caps on roam-heavy picks like Ekko, Sylas, and Twisted Fate, he’s able to serve as an ever-present force in the mid lane and beyond.

No matter what play G2 is making, it feels like Caps is a part of it. This past weekend against Gen.G alone, he participated in 56 out of G2’s 70 kills in the three-game sweep, resulting in a kill participation of 80 percent on the dot. Throughout the course of the tournament, his 75.3 percent KP is the fourth highest among all players at Worlds and the highest among all qualified mid laners. Compared to last year’s World Championship when Caps only participated in 62 percent of G2’s kills, it’s clear that the team is finding ways to get its star mid laner involved in the action on a more widespread level. 

It’s not like this playstyle emerged out of nowhere, either. During the domestic portion of the schedule in 2019, Caps’ KP sat around just over 57 percent. This year, however, he ranked near the top of the LEC with a KP well over 70 percent, according to gol.gg. To see his involvement in G2’s map presence shoot up in emphatic fashion was something that the team found success with and desperately needed as well. Here at Worlds 2020, the fact that Caps is at the heart of G2’s strategy makes perfect sense. The adjustments made throughout the course of the season are paying serious dividends at year’s end. 

During last year’s World Championship, every time Caps tried moving toward an assassin-like pick, he was punished. When he bent the rules and picked champions like Pyke, the fruits of his labor were practically nonexistent. If he wasn’t playing a mage like Ryze, Orianna, or Syndra, he wasn’t finding success. This year, with the meta heavily favoring mages (and disruptive champions like Akali and Qiyana out of the equation), Caps is able to play more comfortably—even when he elects to move outside the general realm of conformity with picks like Sylas and Ekko. 

This year’s mid lane meta is one that Caps knows like the back of his hand. Heavily contested champions like Syndra, Twisted Fate, and Orianna are right up Caps’ alley since he’s played 62 games throughout his career on those three champions alone. Practice on champions like Zoe, Galio, and many of the other less-prioritized picks in the mid lane is just an added bonus for the widely accomplished star with an expansive champion pool. When he’s not dominating on control mages, he’s exploiting the weaknesses of any opposing player who’s trying to get comfortable in a meta Caps has lived in for years. 

But if there’s one player who can challenge Caps in this meta, it’s DAMWON Gaming’s ShowMaker, who’s set to go head-to-head against G2 this weekend. ShowMaker has excelled at this tournament and throughout his career on some of the most prioritized mid lane picks at Worlds 2020. His career-long Twisted Fate play has resulted in an all-time record of 10-1 and a KDA of 22.6. Although Caps has steamrolled his way through the tournament up to this point, he might finally find a worthy opponent in ShowMaker and DWG tomorrow. 

But even with the looming threat of an equally dangerous player awaiting Caps on the horizon, there’s reason to believe that if G2 were to capture the Summoner’s Cup later this month, Caps would be the clear favorite for MVP of the entire tournament. His play has invigorated a roster that’s in need of one final push to the finish line. And with just two best-of-five series separating G2 from a Worlds title, it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to suggest that if the entire team plays as well as Caps is right now, winning it all shouldn’t be too daunting of a task. 

Caps and G2 will take on DWG on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 5am CT.

Make sure to follow us on YouTube for more esports news and analysis.


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News

Hearthstone Launches Duels, A Brand New Game Mode Today In Early Access

Hearthstone is adding a brand-new game mode today in early access, called Duels, which is described by the developer as a PVP take on the popular Dungeon Runner solo content. In Duels, you will build a custom deck using parts of your collection, but also with new, powerful abilities and cards only available in this mode to go up against other players.

The first step is for you to choose a Hero Power and then a signature treasure, and from there you build a starting deck. You will be able to use cards from your own collection from a list of allowable sets, the first of which will include Scholomance, Karazhan, Naxxramas, and the Basic and Classic card pools.


Much like Arena, you will face off against other players with these special decks until you lose three times. Unlike Arena, however, every win will allow you to add new, unique cards to your deck, with the goal of reaching 12 wins for the greatest rewards and bragging rights.

During early access, which begins today, you will have access to a single hero power and signature treasure, but as soon as the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion launches on November 17, this will expand to allow for a broader range of decks and creativity. With new expansions in the future, sets of allowable cards will rotate and new abilities will be added to keep the mode fresh and exciting.

For those who become pros at the new mode, Heroic Duels will be available to offer higher stakes challenges. Much Arena or Heroic Tavern Brawls, these will be a premium feature with an entry fee but correspondingly better rewards.

Duels is an interesting design choice by Blizzard, not only because it gives players yet another way to flex their deck-building muscles, but also because it might encourage more players to try out Wild mode.

Since the pool of available cards will rotate often and we are already beginning with two sets that are normally only available in Wild, Naxxramas and Karazhan, crafting or buying Wild packs now has more utility and may be worth the gold, dust, or money to acquire.

Since the Duels is now available in Hearthstone, the best way to learn is to try, so jump in and test out the newest mode to get a jump on the competition when it formally launches on November 17!

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News

A Japanese Esports Tournament Is Awarding Winners Literal Crabs Instead Of Cash Prizes

Toyama Gamers Day is hosting a fighting game tourney called King Crab Tournament. The game is Fight Crab. The prize is… crabs. You can clearly see the pattern that’s developing here.

Throughout the King Crab Tournament, 100 crabs will be given away to participants. They are red snow crabs, a local delicacy that typically sells for around 3000 yen each–or roughly $30 USD–so that’s a total of $3000-worth of crabs.

So why crab? Well, besides the fact that the game itself is extremely crab-focused, there’s a law in Japan that limits the cash winnings for open game tournaments like this to 100,000 yen. Giving away crabs instead of cash is seen as a means of sweetening the pot, so to speak.

According to Kotaku, Toyama Gamers Day isn’t just giving away crabs for the Fight Crab tourney. They’re also giving them away for a Fortnite tournament that is expected to achieve a much larger audience.

The tournament is set to be held on October 24 with a maximum of 128 participants. Gamers will play on the Nintendo Switch version of Fight Crab that just released last August.

In case you haven’t kept up on your crustacean-based fighting game news, Fight Crab is one-part fighting game, one-part physics simulator, and the rest is utter lunacy. You play as an immortal crab god that has somehow mastered all human weapons in order to take over dry land. Although these immortal crabs cannot be killed, there is a special rule that all crab-kind abides by: “He who turns his back to the ground shall know defeat…”

The objective is to flip over your opponent using any means necessary. This can include claws, swords, guns, jet engines, giant drills, kamehameha waves, and even more esoteric means of flipping a giant lobster.

Oh, and it’s not all crabs. There’s lobsters, crayfish, mantis shrimp… “Crab” is a very liberal term in Fight Crab.

Fight Crab is available now for Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

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News

Pac-Man’s getting a 64-player battle royale game

Pac-Man is the latest classic video game franchise to jump on the battle royale craze. Bandai Namco and Heavy Iron Studios are developing Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle, a battle royale spin on the classic dot-eating maze game for up to 64 players.

Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle will be released first on Google Stadia, a platform exclusive that is playable now in demo form. The battle royale game — not to be confused with Pac-Man Battle Royale, a four-player competitive version of the game released in arcades in 2011 — will challenge players to be the last Pac-Man standing across 64 interconnected mazes.

Mega Tunnel Battle introduces new power-ups, and even includes a spectator mode that will let viewers vote on which power-ups the competitors will get access to during play. Players can also customize their Pac-person and their home maze with cosmetic items.

Bandai Namco will release Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle on Nov. 17, for $19.99. Check out the game’s first trailer above.

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News

FIFA 21 Updates Messi’s Face After Fans Complain He Looked Like A Garden Gnome

FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, whose fate seemed a bit uncertain this summer after he expressed his desire to leave the Spanish team, recently got a facelift — at least in FIFA 21. After fans complained about his appearance in EA Sports’ latest football game — saying he resembled a garden gnome — the studio captured and uploaded a brand new face scan to rectify the issue.

The footballer’s visage has undergone numerous changes since he first appeared in the FIFA franchise, but his latest incarnation was a bridge too far for many fans, who called the developer out online. Following the uproar, EA changed the 33-year-old Argentine superstar’s face scan in FIFA 21. In its latest patch, the studio has also added new face scans for Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

Some wondered how EA could have gotten it so terribly wrong, while others noted that his look in PES 2021 was infinitely better. “How can this even be an update? Should be in the game from day 1 unbelievable that people are buzzing about it,” one fan wrote on Reddit. “Wow, this looks great now!” another added.

In general, critics’ impressions of the latest installment in the FIFA franchise have not been great. Players have been equally unimpressed. On Metacritic, the user score for FIFA 21 is 0.8, meaning the vast majority of players overwhelmingly dislike the game. Despite the lackluster reviews, the game’s digital sales have increased by over 31% on last year, yet there has been a 41% drop in physical sales.

Some suspect that fans are waiting for the next-gen versions of FIFA 21 to be released before purchasing physical versions of the game, however, those who have bought FIFA 21 on PS4 and Xbox One are entitled to a free upgrade to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

FIFA 21 was officially released on October 9 for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. EA Sports has confirmed that the title will also be released on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and Google Stadia at a later date.

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News

Artist Imagines What A Modern Dino Crisis Could Look Like

The next generation of gaming is weeks away, and that means it’s time for wild speculation. The pandemic is keeping a lot of heavy hitters from releasing on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, meaning 2021 is going to need some big announcements to keep the hype train rolling. A new Dino Crisis would be one such jaw-dropper, but Capcom doesn’t seem interested. That’s where one fan comes in.

That fan is Alexander Forssberg, a man who also happens to be a skilled illustrator. He’s got several TV and gaming concepts under his belt, and decided to try his hand at a Dino Crisis remake. Note that he calls it an “imaginary Dino Crisis remake,” so this is not a confirmation of a new game.

There hasn’t been a new Dino Crisis game since 2003, and that one wasn’t received well. Fans have spent the many years since asking for some kind of follow-up or reboot. There was some hope at the beginning of the year when a supposed leak hinted at Capcom reviving an old horror property. This combined with the fact that Capcom registered a Dino Crisis trademark last year put hopes at an all-time high.

Unfortunately Dino Crisis dreams seem to be dashed, as Capcom hasn’t announced anything. At least we still have this amazing art.

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PC

Baldur’s Gate 3 devs built a testing AI. Then, they tried to defeat it.

It does not eat, it does not sleep. But unlike the Terminator, the quality assurance AI that Larian Studios uses to help test old-school RPG throwback Baldur’s Gate 3 is meant to help people build the most solid video game possible, at a pace much faster than a human could achieve alone.

Quality assurance jobs in video games are some of the most misunderstood positions in the industry. Where the average player imagines that QA testers get paid to play games for a living, the reality is more tedious. Often, testers will spend hours doing things like walking into walls just to make sure the game is solid all the way through, or opening different menus at different points in the game to double-check that it keeps running smoothly. Once a bug is found, QA testers have to find ways to reproduce it so that the development team can fix the issue — at least, if it’s considered an important enough hindrance.

Humans have been doing exactly that for decades, but advances in technology are allowing developers to outsource some of the work to machines that are perfectly suited for endless repetitive tasks. Mossmouth used a Spelunky 2 AI, for example, to help generate random levels that could actually be completed by real players.

Larian Studios started going down this path during the development of 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin, when the company started building a proprietary AI that it now dubs the World Tester.

“In the early years, it was just teleporting an NPC across regions, testing performance markers and looking for basic crashes,” a Larian representative told Polygon over email.

Related

Baldur’s Gate 3 makers tell players to stop being so basic

The “super gamer,” as Larian sometimes calls the AI, works with QA teams to help stress-test player actions and combat, among other things. The second that a new game build is put together, the World Tester digs in before any human lays a finger on it. Sometimes, the Tester will juggle more than one build at the same time, apparently capable of simulating multiple hours of gameplay at once. The QA team will only get involved if the game is stable enough to not fail during its session with the World Tester, which helps save everyone time. The aim isn’t to replace humans. It’s to help humans become more efficient at what they do, Larian said.

Nowhere did this become more apparent than during a showdown that transpired right before the release of the Enhanced Edition of Original Sin. While the Tester was still rudimentary, it could still open and close interfaces extremely quickly — leagues ahead of a living, breathing human being. The programmers who helped shape the AI felt confident that it could get rid of corruption and crashing issues. Notably, the code they had built did not use controller inputs, so the team could hook up a gamepad to meddle with the AI’s affairs.

Hilariously, someone on the team was actually able to start up combat against the AI, eventually defeating it in a one-on-one battle. When it happened, the Larian chief technology officer started screaming that it was “impossible.” Except, it wasn’t. To celebrate the unexpected victory against a superhuman opponent, the dueling developer was promoted to become a principal tester at Larian’s studio in Belgium.

Since then, the AI has only gotten stronger — Larian has expanded its abilities for more sophisticated manipulation of UI, and for sifting through dialogue at “lightning speed,” the studio said. With Baldur’s Gate 3 now available in early access, the World Tester is still being put to good use in 2020. Everything the AI does gets tracked, of course, and at the end of the process, the team parses that data. In the end, the humans still call the shots.

“Our QA teams across the world are extremely important, and the world-tester is really not as smart as it thinks it is,” Larian said.

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