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Dunkey launches Bigmode, indie video game publishing company – The Washington Post

Video game content creator Jason “Videogamedunkey” Gastrow has established himself as one of the most popular satirists, critics and video essayists in the field. This week, the YouTuber added a new role to his resume: video game publisher.

Gastrow, whose distinct comedic voice has earned him an audience of millions, will bankroll video games of his choosing through a newly formed independent game publisher, Bigmode, co-founded with his wife and fellow content creator Leah “Leahbee” Gastrow.

Dunkey, as the creator is best known, announced the news Wednesday on his YouTube channel. In a video, Gastrow recounted his own career as a content creator dedicated to highlighting “truly inspired works of art” in video games, while excoriating titles he described as “soulless cash grabs.” Gastrow said he was inspired to start Bigmode out of a desire to help create good indie games in a market he referred to as “a sea of mediocrity,” where quality titles are buried by subpar releases.

“I am not looking for creative control over your games but I do want to be involved,” said Gastrow in his video as a pitch to potential clients. “Bigmode will be all about building up the games and the developers. We’ve put a lot of effort into making the most developer friendly contracts possible. I think we’re going to bring insane value to the table[.]”

In the announcement, Gastrow said he would be a good publisher because of his decade long experience as a game critic. He also assured his audience that his content would remain unchanged moving forward.

If video games are today’s rock-and-roll music, Videogamedunkey might be its Lester Bangs

Gastrow is the latest in a wave of influencers who have dipped their toes into game development. Gaming collective One True King invested a minority stake in Notorious Studios, which is working on a fantasy role-playing game. Esports organization 100 Thieves is developing its own shooter title. The controversial streamer Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm co-founded the studio Midnight Society to develop a game with blockchain capabilities. (Before streaming, Beahm worked as a community manager and level designer for Sledgehammer Games).

However, not many influencers have started publishing companies. Gastrow joins the Game Grumps (a YouTube collective that published “Dream Daddy” and “Soviet Jump Game”) as one of the few creators involved in shipping titles.

As a prominent figure in the gaming industry — Gastrow has 7.2 million subscribers and 3.5 billion views on YouTube alone — Gastrow’s unveiling of Bigmode immediately drew a mix of responses. Most of the discussion centered around Gastrow’s lack of experience in game development: He has never made or published a game before.

“It’s exciting to have more publishers catering to new audiences — friendly competition between publishers is excellent for developers, signals potentially better terms for teams and creates a hopeful future for a more inclusive creative economy — especially when players are involved in the co-creative process,” wrote Evva Karr, founder and CEO of video game consultancy Glitch, in an email to The Washington Post. In the past, Karr worked on strategic partnerships at Activision Blizzard, and as a publishing consultant at Riot Games.

Still, Karr wrote, “it can be challenging to balance a hands-off approach while also having enough creative control to deliver the best game possible to players. It’s tough to ship, sell, market games, negotiate with platforms, navigate distribution channels, plus advocate for and do right by the teams making them until you’re in the thick of it.”

Game journalist Danny O’Dwyer, founder of the video game documentary channel Noclip, raised concerns about Gastrow’s new venture while also wishing him the best. O’Dwyer tweeted that games criticism doesn’t translate to development ability, and that indie developers are unlikely to work with an untested publisher.

“I’ll just say I don’t know many indies who want an involved publisher with no experience or industry rep,” wrote O’Dwyer. “To me, his value is in selling exposure on his channel. Should be interesting to watch.”

Indie game designer Dave Hoffman, creator of the musical puzzle title Mixolumia, echoed O’Dwyer’s in a more critical tone.

“Dunkey starting a publishing company with the ethos ‘I have played so many games I know what makes them good and bad so I will only publish good ones’ about to learn some stuff the hard way,” tweeted Hoffman.

The video game review process is broken. It’s bad for readers, writers and games.

Obsidian Entertainment studio design director Josh Sawyer noted that lack of experience hasn’t stopped many other publishers and developers. Jason Schreier, journalist and author of the books “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” (on the difficulties of game development) and “Press Reset” (on the volatile corporate environment of the video game industry) quipped that Bigmode is not exceptional among game publishers.

“Can’t believe Dunkey started a video game publisher with no experience instead of taking the normal approach: getting a Harvard MBA, working at McKinsey for five years and then failing upward between C-suites for the rest of your life,” wrote Schreier on Twitter.

Both Jason and Leah Gastrow tweeted out their thanks to supporters who had praised Bigmode’s unveiling.

“The response to Bigmode has been incredible!” tweeted Dunkey. “Thank you so much everyone we can’t wait to bring you some great stuff.”

Bigmode’s website is live and receiving applications from developers. Interested particles can specify publishing needs such as porting, marketing, localization, public relations and funding requirements. Notably, Bigmode is rejecting any projects that make use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrency or any other form of blockchain technology.

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What keeps plant roots growing toward gravity? Study identifies four genes – hortidaily.com

What happens belowground in a corn field is easy to overlook, but corn root architecture can play an important role in water and nutrient acquisition, affecting drought tolerance, water use efficiency, and sustainability. If breeders could encourage corn roots to grow down at a steeper angle, the crop could potentially access important resources deeper in the soil.

A first step toward that goal is learning the genes involved in gravitropism and root growth in response to gravity. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Wisconsin scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois, identify four such genes in corn and the model plant Arabidopsis.

When a germinating seed is turned on its side, some roots make a sudden, steep turn towards gravity, while others turn a fraction more slowly. The researchers used machine vision methods to observe subtle differences in root gravitropism in thousands of seedlings and combined that data with genetic information for each seedling. The result mapped the likely positions of gravitropism genes in the genome.

The map got the researchers to the right neighborhood in the genome – regions of a few hundred genes – but they were still a long way from identifying specific genes for gravitropism. Fortunately, they had a tool that could help.

Relevant genetics
“Because we had previously performed the same experiment with the distantly related Arabidopsis plant, we were able to match genes within the relevant regions of the genome in both species. Follow-up tests verified the identity of four genes that modify root gravitropism. The new information could help us understand how gravity shapes root system architectures,” says Edgar Spalding, professor in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the study.

Matt Hudson, professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and study co-author, adds, “We looked at an under-researched trait in maize that is important for a number of reasons, especially in the context of climate change. And we did it by making the evolutionary differences between plants work in our favor.”

Corn and Arabidopsis, a small mustard relative, exhaustively described by plant biologists, evolved about 150 million years apart in evolutionary history. Hudson explains that although both species share basic plant functions, the genes controlling them have likely been jumbled within the genome over time. That turns out to be a good thing for narrowing down common genes.

In closely related species, genes tend to line up in approximately the same order in the genome (e.g., ABCDEF). Although the same genes might exist in distantly related species, the order of genes in the region the trait maps to doesn’t match (e.g., UGRBZ). After the researchers identified where to look in each genome, the otherwise mismatched gene sequences made the common genes (in this case, B) pop out.

“I thought it was super cool that we could identify genes we wouldn’t have found otherwise just by comparing genomic intervals in unrelated plant species,” Hudson says. “We were pretty confident they were the right genes when they popped right out of this analysis, but Spalding’s group then spent seven or eight more years getting solid biological data to verify they do, indeed, play a role in gravitropism. Having done that, I think we’ve validated the whole approach so that you could use this method for many different phenotypes in the future.”

Environment
Spalding notes the method was probably particularly successful because precise measurements were made in a common environment.

“Often, maize researchers will measure their traits of interest in a field, whereas Arabidopsis researchers tend to raise their plants in growth chambers,” he says. “We measured the root gravitropism phenotype in a highly controlled way. These seeds were grown on a petri dish, and the assay lasted just hours, as opposed to traits you might measure in the real world that are open to all sorts of variabilities.”

Even when traits can be measured in a common environment, not all traits make good candidates for this method. The researchers emphasize traits in question should be fundamental to basic plant function, ensuring the same ancient genes exist in unrelated species. 

“Gravitropism may be especially amenable to study through this approach because it would have been key to the original specialization of shoots and roots after the successful colonization of land,” Spalding says.

Hudson notes gravitropism will be key to the colonization of a different landscape, as well.

“NASA is interested in growing crops on other planets or in space, and they need to know what you’d have to breed for to do that,” he says. “Plants are pretty discombobulated without gravity.”

For more information:
University of Illinois
www.aces.illinois.edu

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Brand New Scarlet & Violet Pokémon Revealed, And It’s A Floppy One – Kotaku

Serebii

The sadly low-res video shows the little beasties popping their heads out of the sand on the beach, implying we’ve got at least a Water-type here. Multi-lingual discussion during the video has Pokécologists (everyone start using this term) question whether it’s related to Diglett, but then conclude that no, it’s a whole new species of Pokémon.

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Goodness knows what is going on in that video, with the Wingulls seemingly stuck in the air, and the background looking like it’s running on GBA.

This makes it the 16th new Pokémon unique to the Paldean region to be revealed, ahead of November’s release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Most of which have been utterly bonkers.

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Generally when The Pokémon Company reveals a new creature, we get a hint dropped like this, and then a nice press release packed with information. So be sure to check back later for an update on this post with all that extra news.

 

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Russia’s Alrosa discovers 22 new diamond deposits in Zim – Mnangagwa – New Zimbabwe.com


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By Bloomberg News


Russian miner Alrosa PSJC has discovered 22 new diamond deposits in Zimbabwe, according to the southern African nation’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Alrosa will only be allowed to work on two of the diamond deposits, while the rest will be made available to other investors, Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry said, citing comments by Mnangagwa in New York at the weekend. The president attended a business meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Russian company declined an emailed request for comment.

In 2019, Alrosa signed an agreement with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. to jointly explore for gems in the country. At the time, the company said it would spend $12 million exploring some of the 40 diamond mining rights it holds in the country.

Many in the diamond industry refuse to deal in Russian gems following the invasion of Ukraine and after mining giant Alrosa was hit with US sanctions.

After returning to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said there was interest from US-based investors in a number of sectors including mining and agriculture. A group of those investors will come to the country next month to look at opportunities, the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. reported.

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