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    This Week In Gaming 4-2-19


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    Dan Olson combines an April Fools video with an essay on the exploitative design of Fortnight and how it gives a glimpse of a hostile future, Jason Schreier interviews Bioware employees to report on the troubled development of Anthem and a studio facing an epidemic of burnout and depression, Alex Kane and Morrowind's developers tell the history of the game's creation, Gameumentary's documentary on Shirley Curry The Gaming Grandma, PAX East, Lana Polansky explores the history and use of empathy in games since 2008, Kimimi on accessibility options and how having easier difficulty options can better allow for a game to be made more difficult, gameplay of The Outer Worlds and Darkborn, Carolyn Petit on the lost magic and melancholy of Diablo, April Fools videos and articles, Writing on Games discusses the themes of Sekiro, and more.

     

     

    Gaming News (Announcements, previews, release dates, interviews and writing on upcoming games, DLC and game updates, company and developer news, country news, tech, mods)

     

    15 Games That Grabbed My Attention At PAX East

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    I spent the weekend at PAX East, and while I didn’t play nearly all of the games I wanted to, I got to play quite a lot and even discovered a few I’d never heard of that I’m now extremely excited about.

    Here’s a brief rundown of some of them, which is still only a fraction of what was there.

     

    Divinity: Fallen Heroes continues Original Sin 2’s story, but with XCOM-style combat

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    Larian Studios has announced a new game based on the universe surrounding Divinity: Original Sin. Divinity: Fallen Heroes is a tactics-based game with RPG mechanics, which Larian says will “continue the story” of Original Sin 2.

    Divinity: Fallen Heroes

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    Everyone knows how awesome Divinity: Original Sin 2 is, right? So why stop there – many of the characters and skills are back for another round in Divinity: Fallen Heroes. Instead of being a sprawling narrative like D:OS2, this is a more tactically-focused title, bringing a set of heroes and characters into fight after fight. Since the combat in D:OS2 is awesome, this game seems like a pretty good idea, and I had a chance to play through a battle at PAX East 2019.

     

    Wolfenstein: Youngblood releases this summer, and lets your friends play for free

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    Wolfenstein: Youngblood will release later this summer. A new trailer for the co-op adventure, which was released earlier today, gives a closer look at the next chapter in BJ Blazkowicz’s journey, and confirms that you’ll be able to play it from July 26.

     

    Her Story follow-up takes place on a stolen NSA hard drive

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    Sam Barlow’s next game is ‘four or five times bigger than Her Story’

     

    This new detective game is all about listening to solve mysteries

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    Like Her Story, but you mostly just use your ears.

     

    A trailer teasing Lilith, Claptrap, and Tiny Tina can only be for Borderlands 3, surely?

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    Gearbox has just released another new teaser ahead of its showing at PAX East, and if it’s not for Borderlands 3, I’ll eat my hat. The new trailer comes ahead of a showing at the conference due to take place tomorrow, during which the company is expected to announce multiple upcoming projects.

    Borderlands 3 Official Developer Trailer

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    Borderlands is back! Check out the Borderlands 3 Developer Trailer and prepare for an all-new mayhem-filled adventure. Visit Borderlands.com on April 3 for more info.

    The Borderlands 3 reveal was a hot mess – and we loved every second of it

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    There was a point during the Borderlands 3 reveal where I genuinely began to think Randy Pitchford was stalling for time. I didn’t know it then, but maybe I was right, and the Gearbox CEO was desperately trying to give the production team a few extra moments to allay the technical issues that came to plague his broadcast. Or perhaps he was just trying to emulate the chaos of his flagship series.

    Borderlands 1 gets remastered with four-player co-op next week

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    The next game isn’t the only big Borderlands news out of PAX East today – we’re also getting remasters of every game up to this point. The Handsome Collection is getting a free ultra HD update, and the original Borderlands is getting an even bigger bunch of revisions. In addition to the visual upgrades, it’s getting a bunch of new features including four-player split-screen co-op.

    Borderlands 3 might be an Epic Store exclusive, deleted tweets tease September release

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    Nothing is confirmed, but Randy Pitchford's comments strongly hint at a timed exclusive.

     

    Heaven's Vault unearths evidence of an April 16th release date

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    If my translation from Press Release-ese is correct, I believe that sci-fi archaeological adventure Heaven’s Vault will launch on April 16th. Probably a little easier than translating alien hieroglyphs, which seems to be the core of Inkle’s next story-driven puzzler. Unlike the studio’s earlier 80 Days, which was easy-going interactive fiction, this one poses more direct challenges, but will apparently bend its narrative around your choices and even failures. They boldly claim that it’s “a story that will be different for every person who plays it”, and after 80 Days, I’m eager to see them make good on that next month.

    New Gameplay Today – Heaven's Vault

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    Elise joins Cork and Leo to learn a new language in Heaven's Vault, an upcoming adventure game from Inkle, the makers of 80 Days.

     

    Project Sakura Wars announced for PS4

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    Sega has officially announced Project Sakura Wars (Shin Sakura Taisen in Japan) for PlayStation 4. The “dramatic 3D action adventure” game will launch this winter in Japan, and in spring 2020 in the Americas and Europe.

     

    Gameplay Reveal: Watch 16 Minutes Of Darkborn

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    Watch this new gameplay with no commentary from the game previously known as Project Wight developed by The Outsiders.

     

    Auditioning with live ammo in Obsidian's The Outer Worlds PAX demo

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    Obsidian Entertainment demoed sci-fi role-playing game The Outer Worlds live at PAX East over the weekend.

     

    Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is going to have a closed beta

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    It’s been almost nine years since Warband came out, and fans are naturally champing at the medieval bit to get their hands on Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. Developer TaleWorlds Entertainment is notoriously reticent when it comes to release date information, but we now know that Bannerlords has a closed beta coming up.

     

    Super Meat Boy Forever won't meet you this April, boy

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    Super Meat Boy and Bandage Girl may dash ever onwards at a steady pace in Super Meat Boy Forever, but the’s game development isn’t so simple, and developers Team Meat are delaying it from the planned April launch to… when it’s done. Team Meat big cheese Tommy Refenes told our roving reporter Katharine, during PAX East this weekend, that the auto-running sequel to Super Meat Boy is coming along nicely but they just need more time to make all the gamestuffing.

     

    Conglomerate 451 is a cyberpunk first-person dungeon crawler in an unhappy future

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    Send in the battle clones to restore order 'at any cost.'

     

    Windjammers 2 Is A Lot Of Fun

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    On its 25th anniversary, Windjammers is finally getting a sequel. But despite a new art-style and slightly more complex gameplay, the studio behind Windjammers 2 said it wants to stay as true to the pure joy and simplicity found in the original.

     

    You won’t hit a game over in Cyberpunk 2077 no matter how badly you fail a mission

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    Cyberpunk 2077 will not have a game over screen unless you die. That means that no matter how badly you mess up, the game’s going to keep going – even if you fail a job or let somebody get killed. The idea is to let you approach Cyberpunk 2077 quests in any way you want, even if that means letting you get away with some pretty stupid stuff.

     

    Yakuza Kiwami 2 rated for PC

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    Yakuza Kiwami 2 has received an ESRB rating for PC, suggesting a release announcement is incoming soon.

     

    SEGA Announces Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 For Switch & Arcades

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    Sega announced a new Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games for Nintendo Switch. They also revealed three other titles based on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The news came from Sega Fes 2019, an annual fan event held in Tokyo.

     

    Cyber Shadow

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    We’re very proud to announce Cyber Shadow, the newest project from Yacht Club Games. Developed over the last decade by Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker , Cyber Shadow has spent more than a year being polished under our watchful eye, and it’s shaping up to be what we believe is the next quintessential Ninja Action game!

     

    Persona Q2’s New Trailer Highlights The Phantom Thieves From Persona 5

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    Atlus released the latest trailer for Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth and it features a highlight of its characters from Persona 5 with the protagonist, Ryuji, Yusuke, and other members of the Phantom Thieves.

     

    Anno 1800 is going to the Epic store, but you can still buy it on Steam for now

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    Pre-orders will remain up on Steam until the game releases on April 16. Every order made up until that date will be fulfilled on Steam, and those players will get all future updates and patches through Valve’s client as usual, at the same time as other platforms. There won’t be any issues with multiplayer, either – Steam, Uplay, and Epic players will all be able to play together.

     

    Panzer Paladin Draws Inspiration From 8-Bit "Black Sheep" Like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

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    Tribute Games reminds us there's a lot we can learn from weirdos.

     

    Pathologic 2 gets down with the sickness on May 23rd

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    Horrible plague-ridden fever-dream simulator Pathologic 2 will be stumbling into stores on May 23rd, presumably before letting out a gurgling cough and keeling over. Despite the ‘2’ in the title, this new game is less of a sequel and more of an expanded re-imagining of Ice-Pick Lodge’s cult 2005 horror-survival game. Set in a surreal industrial town inspired by turn-of-the-century Russia, you’ve got to survive for twelve days as a seemingly supernatural plague tears through the population. Below, an unsettling trailer featuring the children living in this bizarre, impossible place.

     

    Large-scale World War 2 shooter Hell Let Loose releases in June

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    It'll be out on the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

     

    Moons of Madness - Reveal Trailer | PS4

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    Coming to PS4 Halloween 2019! Moons of Madness is a first-person, story-driven cosmic horror game where the scientific exploration of Mars meets the supernatural dread of Lovecraft

     

    Othercide promises a stylish blend of turn-based tactics and monochrome horrors

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    The 'horror-themed' XCOM-like is coming later this year to Early Access.

     

    Command & Conquer meets the Hyborian Age in Conan Unconquered

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    The scorching sun takes on an unearthly hue as shadows begin to angle across the sand. Our fortifications are still under construction, but otherwise we’re prepared: pikemen have been stationed in the towers at the edge of our camp, and our best swordsmen stand ready to take on whatever nomadic raiders are on their way. But a sense of unease rustles through the camp as the winds pick up – a sandstorm is coming, hiding the horde we know is approaching. When they arrive, they flow over our walls like hairy, chittering floodwaters.

     

    Unbound: Worlds Apart warps from frying pan to fire

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    The world is a dangerous place, as is the other, second world that the little wizard in Unbound: Worlds Apart can open portals to. Unveiled today from new studio Alien Pixel Studios, it’s a vaguely Limbo-ish puzzle platformer with a dimension-hopping twist. Floppy-hatted spellcaster Soli can open bubbles of alternate reality, solving puzzles by revealing and briefly entering a second world that may be just as hostile (if not moreso) as your own. The game looks very nice already, but Alien Pixel are planning on taking it to Kickstarter next month to help finish production. Below, a debut trailer.

     

    World War Z

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    Max Brooks' bestselling novel World War Z was a natural candidate to make the leap from print to film, and even though the 2013 cinematic adaptation had almost nothing in common with the original fictitious oral history, it made half a billion dollars and extended the value of the brand.

     

    We Are The Caretakers is an afrofuturist anti-poaching strategy RPG

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    XCOM-inspired strategy games are common now, but We Are The Caretakers – unveiled today – stands out from the crowd with its afrofuturist stylings and environmentalist bent. Developed by Heart Shaped Games (formerly of Hero Generations), it has players managing a high-tech response force, protecting the massive, energy-generating animals that power your civilisation. As well as strategic management and turn-based tactical combat, players will have to act as diplomats as well, trying to keep the people as happy as the turbo-rhinos. Below, a short teaser trailer.

     

    6 things you need to know about Control

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    Remedy's next game is shaping up to be pretty special - here are 6 things you need to know about Control

     

    Hands-On With Tactical RPG Mistover

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    At PAX East 2019, I went hands on with the roguelike tactical RPG Mistover. In a nutshell, it's like what would happen if Darkest Dungeon and Etrian Odyssey had a baby. An anime baby. Featuring a cool cast of characters including witches and grim reapers, the stylized combat loaded with tough choices is the highlight of the experience, but moving around the map from encounter to encounter comes with its own set of interesting foibles as well.

     

    They Are Billions leaves early access in June with a large branching campaign

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    Zombopocalyptic steampunk RTS They Are Billions is in the final stretch of production, and developers Numantian Games reckon that it’ll be done by June. Unlike many games leaving early access, they’re not just tying a bow on it and pushing it out the door. Instead, they’re bolting on a seemingly massive, branching story-driven campaign on to what is currently just a zombie horde survival game. In a big developer blog update today, they shared a shambling horde of details on the campaign’s story, structure, how it differs from Starcraft or Age Of Empires and some Spanish screenshots.

     

    Love Thyself - A Horatio Story is a free, real, Endless Space dating sim

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    I’ve always liked how Amplitude set their games in the same universe. From Endless Space to Endless Legend, whether their games are flavoured sci-fi or fantasy, each one forms an act in a space opera that spans millennia.

     

    Far Cry 4 Director's New Game Is About Exploration And Commercialism

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    Journey to the Savage Planet was a bit of a surprise when it was announced at the most recent Game Awards. The development studio, Typhoon Studios, comprises several Assassin’s Creed alumni, and the wacky science-fiction antics in the trailer were a far cry from those games. It was hard to grasp exactly what the game was. Last week, I saw a demonstration helmed by Typhoon Studios creative director Alex Hutchinson. The game captured a sense of classic pulp adventure and mixed that with some anti-capitalist satire, offering a colorful world I’m cautiously curious to explore.

     

    Valve Breaks Silence Around Artifact, Says It Plans To Fix 'Deep-Rooted' Issues

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    In the past week, Artifact’s peak concurrent player count hasn’t even reached 500. Mere months after its November 28 launch, the Valve-developed card game is floundering. Now the Artifact team has decided it’s time to reshuffle the deck.

     

    Could Everquest come to the Epic store? “Well, f*** it, yeah”

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    Longdale said that “Steam doesn’t have any interest in our game, they get no benefit from elevating us at all.” That’s not necessarily an issue, however, as she went on to say “I hate to be shitty, but I don’t want to give them our money. We don’t need to, our players come to us, they come to Everquest.com.”

     

    Sony veteran Kaz Hirai has left the company after 35 years

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    Former Sony CEO Kazuo 'Kaz' Hirai has departed the company for good, after spending the past year serving as chairman and director.

     

    Sony’s new PlayStation Store refund policy allows for refunds within 14 days

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    Sony has updated its refund policy for content purchased on the PlayStation Store.

     

    Humble Bundle co-founders stepping down after best year ever

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    New vice president and general manager Alan Patmore pledges to grow company as "a force for good in this industry"

     

    GameStop posts $673m full-year loss

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    Specialty retailer acknowledges "the challenges facing our pre-owned video game business" and a need to change its business model

     

    Video Game News Subreddit Closes For 24 Hours To Protest Bigotry

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    Last night, /r/Games, a subreddit with 1.7 million subscribers, announced it would be closing on April Fool’s Day to shed light on the bigotry in the online gaming community.

     

    Record year for UK games market as spending nears $6bn

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    Software alone accounted for £4 billion in revenue for the first time, records broken in hardware and digital spending

     

    Latest batch of Chinese game approvals includes 30 foreign titles

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    A new list of game title approved in China shows that the number of titles approved since the country's game licensing freeze has nearly reached 1,000, and now includes 30 foreign titles for the first time since the freeze.

     

    Esports News

     

    Watch Out For Smash Balls In This Weekend's Nintendo-Sanctioned Tournament

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    The finals for the Smash Ultimate North America Open kick off at 1 p.m. ET, live at PAX East in Boston and streaming on Nintendo’s YouTube. This is a Nintendo-sanctioned Smash tournament, so the rules are less strict than your typical competitive Smash tournament. Items will be on (albeit set to “low”), and so will the Smash Ball. The event will be made up of 5-minute rounds instead of stocks. Also, the tournament’s twelve finalists have been divided up into four groups of three and will compete in a double elimination bracket of 3-versus-3 team battles.

     

    First-Time Tournament Attendee Beats Dragon Ball FighterZ World Champ

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    Over 800 fighting game players competed in San Jose, California last weekend at NorCal Regionals, an annual event first established in 2003. One of these competitors was the recent winner of the Dragon Ball FighterZ world championships. Another was a totally unknown player attending his very first tournament. These two competitors couldn’t have been more different, and their eventual meeting served as the perfect example of what sets the fighting game community apart.

     

    Content I found interesting this week (interviews, recommendations, think pieces, history, music, culture, design, art, documentaries, criticism, etc)

     

    Morrowind: An oral history

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    You never forget a place like Morrowind. It’s like something out of a dream, only you’ve actually been there. Maybe you used a mouse and keyboard, or the Xbox “Duke” controller, to visit it. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

     

    How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong

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    Perhaps most alarming, it’s a story about a studio in crisis. Dozens of developers, many of them decade-long veterans, have left BioWare over the past two years. Some who have worked at BioWare’s longest-running office in Edmonton talk about depression and anxiety. Many say they or their co-workers had to take “stress leave”—a doctor-mandated period of weeks or even months worth of vacation for their mental health. One former BioWare developer told me they would frequently find a private room in the office, shut the door, and just cry. “People were so angry and sad all the time,” they said. Said another: “Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within Bioware.”

     

    Empathy is Not Enough, part 1

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    How empathy became a buzzword in the games industry

    In this three part series originally published in German by WASD, Lana Polansky explores the history and use of “empathy” in games since 2008.

     

    Epic and Steam

     

    The Rules

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    I love games. All types of games. For a long time, I thought I loved them because of the competition, or the adventure. Maybe I would say I love the escape they represent. I’m pretty sure I do like all of those things, but I don’t think that explains my lifelong love and obsession. It was some time back that I realized that my mental illness made it almost impossible for me to dislike games. It also made life a lot more difficult until I understood it.

     

    The Difficulty With Difficulty

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    There’s no reason why these allowances should rule out or impose upon high-tier competitive play, finely-crafted high risk/reward loadouts, or more traditionally challenging modes; there is a world of difference between a game having a range of choices to suit everyone and a game skewing everything towards the more “casual” player: We don’t want to be coddled, we want to be taught. And if a game is good – actually good – then people will want to spend the time to find where their own skill level lies and have a good time right there anyway. The extra items and removed enemies in Resident Evil’s lower settings have never prevented anyone with the itch to speedrun Invisible Enemy mode from doing so, just as 1CC’ing Mushihimesama Futari’s Ultra mode isn’t made any less impressive due to the home port’s inclusion of a “Novice” setting and detailed practise options. We can have both ends of the spectrum happily coexisting in one package, no catch.

    An Easy Mode Has Never Ruined A Game

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    Part of the trouble is that “difficulty” can mean so many different things. There are myriad ways video games can turn the dials on various systems to change our assessment of how “hard” they seem, and many developers have done as much without compromising the quality or integrity of their games.

    How A Sekiro Easy Mode Could Work

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    All of it hinges on a key question: At what point does a game's difficulty start to unfairly impede upon its accessibility? Better yet, what would a Sekiro easy mode look like that doesn't compromise its creative vision?

     

    The Underground, Activist Gaming Scene In Communist Czechoslovakia

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    At that time, video games were “the least censored media in the country,” according to Jaroslav Švelch, author of Gaming The Iron Curtain, who explained all of this to a group of students at the NYU Games Center last night. Švelch has spent ten years researching how teens and amateurs in communist Czechoslovakia glommed onto this emerging and notably unregulated medium to express themselves.

     

    'Value pithiness over lushness' - Weather Factory's Alexis Kennedy on crafting exquisite narrative

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    In a graphic-intensive, visual medium like video games, it's an art in itself to craft a story out of small threads and a smattering of copy on a screen. The Weather Factory makes it look easy, even though it's anything but.

     

    “The Master Swordsman,” by Reid McCarter

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    In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, repetition is how skill develops. Just as being proficient at a musical instrument requires tirelessly running scales and perfecting études, the latest game to be vented up to earth from the busy demons at From Software demands immense dedication from its players. As Sekiro, a shinobi (or ninja) sworn to serve a virtuous young lord named Kuro, the game is a grueling journey through the war-torn lands surrounding a castle at the tail-end of 16th century Japan’s Sengoku period. After a brief prologue that sees Sekiro lose an arm trying, and failing, to stop Kuro’s abduction—an event that gives him his English name, “One-Armed Wolf”—the game introduces one of its central systems: the shinobi’s ability to come back from life, no matter how many times he’s slashed apart or beaten to death by the menagerie of soldiers, monsters, and ferocious animals standing between him and his lord.

     

    How Anthem explores the relationship between your Javelin and the world itself

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    On the well-hidden eco-politics of BioWare's latest.

    “Today, I Felt Nothing,” by Tara Hillegeist

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    It took me nearly twenty consecutive hours of play to find someone willing to let me help them. It was a simple questline, a checklist I needed to tick off all the boxes inside to proceed—“repair three javelins.” I just needed to find someone who wanted to let me be helpful to them. The game had no idea how hard it had made it to do so. No one wanted to help me help them; they just wanted to keep playing. And it was a fun game, but, it had to end, right?

     

    Grow Up: Why We Need Young Adult Games

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    We—we being critics, readers, and so on—often think of YA as juvenile because it isn’t for us. It’s for people younger than us, who are not yet world-weary and thus disgusted with endings that aren’t either sad or ambiguous. If it doesn’t reinforce your sense of ennui, is it even worth your time?

     

    Hypnospace Outlaw Finds the Horror in Viruses

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    Enter Hypnospace Outlaw, a game designed to evoke the golden age of Geocities sites and everything early internet. The interface is that of an early internet browser a la Netscape, and you use it to visit web sites that just scream early World Wide Web, complete with garish backgrounds, obnoxious animated gifs, and intrusive music and sounds. The goal of the game is to solve different mysteries by exploring specific cordoned off zones and browsing the different pages in them. You’re essentially cast as a moderator of the virtual space and are tasked with finding violations to earn in-game currency. It feels very much like how Her Story structures its individual video entries, but with web pages instead.

     

    Manhunt Hates You And Wants You To Suffer

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    Many games are about escapism. Allowing the player to escape from their boring or shitty life and experience something incredible or impossible. In the popular shooter series Halo, players become the Master Chief; a badass super soldier capable of destroying armies of enemies by himself. He is in command of soldiers on the battlefield and travels around the galaxy, seeing gorgeous planets and fighting evil aliens. And for the most part, the player and the Master Chief always win.

     

    Folding Ideas Pivots To Fortnite

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    Dab your hearts out and jump on the battle bus, I'm dropping in to Retail Row and I've got an orange pump pointed right at your default.

    Support the show: https://d.rip/foldablehuman/

     

    The Lost Magic, Menace, and Melancholy of Diablo

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    In this video, I admire the unforgettable tonal power of the original Diablo, try to convey what I think made Diablo so successful in creating a very specific and effective mood, and why I think Diablo III is so bland in comparison.

     

    Shirley Curry: The Gaming Grandma Documentary | Gameumentary

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    The story of Shirley Curry is the embodiment of the idea that games are for everyone.

    On her 83rd birthday, follow the journey of Shirley Curry as we explore how Skyrim, YouTube and thousands of passionate fans changed and enriched a grandmother's life.

    On March 27, it was announced that Shirley would indeed be making an appearance in the Elder Scrolls VI.

    Support future docs and Gameumentary content on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/gameumentary

     

    Examining the Themes and Story of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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    Support the show on Patreon - http://patreon.com/writingongames

    This one sees me doing something I thought I'd never do again—talking about a Souls-related game on my channel. But with Sekiro's more confident storytelling this time around, I couldn't resist diving back in and taking a deeper look at the themes on show here; examining how, despite sharing a lot of the DNA found in From Software's other titles, the game's historical setting and real-world spiritual principles see it exploring the nature of existence and death in an altogether different way to the Souls games.

     

    Dishonored: A Bloody Tempting Game

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    Take a trip down to Dunwall and join me in the Bone Zone.

     

    The Rise and Fall of Prince of Persia

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    Please consider supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/GVMERS

    In 1989, young college graduate Jordan Mechner introduced a 2D platformer called Prince of Persia to the world. Platformers were all the rage during the 80s, yet Mechner’s set itself apart from its contemporaries with its weighty, swashbuckling action, and incredibly smooth animations – a feat that Mechner had achieved by rotoscoping his family and friends into sprites.

     

    Hypnospace Outlaw Review | Virtual Cop

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    Hypnospace Outlaw is a detective game that sees you playing as a moderator for online chatrooms in the 90s. Nostalgia for the early-internet era isn't necessary, but it probably helps.

    I've no idea why there are black bars around the edges. I thought that was an artistic choice by the devs, but it wasn't.

    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/CDavis_Games

     

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