Royale rumble: ‘Apex Legends’ smashing ‘Fortnite’ records
By JAKE SEINER
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 20
NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time since its meteoric rise, “Fortnite” is no longer a no-doubt victory royale atop the video game industry.
“Apex Legends” — a battle royale from Electronic Arts — has charged into the market and smashed “Fortnite” records for downloads and viewership since its release three weeks ago. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and other streaming stars have powered that surge, as has the emergence of an 18-year-old “Apex” superstar. Esports teams are already scrambling to sign talented players and invest long-term, while others are raising concerns about over committing to the suddenly volatile battle royale genre.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA, “Apex” has shaken the industry by building on many of its shining successes. It has pulled popular elements from other battle royales — a type of video game where players are dropped into a map and fight in a last-man-standing format against up to 100 other gamers — while making a few key changes.
Like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” ”Apex” is free to download and play, making its money by selling outfits and other upgrades for use in the game. Among its key differences: “Apex” players compete exclusively in teams of three and can choose characters with varying abilities, features essential to team-based esports like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”
The game also went hard after the existing battle royale audience. EA recruited Blevins, Richard “KingRichard” Nelson and other famous gamers, asking them to put down “Fortnite” and stream “Apex” following its release Feb. 4. Blevins alone has over 13 million subscribers on Twitch, immediately giving “Apex” a massive audience. It’s unclear if EA paid those influencers to play the game, and EA did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“Apex” had 25 million downloads in its first week, crushing the “Fortnite” mark of 10 million over its first two weeks after launching in 2017.
“I think ‘Apex’ has caught everybody by storm,” said Andy Miller, CEO of NRG Esports, which rosters teams across various video game titles. “They did a phenomenal job of getting the influencers to play it first, feeding the market on Twitch and then watching everybody starting to play the game, and the game is good.”
Six days after the game launched, NRG announced it was recruiting “Apex” players, making it the first esports organization to seek a pro specifically for that title. General manager Jaime Cohenca led the search, combing through applications and Twitch streams. With the game being so new, Cohenca wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for other than an “exceptional talent.”
He “knew immediately” when he came across Dizzy.
Coby “Dizzy” Meadows is an 18-year-old from Florida, and he is believed to be the best “Apex” player in the world. NRG signed him Feb. 12, and later that day, Meadows made major waves in the esports community by killing 33 of his 59 opponents in one match — a viral moment that generated nearly 500,000 views on YouTube alone. The next day, Meadows teamed up with Blevins and Nelson, also an NRG player, to win the $200,000 Twitch Rivals Apex Legends tournament against a lineup of streaming megastars.
Behind big draws for Dizzy, Ninja and KingRichard, “Apex” smashed another “Fortnite” record that day: 8.28 million hours of “Apex” were streamed on Twitch, topping the “Fortnite” mark of 6.6 million from July 20, per The Esports Observer.
Meadows has played regularly with Blevins and Nelson since. They won another tournament together later that week, and in the finals, Meadows had as many kills on his own as the entire opposing team.
“We knew this was a kid we had to take a flyer on,” Cohenca said. “Dizzy was a rock star.”
The question now: What comes next for “Apex,” ”Fortnite,” and the stars and companies building up around their popularity? No doubt, NRG’s fast move on Meadows has paid off, and other top esports organizations have since begun recruiting their own “Apex” pros. But it’s still not clear what kind of scene they’re staffing up for.
Epic Games, the developer behind “Fortnite,” hasn’t prioritized that game’s competitive sphere in the same way that companies behind “League of Legends” or “Overwatch” have. Top “Fortnite” players like Blevins aren’t necessarily stars because they win every tournament. Ninja is a skilled gamer, for sure, but what has separated him is that he’s entertaining, a talent that pairs well with a goofier game like “Fortnite.”
“Apex” lacks those cartoonish vibes, and its rules and structure could lend it better to competitive esports — where skill and teamwork become more important than engaging on Twitch. EA has experience building leagues around its games, too, most notably with sports titles like Madden and FIFA.
Right now, it’s unclear where “Apex” is going, and for how long it can hold that space. That’s part of why Ari Segal, CEO at Immortals, has been hesitant to invest in battle royale players. He remains cautious, especially now that “Apex” has drawn up such a spectacular blueprint for entering the market.
“It’s a well-oiled flywheel that likely means new battle royale games will increasingly be able to launch to faster and larger success, at least initially,” he said.
Immortals and NRG are at opposite ends of that spectrum, in many ways. NRG already has plans to build out a full “Apex” team so it’s ready to put a talented squad in the field no matter the competitive and streaming structure. It also plans to maintain its “Fortnite” roster, which features entertaining streamers like Nelson.
Segal’s concern is that if one battle royale can so quickly pull eyeballs from the others, how do you build around each title? Formerly an executive with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, his ambitions are to turn Immortals into a longstanding franchise like those in traditional sports. Quickly turning over rosters to keep up with the hot new thing isn’t part of his plan.
“We believe that by selling sizzle, your customer is buying sizzle, and that by definition will flame out,” Segal said. “We’re not selling sizzle; we’re building community.”
Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner
More AP esports: https://apnews.com/Esports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Overnight Ramp Closure on the North Side
Ohio Department of Transportation
Thu 2/21/2019 3:00 PM
Ramp from 5th Ave. to I-71 south and I-670
NORTHERN FRANKLIN COUNTY
71 N Franklin
I-71 at 5th Ave.
7 PM: The ramp from 5th Ave. to I-71 south/I-670 will close to replace noise wall panels. The detour is 5th Ave. to I-71 north to 11th Ave. to I-71 south to I-670.
Also at 7 PM, the ramp from I-71 south to I-670 east and west will be reduced to one lane, but remain open.
5 AM Friday: All lanes and ramps open.
All work is weather dependent; it may be postponed or cancelled without prior notice.
Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians
February 20, 2019
Author: John Rennie Short is a Friend of The Conversation. Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Disclosure statement: John Rennie Short does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term.
In Washington D.C., for example, traffic fatalities as a whole declined in 2018 compared to the year before, but the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased by 20 percent. Pedestrian deaths also have risen in New York, and pedestrian and cycling fatalities have increased in Los Angeles in the past several years.
Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45 percent. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. As my research has shown, this shifting mix can be deadly.
The long decline in traffic fatalities
From a long-term perspective, traffic fatalities in the United States are declining. In the early 1970s, almost 55,000 Americans were killed in traffic accidents yearly, including people in vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. By 2017 that figure had fallen to around 40,000, even with an increase in the number of vehicle miles driven.
The overall decline is a confirmation of Smeed’s Law, named after R.J. Smeed, a scholar at the United Kingdom’s Road Research Laboratory. Smeed found that initially, with the early introduction of motor vehicles, traffic deaths tend to rise. Around the world, almost 1.35 million people die each year in traffic accidents, but 93 percent of those fatalities occur in low- and middle- income countries where mass vehicle usage is a recent phenomenon.
As manufacturers produce safer vehicles, cities improve roads and drivers become more adept, fatalities tend to decline. But Smeed’s Law only seems to hold up for people in cars – not for other road users.
A global status report shows that road traffic injuries are now the single biggest cause of death for children and young adults, and that more than half of all traffic deaths are pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. In the United States, driver fatalities fell from 27,348 in 2006 to 23,611 in 2017, but pedestrian and cyclist fatalities increased from 5,567 to 6,760.
Lower-density cities that are heavily car-dependent, such as Phoenix, tend to be more dangerous for pedestrians.
The vehicle-centric city
Modern U.S. cities are designed largely for motor vehicles. At the turn of the 20th century, people and cars shared city streets, which served as places for children to play, adults to walk and neighbors to meet. From the 1900s to the early 1930s a battle was fought as motor vehicles became increasingly dominant. As traffic fatalities rose, angry mobs dragged reckless drivers from their cars, and some cities printed “murder maps” showing where people had been killed in traffic.
However, automotive interests won out. From the 1950s forward, city streets lost their conviviality. Roads were engineered for fast-moving and unhindered vehicular traffic, with few pedestrian crossings or bike lanes.
Even today, motorists in many cities are able to turn onto streets at intersections where pedestrians are also crossing. Most pedestrians and bicyclists are killed or injured while they are obeying the law.
A new Wild West
In the 21st century, a new city ideal has emerged of a more bike-friendly, walking-oriented city. But piecemeal implementation of bike lanes, pedestrianized zones and traffic calming measures often just adds to the confusion.
Many bike lanes and pedestrianized zones only extend for short distances. Most American drivers have yet to fully appreciate that urban streets are to be shared. And even in the best of times, cars and trucks are not good at sharing the road. Vehicle drivers are often moving too fast to identify and respond to pedestrians and bicyclists. Blind spots for drivers can be death traps for other road users.
Then there’s the asymmetry. Drivers are operating fast-moving lethal weapons, and are encased in a protective shield. And speed literally kills. A car hitting a pedestrian at 36 to 45 mph per hour is four times more likely to cause death than a vehicle traveling between 26 to 30 mph.
Adding to the dangers are distracted drivers and pedestrians and the introduction of electric scooters. Some observers also believe an epidemic of narcissism is causing more aggressive driving.
All of these factors are making walking and bicycling more dangerous. While pedestrian deaths in Norway declined by 37 percent from 2010 to 2016, in the United States they increased by 39 percent. Non-driver traffic fatalities are increasing in the United States at higher rates than most other wealthy nations.
Large trucks turning right are particularly dangerous for cyclists.
A better vision
Vision Zero, a strategy first proposed in Sweden in 1997, imagines cities with no traffic fatalities or serious injuries. At least 18 U.S. cities and states have signed on to reach that goal by 2024, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C.
Strategies vary from one city to another. Boston, for example, has reduced the city speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph. Washington D.C. is improving 36 intersections that pose threats to pedestrians and enacting more bicycle-friendly policies. These cities still have far to go, but they are moving in the right direction.
There are many more options. Manufacturers can make vehicles less threatening to pedestrians and bicyclists by reducing the height of front bumpers. And cities can make streets safer with a combination of speed limit reductions, traffic calming measures, “road diets” for neighborhoods that limit traffic speed and volume, and better education for all road users.
Initiatives to create more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure should also be sensitive to social and class differences that may shape local priorities. And advocates contend that shifting to autonomous vehicles could make streets safer, although the verdict is still out on this claim.
The most radical shift will require not only re-engineering urban traffic, but also reimagining our cities. In my view, we need to think of them as shared spaces with slower traffic, and see neighborhood streets as places to live in and share, not just to drive through at high speed.
Stricker appointed US captain for Ryder Cup in home state
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
Thursday, February 21
Steve Stricker paid his dues to become a Ryder Cup captain, and it had nothing to do with winning a major.
He didn’t make his first team until he was 41 in the 2008 matches at Valhalla, a rare U.S. victory, and played in two more. He spent the next six years in the back room as an assistant captain to Tom Watson, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, and he was captain of the formidable U.S. team at the 2017 Presidents Cup.
Stricker was appointed Ryder Cup captain on Wednesday, his seventh straight time taking part in the matches, this time in charge of an American team trying to win back the gold trophy in his home state of Wisconsin.
It was hardly a surprise with the 2020 matches going to Whistling Straits, an hour north of Milwaukee where Stricker was introduced Wednesday. He still had his doubts when his name first was mentioned five years ago, aware each of the 28 previous American captains had won a major.
“I was thinking they’re not going to have me. I haven’t won a major,” he said. “But it kept going further along, me putting in the time last year, the Presidents Cup a couple of years ago, and the PGA of America and Ryder Cup committees saying they wanted to move off from that.”
All that matters now is bringing the Ryder Cup back to America.
Tiger Woods, among three players on the Ryder Cup committee, said Stricker was a unanimous choice.
“Everyone knows he’s such a nice guy, but beneath all of that exterior is this fieriness and this competitiveness, and he’s also one of the more detail-oriented guys that we know,” Woods said. “I think that he’ll be prepared, he’ll be understanding and he’s very good at communicating with the players and getting their opinions but also putting his foot down when he has to.”
Europe, which already has appointed Padraig Harrington as its captain for the 2020 matches, has won seven of the last nine times, including a 17½-10½ victory outside Paris last year. That ended badly for the Americans, mainly from Patrick Reed saying in an interview with the New York Times that he blamed Jordan Spieth for them not playing together and captain Jim Furyk for benching him twice.
Stricker is all about looking ahead, and says he already has spoken to Reed.
“We had a good conversation,” Stricker said. “I kind of asked him what to expect and he said, ‘I’ve got your guys’ back, I’m there for the team.’ He’s every bit committed. He knew what happened and was not comfortable with it, not happy with how that transformed. We’re here about moving forward, pointing toward the next team, and I hope to have him as part of this team. We have a long ways to go.”
The Mexico Championship, which starts Thursday, is the first tournament where Ryder Cup points can be earned for the U.S. team. Reduced points are available this year at the World Golf Championships, The Players Championship and the majors, with full points at every event starting in 2020 (extra for the majors).
Stricker wept after each of his 12 victories on the PGA Tour, so imagine being introduced in his home state as a Ryder Cup captain.
He didn’t get one sentence out before he tried to choke back tears.
“I’m an emotional guy. I’m truly humbled,” Stricker said. “I’m very passionate about this competition. We want to win this more than ever. I want to help any way I can.”
Europe never bought into the notion that Ryder Cup captains had to be major champions, though there also was a long stretch when Europe didn’t have a long list of candidates. It took a U.S. loss in Scotland in 2014 for the players to finally take more control of the whole process, forming a task force that gave players input along with the PGA of America.
Now it’s about continuity, and that much was clear with Stricker’s first appointment as an assistant — Furyk, whom he said would have been his choice even without the plan for immediate past captains to be assistants the next time.
Another change PGA of America president Suzy Whaley announced Wednesday was the timetable for qualifying and being a captain’s pick. Qualifying will end after the 2020 BMW Championship, the second of three FedEx Cup playoff events, and then all four picks will be announced two days after the season-ending Tour Championship.
More AP golf: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
OHIO STATE NEWS
Handwriting: The foodie font of love
Healthy menu options in handwritten typeface prompt positive response
Food can conjure up all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings—childhood nostalgia, memories of road trips, or just the simple comfort of a nourishing cup of soup.
For restaurants, though, conveying a sense of love could be as simple as picking a different menu font.
A recent study found that when restaurant diners read menus with healthy food options printed in a typeface that appears handwritten, they were more likely to believe that the food was better for their bodies, made of better ingredients, and prepared with more care than similar items printed in machine-style fonts.
“The handwritten typeface conveys love, and that sense of human touch feels even more salient,” said Stephanie Liu, co-author of the study and assistant professor of hospitality management at The Ohio State University. “It feels to the customer like there is more heart, more effort, and more love in it, even though it doesn’t cost any more money.”
The team’s findings were published Feb. 10 in the Journal of Business Research.
The researchers conducted online surveys and found that the positive-response phenomenon occurred only when customers perceived the restaurant or menu items as healthy or locally grown—when the restaurant’s brand was health-focused.
“This wouldn’t apply to a fast-food brand that sells low-quality hamburgers,” Liu said.
But a font that appeared handwritten, even if it had been produced by a computer and not actually written by hand, triggered the perception that extra love and care are imbued in the restaurant’s offerings.
Liu has a theory about why this might be: The world is growing ever-more automated and ever-more mechanized. Technology can put distance between humans and occasionally remove the warmth that comes with human touch.
Handwriting can convey that warmth, because it requires more effort than typewritten font. A handwritten note, for example, is more personal than one typed on a computer. A typeface that appears handwritten, with imperfect curves and slants and organic strokes, conveys a deeper sense of emotional connection than machine-written typeface, which is typically squared, straight and uniform.
“As a marketing strategy, customers are just subconsciously processing information, and they feel that human touch in the letters on the menu,” Liu said. “And they feel that the restaurant put more effort into the design of this menu and they are getting this product to you with more care.”
Handwritten typeface might also help solo diners feel slightly less lonely, the researchers found, creating a sense of warmth and connection with the restaurant that could inspire those customers to return.
The researchers found that when customers believed the menu contained “love,” those customers were more likely to interact with the restaurant’s brand on social media, Liu said.
This research was funded by the Marriott Foundation.