Nintendo, Animal Crossing, and The Game Awards 2020

Getting the warm fuzzies from Animal Crossing.

Earlier this month, Professor Andrew Przybylski (@ShuhBillSkee), Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, released a study on the effects of the amount of time playing games on reported well-being. He surveyed 3274 players of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighbourville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons and found that players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons had a significant positive relationship between the two variables, showing that the amount of time played increased reported wellbeing. These results were particularly prominent in feelings of autonomy and belonging. In brief, more Animal Crossing game time equals more feelings of fulfillment and freedom. Thus, more feelings of happiness and connection.

The study concludes that while there is a significant positive correlation, this was an explorative study, indicating a need for further studies to expand our knowledge into how gaming affects our health and wellbeing.

Nintendo in the headlines

Nintendo is asking businesses to refrain from bringing politics into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and as such has published guidelines. These guidelines focus primarily on keeping the game G rated, removing political content (for example, Joe Biden’s campaign created island), and indirect or direct advertising/ profiteering within the game. Disrespecting these guidelines will result in being “ask[ed] to stop” and possibly being prohibited from future access to the Game.

Nintendo has also ordered the cease and desist of the annual “The Big House” GameCube Smash Bros Melee tournament. The competition, which has run since 2011, had moved online due to the current covid-19 pandemic. This was only possible due to the help of the Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin, and mods such as Slippi. These allowed for smooth online play, currently unavailable to the Nintendo GameCube.

The tournament was forced to cancel the competition to comply with Nintendo’s claim of “illegally copied versions of the game” and use of the mod Slippi. The cancelling of the competition has led to public outcries of unfair treatment by Nintendo towards the Smash community and the hashtag #SaveSmash trending on Twitter.

The Game Awards 2020

The Game Awards Nominees for 2020 have been announced with The Last of Us Part II, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Ghost of Tsushima, Doom Eternal, Hades, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake going up for Game of the Year.

The big hitters this year are The Last of Us Part II receiving 10 nominations, Hades with 8, and Ghosts of Tsushima with 7, all spanning over several categories from art, music, narration, and the new category “Innovation in Accessibility”.

The Livestream will be broadcast through YouTube at 10 am on December 11th Brisbane time. And don’t forget to place your vote, head over to The Game Awards, and make your click count!

Cyberpunk Valhalla PS5 & Xbox X

The Console Wars 2020

Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox have released their next generation of consoles within just two days of each other here in Australia. Consoles have sold out worldwide with pre-orders filling in moments online with each company expressing an unwillingness to share sales figures just yet. However, Microsoft’s Executive VP Spencer tweeted on Thursday that the Xbox Series X launch was the biggest in their console’s history, and PlayStation’s CEO Jim Ryan shared in a previous interview their expectation to outsell the PS4.

The quick uptake and huge sales of both has led to some early adoption issues/hiccups with hardware faults and crashes on both consoles. The Xbox Series X launch has had some users reporting that the console will turn off during gameplay, some refusing to turn on at all and some with disk tray issues. However the smoking Xbox that made the rounds earlier this week has been proven a fake, with Xbox tweeting,

“I can’t believe we have to say this, but please do not blow vape smoke into your Xbox Series X.”

The PS5 is also battling it’s own sets of issues with Rest Mode and external hard drives causing “Rebuild Database” errors, forcing a database rebuild and in some cases bricking consoles. There have also been issues transferring licences from PS4 and connectivity issues, however androidcentral.com has you covered for fixes.

The real prize for PS5 seems to be the DualSense controller, with the directional haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and longer battery life reviewers are definitely rating it with the games that utilise it. Plus with the recent beta update to steam, both the PS5 DualSence and Xbox Series X controller will be able to be used on your PC… but without the bells and whistles.

 

A Thor-ny Release: Assassins Creed Valhalla

While Ubisoft isn’t interested in releasing sales figures they have announced that it has doubled Odyssey’s launch player count. However, the release is marred by Ubisoft’s “troubled” year and the range of technical issues PC and current gen console users are experiencing.

PC users have had a confusing time where achievements were dropped and confirmed then told the removal was unintended, save files disappearing, input lag and graphical issues. Try over at rockpapershotgun.com for a PC fix. PS4 and Xbox users, however, haven’t got the same privilege with one website saying “…to avoid such problems with the game is to avoid scenes that are visually demanding…”

Cyberpunk 2077 Confirmed, but do we trust it?

There has been a lot of controversy around the Cyberpunk 2077 delayed release, with even KFC poking a jab in a satirical tweet. But CD Projekt have confirmed the release was pushed back due to issues with current gen consoles, maybe Ubisoft could take a feather out of CD Projekt’s book and delay to optimise for current gen consoles.

CD Projekt has tried to quell these fires with further confirmation of the December 10th release date with IGN. There have also been further leaks of achievement lists and character customisations, now with nails and teeth. Personally, I can’t wait to sink my… well, teeth in.

TV, Music, Playtesting, & Pick Ups

The filming of The Witcher season 2 comes to a halt due to COVID outbreak, again.

The second season of Netflix’s The Witcher staring Henry Cavil has stopped for the second time, four people working on the show have tested positive for the virus and those that have been impacted are now being isolated and are not part of the main cast. The last halt on production lasted from March until August. Hopefully, this time it doesn’t stretch for that same length of time.

Steam has a new play test feature for developers.

That’s right, Steam has created a request option so that players may be able to play test games for developers right from the games Steam page. Value is intending on adding this feature so that players no longer need a beta key to gain access. This new feature is called Steam Playtest; developers will also be able to see how many people are requesting access including expressed interest. Valve says that Playtests aren’t intended to replace Steam Early Access and that games can still have a Playtest alongside an Early Access version.

The Gorillaz have a new music video and it’s inside the world of GTA5.

The most recent release from the Gorillaz’s Song Machine project is called The Valley of The Pagans and it takes place within Grand Theft Auto V. The video begins by transporting the cartoon musicians into the city of Los Santos and features Beck’s voice on a call using the iconic iFruit phone from the game. Song Machine is a big music project by the Gorillaz and also features other artists such as ScHoolboy Q and Elton John.

Pick up your Xbox Series X and PS5 safely this week.

With the arrival of the next generation of consoles it’s important to be COVID safe. If you haven’t got delivery and intend on picking up your new Xbox or PlayStation from EB games, JB-HI-FI, or other distribution outlets click here for Kotaku who have published an article highlighting all the different outlets and their coronavirus response plans. Please remember to be kind, patient and respectful so that everyone can have a safe and happy gaming experience.

Shapez.io Review

Developer: Tobias Springer 
Publisher: Tobias Springer 
Music: Peppsen  
Platforms: PC (Windows, Linux) 
Released: 21st May 2020 
Genre: Simulation, Puzzle, Strategy, Base Building

Do you remember the carefree days of your youth? Those picturesque mornings spent lounging in your loose nappy while trying to push that yellow triangle shape into that yellow triangle hole? The endorphin rush as it slipped through and you clapped your chubby little hands and smiled at how smart you were? Well, Shapez.io feeds you the same shapes from your youth, with the same chase for endorphins. This is a game, nay, and addiction, that caught my attention when described as Factorio Light”, base builder, puzzle & strategy game, where its light simple interface and relaxing music conceals the insanity of the game within.  

The first few hours of Shapez.io has you extracting shapes from nodes of Circles and Squares and belting them to the hub. The shapes ponderous progression ends as they are swallowed and stashed away to be consumed for glorious levels and upgradesThis progress is marked by a Pavlovian bell and splash screen, a new building at your disposal to firstly cut the shapes in half, then turning them, then learning about colouring them, and oh the colours you will create! From the bright base colours of red, blue and green you will create majestic magenta, cynical cyan, ludicrous yellow and gloriously complex white.  

Now, as the hours pass by in a blur, it is a battle for space as you try desperately to feed shapes into the sixteen mouths of the hub, speeding your progress. The denial builds as you realise that soon you will be tearing down all your work to start over once more. Then – on the horizon – rises our saviour shape, a dearest blue teardrop marked with a pure white circle. Her appearance marks the first evolution, Blueprints. Suddenly complex shapes become a breeze as you can copy and paste structuresyour factory size exploding as efficiency and balance become your bedfellows. The only thing hindering this expansion is the speed at which you can create and store these precious blue tears of divinity, as the size of the structure dictates how many of them you will need to move or copy it.  

20 hours later I had gone through spreadsheets of data, many hours of waiting for shapes to be made and stored, two soft restarts, one day of depression and a race to get to level 20.  

In all seriousness, the ingenuity of the game is glorious. With the infinitely generating map the only limitation is your own imagination, and possibly the speed of your computer processor. I did find it occasionally frustrating that the game could not keep up with my impressively expanding and massive factories. My aging i7 stuttered and lagged even on the lowest settings due to the lack of support for multithreading. For as the game slows so does progression, so there you must walk the tight rope between factory size and efficiency. So, you focus on upgrading your factories, so you process shapes faster and more efficiently.

The difficultyscaling of the different shapes is mostly well balanced with player progression. After level 20 you unlock the sub level of wires, logic gates, and others, culminating in free play mode at level 26. I sadly did not get that far, bowing out at the 26-hour mark as I unlocked the new prospect of wires and switches. One day I may gaze into the abyss of never-ending upgrades and an unending random shape generated level system beyond that. 

Through all the highs and lows you are serenaded to by the hypnotic music of Peppsen. This music has a beat that motivates you, a melody to hum to, and is still chill enough to fade into the background and let you focus. Combined with the satisfying clicks and clunks to punctuate the placement of buildings and belts the soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the hours of gameplay you inevitably invest in this game. 

After the long days of playing Shapez.io and being washed in the relaxing sonic waves of Peppsen’s Rectangle, I am left exhausted and spent. A washed-out husk of the man I once was. But, like the addict that I am, I want more of its blessed bright and colourful shapes. I want to compartmentalise, enhance, balance, and simplify. I want to learn the secrets of wires, buttons and logic gates. I also kind of want my life back. But who knows what the future holds? There’s a patch coming on the November 26th 

Reviewed by Tobi @TobiZendemic on 4th of November 2020

Next Gen is Close, No More Heroes Returns and the Cyberpunk’s Delay Fallout

Next Gen Tidbits

Next week will see the release of both Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles. The Xbox Series X and S will be released on Tuesday the 10th of November followed by the PS5 two days later. If you were not able to secure a pre-order you may have a bit of a wait, with Xbox stock not expected to become available until late this year and Playstation 5 unlikely to be available until 2021.

If you are lucky enough to get a PS5 and you wish to use PSVR with it you will need to order an adapter from Sony to do so. The device is free of charge and you can order it here.

Along with the launch line up Sony also announced the first free PS5 game that would be included with their PS+ subscription. Bugsnax will be available for free at launch for subscribers to claim for two months instead of the usual one.

While Microsoft still fights to get its xCloud service onto Apple devices they have announced that AppleTV will be available their new consoles at launch along with other popular streaming services.

One exclusive game in Microsoft’s launch window, horror game The Medium has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board. The game by Bloober Team allows the player to keep a foot in two parallel worlds simultaneously and features music by legendary Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. It is being resubmitted in hopes of overturning the current rating.

Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase

Nintendo released a Direct last week focusing on 3rd party games. We got more details on No More Heroes 3 which is expected next year but also saw a surprise release of the first two game ported to the switch. Both games have been enhanced to run at higher resolutions at 60fps.

Two games that you may not have expected to see release on the switch, Hitman 3 and Control were announced in a streaming version. The games will stream from the cloud, similarly to how Resident Evil 7’s switch version released in Japan.  While Australia is not currently included in the roll out it is a sign of things to come. Other games shown included Hyrule Warriors: The Age of Calamity (which now has a demo available), Bravely Default 2, Immortals Fenyx Rising and HAL Laboratory’s Part Time UFO.

Cyberpunk delay is contagious

Last week’s delay of Cyberpunk 2077 has had some far-reaching effects. Employees, now being forced to crunch for an even longer period have been on the receiving end of death threats, the company’s stock price has dropped 25% over the last two months as investors became uneasy about the titles release and now two games have delayed their release in order to avoid competing with the juggernaut’s new release date. Everspace 2 and the new expansion for Path of Exile have pushed their release dates from December to January citing Cyberpunk directly as the reason.

Amnesia: Rebirth

Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Music: Frictional Games
Platforms: Steam, PS4, Epic Games
Released: 20-October-2020
Genre: First person horror

You are Tasi, on a flight with your husband Salim, and he is nervous. Many people are nervous when there’s turbulence. You give him a little monkey plushie, and that seems to reassure him. Until the turbulence gets worse, much worse. Outside you see the world changing, literally, flashing between an ordinary storm, and something… other-wordly. And before you can begin to understand what you are seeing and experiencing…

You crash.

When you come to, you are alone. In the middle of a wrecked plane. There aren’t even any bodies around you. As you step out of the plane into the burning sun, it doesn’t take long for you to realise that something is wrong. Very wrong. And as you follow a trail to a cave, you’ll soon find out just how wrong things are. Amnesia: Rebirth is a first person horror game, with a semi-realistic artstyle, and zero combat. Your only defence is to keep moving, think quickly, and stay calm in an environment designed to make you nervous, stressed, and afraid.

Game play is rather simple. You can interact with objects, push and move them around, open and close doors, chests, and drawers. All these allow you to move around and hide. And you will need to hide. Crouching means you move more quietly. And you will need to move more quietly. There are dedicated buttons to allow you to peer around corners and doorways. All these to keep a low profile, and to be cautious.

And you will need to be cautious.

In addition, you have your health to keep in mind, but also your sanity. Witnessing scary or disturbing events will negatively affect your sanity. Looking at dead bodies, falling down, being in the dark for too long. Or being around the monster that pursues you. You will have to keep moving, stay near or create sources of light, and be prepared to be plunged into darkness in order to hide. It is a careful balance of staying physically safe, without allowing yourself to fall into a terrifying mental abyss. You will find yourself travelling through the world you know, navigating caves and rooms, forts and passes. But, with the help of a mysterious artifact, you will be able to travel between worlds. It is eerie, frightening, and dark.

The events that happened are revealed through flashbacks and episodes of psychosis. And slowly you piece together what happened to you and your team, and everyone on that plane. And why you can’t remember these things.

Most of the flashbacks are interesting, helpful, and informative, but far too many of the flashbacks only serve to disrupt the experience and yank you out of your immersion. But so far, that is my only complaint. And I say so far, as I haven’t finished the game yet, but let me tell you, my curiosity is stronger than my fear. But I am still afraid.

Simple puzzles, problem solving, and resource gathering will be how you overcome obstacles. These aren’t hard to figure out under normal circumstances, but when you know something is pursuing you, and you have to balance your own sanity and health with how quickly you make progress, well let me just say, even opening doors becomes incredibly difficult.

It can be quite overwhelming, but you find your moments when you can just relax and take a moment. Your journal helps you keep on track, which is helpful when I find myself rummaging through every chest for fragments of notes. And of course, you, your character, is given a reason to push forward. It’s not only your own survival at stake, but the survival of a potential future. This hope not only pushes you forward, but also grounds you.

And so, armed with a few tools, and your own wits, you must find a way to survive.

Amnesia isn’t only known for its use of visual horror, audio horror is also incredibly important. With the right chords, panic is struck. Musical cues tells you that something is happening, and it adapts to the situation. A mysterious shadow? There’s a sound for that. You’re making your way through a series of rooms? The sound builds and builds until you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting and dreading that moment when the horror MUST reveal itself. These games uses the concept of ‘less-is-more’ to invoke fear, you fill in the blanks, you are told to be prepared, so you become braced for something, anxiety winding up within you like a horrible spring.

Let me address the big question: is Amnesia: Rebirth scary? Yes, it is. It is very scary. It leans on suspense, and the suggestion of ‘something’, rather than simply presenting the monster to you. Although I felt that the constant flashbacks broke my immersion rather often, and that it is possible to figure out a method of surviving an encounter with the monster, I think that is a practical response to a confusing, alarming situation. And as you gain your footing, learn and remember this world, and as you continue to resist the urge to give in to fear and hopelessness, you are rewarded with answers, memories, and a story of a woman who is unwell, struggling, and heartbroken, but continuing to survive because she must. It has a lot of the traits I admire so much in these games, but it is not Amnesia: The Dark Descent, or A Machine for Pigs. It is it’s own, unique story, with its own unique character, and it’s own unique monster unlike anything I have witnessed before.

With a slower pace, lots of suspense, and intrigue into what is going on, I hope to finish this game soon! I’ll just be doing it with the lights on.

Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 28th of October 2020

Genshin Impact

Developer: miHoYo
Publisher:
miHoYo
Music:
Yu-Peng Chen
Platforms:
PS4, Nintendo Switch (TBA), Android, iOS, PC (Windows)
Released:
28th September 2020
Genre:
ARPG, Open World, Gacha Game

The story begins as two twins who are traveling across the stars end up in Teyvat and discover that it’s in the midst of a war, so the two twins decide to leave however they are caught out by a very powerful god, this god like character captures one of the twins thus separating them from each other (the twin that is captured depends on the choice of you the player). A period of time passes, and you (the twin that was sealed) awaken to meet Paimon who plays the role of guide and tutor. You are then led to the town of Mondstadt after you meet Stormterror of course, a dragon who later becomes the first antagonist you meet (trust me there’s no spoilers with that one). Over time you meet many different characters, encounter world missions, side quests, develop a reputation with the knights of Favonius (protectors of the realm), and create rapport with the people of Mondstadt. All this while you still search to find your missing twin and hopefully find the answers to the many questions that form throughout your journey.

Genshin Impact is a story rich game with many a quest. The Teyvat universe is filled with several different nations, Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma, Sumeru, Fontaine, Natlan, Snezhnaya, and Khaenri’ah.  So far you can only play in Mondstadt and Liyue. The game is huge so there is a lot to explore (not to mention download) and aesthetically looks like a fusion of Zelda Breathe of The Wild and the anime series Sword Art Online, It’s visually stunning and is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The gameplay is that Genshin Impact is an open world action role playing game, so you are free to explore as far and wide as you’d like, running, climbing, swimming, and gliding! Everything is of course limited by stamina which at times I found frustrating and thought maybe this feature would hinder my free to roam experience, however, I didn’t find that to be true as stamina aids in creating an engaging limitation when exploring but also fighting your enemies. Enemies yes! Of which there are many, as you progress through the game there a many different types of baddies that you encounter such as; Hilichurls which are goblin like monsters wearing masks, that run towards you with clubs or shoot arrows, there’s big and small ones of these. There is Abyss Mages that specialise in a particular elemental power and would be considered a much harder enemy to battle. There’s also Fatui which are bosses that harbour elemental powers and are definitely less common, but the most common enemy you’ll fight are slimes which are simple minded big blobs that bounce around either towards you or spitting elemental balls of frost, fire, or electricity.

Speaking of elements, the elements present in Genshin Impact are Anemo (Wind), Geo (Earth), Electro (Lightning), Dendro (Nature), Hydro (Water), Pyro (Fire), and Cryo (Frost). Each element is attached to a different nation of Teyvat and each nation themed after a real-world country such as Mondstadt being in close resemblance to Germany and Liyue to China.

I haven’t mentioned much about the protagonist, yet have I? Well there is just so much happening that I didn’t just want to start there. You the player controls not one but four different characters in a party, that you can switch between even mid combat. You can also upgrade your party members when you collect new characters, each character will have their own element that they specialise in, you can level each character individually, as well as weapons and special items. The big thing is to diversify your party, so you have different elements to switch between as elemental enemies are weaker to certain elements e.g. water hurts fire, fire hurts ice, and so on.

Now getting new characters isn’t just a matter of meeting them, Genshin Impact is still a Gacha game so let me explain what a Gacha game is first. Genshin Impact is free to play but the catch is that if you want certain new characters you must spend some money to receive a randomised item. It works similar to loot boxes. Basically, the Gacha element is there to incentivise you to spend real world money, it’s also how the developers get paid. Now you can get by without spending money of course! But you will be limited in some ways on what characters to play. Some characters that you meet you can only get from the Gacha mechanic while others are gifted to you throughout gameplay. I have spent close to 50 hours playing and not spent a dim and still have had an amazing play experience so don’t feel the need to buy if you don’t want to.

Genshin Impact has so many different quests to go on such as world quests, main plot, side quests and of course daily quests to keep you logging in regularly to get some sweet sweet Mora which is in-game currency that you can spend on cooking ingredients, upgrades for weapons and items, and leveling up characters.

When it comes to healing you cook meals that you then feed your party so that they can regain some HP however it has been a little frustrating to do as you must open your inventory > find the meal you want to feed a character > then select a character > then continues that process again if you want to heal more than one member of your party. miHoYo the developers have said that there will be a small update in November to make some minor improvements with a much larger patch coming in December that will add a whole new zone, touch up some of the UI, as well as provide players faster ways of healing that isn’t so tedious.

Genshin Impact has a gorgeous soundtrack titled The Wind and the star Traveler which was released on the 18th of June 2020 and is tastefully composed by Yu Peng Chen from HOYO-MIX. There are 15 tracks on the album all over which feature in the main game and all of them compliment the in-game experience so well. With orchestral tones and a strong string section inspiring intense and dramatic feelings during battle to a jaunty tune with delightful sounds for exploring the big wide world of Teyvat. This composition is complex, rich and at times feel ethereal with the haunting female hum gliding ever so gracefully through the full body of the orchestra. You won’t want to miss a cutscene or fight sequence with this awe-inspiring soundtrack.

Genshin Impact has truly a captivating visual presence, heart-warming story, and completely deserves it’s success, grossing over $100m in less than two weeks after it’s launch it is the most successful launch for an original IP from a Chinese Developer ever! And is the second highest grossing game globally on the iOS. It is completely understandable that Genshin Impact would leave such an impact and I hope that you get a chance to play to, I mean it is free after all. I hope that your journey through that magical world of Teyvat leaves you with an equally positive experience as me.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 21st October 2020