Some Evil, a Misstep and a Merger

New Resident Evil Details

On the 21st of January Capcom held a Resident Evil Showcase which detailed upcoming Resident Evil projects. Along with a new trailer for Resident Evil Village (AKA Resident Evil 8) we had confirmation for a release date of May the 7th and that the title would be appearing on last gen consoles along with the PS5, Xbox Series S/X and PC.

PS5 players can download an exclusive demo for the new game now titled The Maiden which the company describes as a visual demo, containing no combat the short demo showcases the games visuals and audio design.  A different more substantial demo will be released later for all platforms.

The event also revealed a new comic styled multiplayer project titled Re:Verse that will be included with Resident Evil Village, a trailer for the upcoming Netflix movie Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, and details for an upcoming crossover event of Resident Evil and The Division 2 which will start on February 2nd.

Microsoft doubles back on change to Live pricing

Microsoft announced that the Xbox live gold service, required for online play on Xbox consoles, would be doubling its price.  After strong backlash online the company reversed its decision within a day and kept the existing price structure while also adding the option for people to play Free-2-Play games without needing a Gold subscription.

“We messed up today and you were right to let us know.” Wrote the Xbox Live Gold Team on their blog.

Blizzard expands internal development

Vicarious Visions mostly known for high quality ports and remakes (most recently Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2) has been absorbed by Blizzard.  According to journalist Jason Schreier:

The integration ends Vicarious Visions’ 31 year run in the industry

This week on the ZED Games release calendar

28th January

  • The Medium | PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox Game Pass
  •  Olija | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  •  Heaven’s Vault | Switch

29th January

  •  The Pedestrian | PS5, PS4

osu!

Developer: Dean “Peppy” Herbert
Publisher: Dean “Peppy” Herbert
Music: Variety
Platforms: Microsoft, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
Released: September 16, 2007, November 21, 2020 (Stable Release)
Genre: Rhythm game

What is osu? What does osu look like? How do you play osu? What makes osu so compelling?

Put simply, osu is a game about circles. And hitting those circles to the rhythm of the music. Circles appear, you click those circles, and more circles appear. At the end, you are scored based on how well you hit the circles.

Simple, right?

Simple doesn’t mean easy though. When you load up the game, you are hit by intense, hectic music that makes you want to move. You can select a map to play, called beatmaps by players, and away you go! You’ll see dozens of circles appear, and you have to click them at just the right moment to get those 300 points. But not all circles are the same! Most of them you will just click, but others require you to run the ball along a track. Another mechanic is to spin a wheel very, very quickly.

That’s just standard osu of course. There are other game modes, where you hit a drum to the beat, or catch fruit, to the beat, or play a small piano, also to the beat.

It’s rather straightforward, but the challenge comes with having to do these things to the beat. It’s intense, and even starting with the ‘easy’ beatmaps, you can find yourself overwhelmed by how many circles appear. Miss too many of them, and the beatmap comes to a disappointing stop.

So, you’ll have to try again. Learn the rhythm of the music and the beatmap. Listening to the music isn’t even wholly necessary, with visual cues indicating when exactly to hit the circles. But you will learn the rhythm, find the beat, and roll with it.

Before you know it, you’ll settle into a groove.

Now, a lot of the beatmaps are extremely challenging, and there is a huge jump between the easy beatmaps, and the normal beatmaps. There were so many circles! But this is where mods come in handy. You have the ability to play the beatmap at half speed, with larger circles, or to simply make it impossible to fail. All these are useful for learning a new  beatmap. Or to simply have a more chill time! These mods will affect your score modifier however, so if you have dreams of becoming the top osu player, well, you’ll only get so far. But, likewise, if you do master a beatmap, you can add mods to make it more difficult. And these will increase your score modifier.

Now, obviously music is a huge aspect to this game, and it does not disappoint. There is a wide variety of music from various genres, and it’s really hard not to just jam with a lot of them. In addition, there are artists who will compose tracks specifically for osu, or lend their sweet tunes to the game. And it is possible to actually create your own custom beatmaps for songs! There is a community surrounding this game, full of people who really enjoy osu, and want to see their favourite songs in it. And honestly, I have hunted down songs in the game so I could listen to it later.

I really enjoy osu, and I enjoy the process of learning a beatmap, practising, and watching my own personal score improve. I don’t love seeing it compared against the leaderboard, but I’ve never had any serious dreams of becoming the best at this game. I love how flexible the controls can be. You can play with just a mouse, with a mouse and keyboard, with a controller, or with a tablet. Fair warning though, if you play with a mouse, give yourself lots of space to move.

I love that there is a community full of serious and casual players, and that the game is constantly getting updated, and that the community continues to introduce new content. I also love that it is 100% a free to play game.

I do wish the menu interface was a little easier to use, and that importing beatmaps was a bit simpler (hint, doubleclick them when you download them), but these are things I believe will continue to improve with time. But there’s already so many ways to adjust my gaming experience. With such an active fanbase and community, and a team that keeps the game alive, osu is here to stay. Unlike all these circles I’m clicking.

From Celebrations to Lawsuits

Gaming reached unprecedented popularity in 2020
Everyone knows that gaming surged in popularity over 2020 but now that the year is over, we can truly look at the growth it has had.  A recent report from the US said that in 2020, consumer spending across video game hardware, content, and accessories reached 56.9 billion dollars, 26% higher than 2019. The top five selling games of the year were Call of Duty Black Ops, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Animal Crossing New Horizons, Madden NFL 21, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This marks the 12th year in a row the Call of Duty franchise took the top spot of the annual US charts. In a parallel trend, InvestGame found investments in the games industry reached a total value of $33.6 billion during 2020, across 664 transactions. On the home front, the Australian gaming industry is now worth 3.4 billion. PWC Australia found that Australian’s are one of the highest per capita spenders on video games in the world even though our video games are “among the highest priced in the world”. Gaming has a huge impact on our economy and society, but it is still largely ignored by our governments. However, later this year a creative economy summit is being held and the video games industry has a lot to show off.

Pokémon begins its 25th Anniversary Celebration.
Last Wednesday Nintendo released a video announcing its year-long celebration of the Pokémon franchise’s 25th anniversary. We can expect new merchandise, events, fan-creations, and of course games. For one thing New Pokémon Snap, the sequel to 1999’s Pokémon Snap, is set to release on April 30th. The video also reveals Katy Perry is a premiere collaborator in the celebrations, suggesting a new Pokémon song is incoming. There are even hints that Pearl & Diamond remakes are in the works.  The fan site Centro Pokémon has confirmed that, according to sources close to the company, remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl are in development for the Nintendo Switch. The official announcement is possible to come on February 27th, Pokémon day! Pokémon isn’t the only game having an important birthday this year. Beloved franchises Legend of Zelda and Castlevania both turn 35 in 2021.

Riot Games and Bungie team up to sue cheat distributor.
GatorCheats sells cheat software used in Valorant and Destiny 2 that allow players to give themselves unfair advantages in online play. They make anywhere from $90 for a month to $500 for a lifetime subscription, and lawyers allege tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The software is designed to specifically go undetected by Riot and Bungie’s anti-cheating system. Riot and Bungie claim the use of this software in their games has caused “irreparable damage to their goodwill and reputation, and to lose millions of dollars in revenue.” As both games are free to play, and rely on in game purchases for revenue, they cannot afford to lose players to an unfair online environment. This is not the first time someone has been sued for creating cheats, but it isn’t common for two companies to team up in this way.

 

It’s Literally Just Mowing

Developer: Protostar (Dean Loades & Matt Knights)
Publisher:
Protostar
Music:
Protostar
Platforms:
Mobile (Android & Apple)
Released:
27th February 2020
Genre:
Mowing Simulator

It’s a Sunday morning and you FINALLY get to sleep in… You’re all snug like a bug in a rug, nice and warm in your little blanket cocoon… then *click, cluck, click*… BZZZZZZRRRRRR!! Oh no the blasted neighbours are mowing! Don’t you hate that? But not to worry It’s literally just mowing is SO much more relaxing than waking up to your neighbours clipping grass at 7am on Sunday. In this magical mowing world, mowing lawns isn’t loud, isn’t sweaty, and it’s not even sticky, itchy, or dirty. Surprisingly, the developers of It’s literally just mowing Protostar have made mowing quite relaxing, almost meditative.

I know you must be thinking this is weird given that summer in Australia means you end up having to start mowing the lawns again right after you finish BUT NOT IN THIS GAME! This mowing simulation game is very much set in North America and you get to use ride-on mowers which makes for an easier mowing experience (even in real life).

It’s literally Just Mowing is set in multiple different landscapes, varying from community areas and courtyards, to mostly just different people’s backyards. Starting with a brief tutorial that is very easy to follow you begin your journey of mowing the yards of your very first street. Getting the luxury of not only mowing their lawns but also gathering lots of different collectables. Such as cats, birds, bugs, and other cute backyard critters. You’ll know that you can catch something in the backyard by tapping on a white glowing orb that hovers across your screen. For each animal or object that you find they are worth a certain number of gems common collectables are worth less than rare ones which you can spend on unlocking different types of toolboxes where you have the chance to win upgrades to your mower, the driver’s look, you can even pimp out your rims.

That’s right, this game contains microtransactions, ads and loot boxes. Like most free to play games their needs to be some mechanic where the developers can make a little cash. Gems can cost $0.99 for 500 up to $49.99 for 32,000. Don’t stress though these microtransactions and so on don’t take away from the overarching experience of the game. It’s Literally Just Mowing focuses primarily on creating a soothing, even mindless experience. You sit on your mower, swiping up, down, left, and right around an over-grassy patch to see it all snipped away as you pass over. During the Christmas break you didn’t mow grass you were sucking up snow that had taken over. There are 74 different collectable items in the game that aren’t just backyard creatures but also old lawn mower blades, seats, tires, and other parts that can also come in multiple colour schemes.

From a sound perspective, It’s Literally Just Mowing is super chill, from the pause menu to the sounds of full-on mowing everything has a gentle hum that is peaceful. You can hear the sounds of a busy suburban neighbourhood, birds chirping, and the wind blowing through the trees. Honestly if you are one of those people that find the sound of rain or white noise calming the sounds of this game will lull you into a relaxed state.

Overall, It’s Literally Just Mowing is a game where you get to zone out. If you can get past microtransactions and ads, you won’t be disappointed. This is the first time I felt so calm to be mowing and I guess that’s what the genre of simulation games is all about, feeding you the reward of doing the task minus the real-world physical effort. There are many other mowing simulation games on the App Store but I have to say after playing this one I feel like I don’t need to look any further for my ride-on gardening needs.

Awesome Games Quickly Fights Cancer

Awesome Games Done Quick raises $2.7 million for cancer charity

The week-long celebration, displaying the best and funnest parts of speedrunning, and the speedrunning community, has managed to raise a whopping $2.7 million US dollars for the cancer charity, Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Speedrunning is the practice of completing a game as quickly as possible, using exploits, clever tricks, and community cooperation to come up with the quickest, most efficient route.

For 10 years Awesome Games Done Quick has been running, with elaborate speedruns being streamed online, 24/7 for the duration of the week, with all donations going directly to charity. Games on the lineup for this event included Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Ecco the Dolphin, Silent Hill 3, and several more, providing a wide array of speedruns for viewers to watch, and for speedrunners to zoom through.

Riot and Bungie file lawsuits against cheat-makers

Riot Games and Bungie have teamed up to file a joint lawsuit targeting a cheat-maker, who has created cheats and hacks for the video games Valorant and Destiny 2.

The alleged cheat-maker, Cameron Santos, allegedly runs a number of business ventures that take part in the development, distribution, and sale of cheats and hacks for the games. Some of these cheats are said to include auto-aim software and reveal enemy locations, giving cheaters an unfair advantage in these games, which have a strong multiplayer community, and many player-vs-player activities.

The success of [Destiny 2 and Valorant] depends on them being enjoyable and fair for all players… [Santos’] Cheating Software has caused [both Riot and Bungie] to suffer irreparable damage to their goodwill and reputation.” reads the lawsuit.

The most prominent offender is his business GatorCheats, which claims to “sell high quality cheats and services for the most popular games on the market.”

Time will tell as the lawsuit progresses, although Riot Games and Bungie have demanded that GatorCheats and other cheating software be shut down, with payment for alleged damages.

Apple removes 39,000 games from the App Store in China

Titles removed from the App Store in China includes Assassin’s Creed Identity, and NBA 2K20, with the purge reportedly being the result of strict licensing regulations by Chinese authorities, and are being enforced by Apple.

Apple had given publishers a mid-2020 deadline to obtain the appropriate license, which would allow them to release and support games that use in-app purchases, and had extended the deadline to the end of December last year.

However, many companies failed to meet the deadline, resulting in 46,000 apps being affected, with 39,000 of those being video games.

Ready Player Two

I was incredibly excited for this book to come out. I was a big fan of Ready Player One despite its flaws as a debut novel. Unfortunately, Ready Player Two falls into many of the traps that a sequel is known to have. The following review may contain some spoilers surrounding plot and characters.

Ready Player Two took me much longer than I anticipated to finish. I thought it was going to be a book that I picked up and finished in a matter of days, but it took me over a month to complete. The book has one glaringly major flaw: pacing. The first several chapters rush you through the three years since Wade won the contest. It’s a big information dump that includes information I believe would be much better placed throughout the novel. It removes a lot of the mystery that could have been there. It also almost immediately establishes the story as fast-paced which means that for the next 366 pages the reader is in for quite the ride. The exact opposite happened.

It took a bit too long to get to the inciting incident and the appearance of the corrupted AI Anorak. The twelve-hour time constraint that is placed on the High Five is often forgotten throughout the novel and the characters don’t ever move with a sense of urgency even though it takes them the better part of twelve hours to locate the first five of seven shards. Somehow, they manage to get the last two shards in just under two hours AND also fight off an army in the real world. It didn’t make sense from a narrative perspective and it severely messed with the pacing of the overall story.

The thing that I loved the most was how Wade’s idealisation of James Halliday slowly unravelled throughout the story. It made for an interesting amount of character growth, but the story was very much still rooted in Wade and his own obsession with Samantha. Wade was simultaneously judging Halliday’s inappropriate obsession with Kira Morrow while being equally obsessed with his own ex-girlfriend. Wade never really learns anything from the situations he’s placed in. Not to mention, all of his friends exist as mostly 2D characters in the story.

Pacing and characters aside, I still enjoyed the many references to pop culture that were scattered throughout Ready Player Two. Cline possesses an intense knowledge of 80s pop culture and I found myself reaching for some of the films mentioned in this story. There was more of an emphasis on movies than video games, but gaming still found its way into the plot. I would love to make my way through all of the John Hughes films and I have this book series to thank for that.

I wasn’t incredibly fond of the ending of Ready Player Two. Everything was being tied up too quickly in a nice little bow. The choices that Wade and Samantha made weren’t entirely believable to me as a reader and I felt that their decisions betrayed their characters a little bit. It became clear that Wade hadn’t learned from the experiences in the past twelve hours. Unfortunately, the ending made the entire story seem redundant. Just as Wade appears to be learning from the events he’s been through, he makes a decision that undone all of that hard work. Not to mention that apparently the very high stakes that kept the High Five on track during this quest weren’t very high at all. Plot points were half-heartedly resolved, and I feel both the top and tail Ready Player Two could have benefited from a little more care and attention.

While I’d still recommend Ready Player Two to fans of the first novel, I’d suggest that new readers stick to the original novel. While my experience left me somewhat disappointed, I understand the value of a novel such as Ready Player Two in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature genres. I’m not usually one to reach for either of those genres in the novels I read, but as a video game nerd myself, it’s important to be represented in that way.

Ready Player Two addresses accessibility in video games, artificial intelligence, climate change, death, grief, loss, love, and obsession. It is ideal for readers in the Young Adult and New Adult age ranges, but is appropriate for all readers older than 18.