Sega’s 60th Birthday, Retail Future and Valve in NZ

Sega turns 60

Happy birthday Sega who turns 60 this year. In part of the celebrations the company has launched the “Sega 60th Anniversary celebration” featuring a number of game deals, giveaways and various weekly content drops going all the way up until December 8th. Among the drops they released a number of small free games. Armor of Heroes a combat inspired 4 player tank game by Relic Entertainment, Endless Zone a shmup by Amplitude Studios, a Streets of Rage inspired beat-em-up based on the Yakuza series titled Streets of Kamarocho and Golden Axed a prototype for a canceled Golden Axe reboot developed by Brisbane’s own, now defunct, Sega Studios Australia.

The steam page for the prototype read “Golden Axed may be janky, may be buggy, may be an artefact of its time, but it offers a unique glimpse into the prospect of a project that could have been.” Which was taken unkindly by the original developers who had no idea the prototype would be released. Developer Tim Dawson responded to the release on twitter.

 “this project was my personal nexus of nightmare hours, inept management, industry realisations and heroics achieved with a small team under unreasonable conditions, so it’s an odd feeling to see it surface eight years later without context, credits and with a joke title sequence”

Sega have since changed the Steam description. If you’d like to learn more about what happened with the project and insights on how the prototype was developed check out Tim’s twitter account @ironicaccount

Gamestop and Microsoft reach an agreement on digital revenue sharing

Gamestop, the US based game retailer and parent company of EB Games has come to an arrangement with

Microsoft which will give the company a cut of all digital revenue on next gen Xbox consoles they sell. According to analyst Anthony Chukumba:

“The way it’s going to work is for every Microsoft Xbox console that GameStop sells going forward, GameStop will get some percentage of the revenue from every digital full game download, DLC, microtransaction, and any subscriptions as well,”

How much of a slice Gamestop will receive is still unclear but it is an unprecedented agreement at a time where digital sales continue to cut further into physical retailer’s revenue.

Valve moving to New Zealand?

President of Valve, Gabe Newell, has been living in New Zealand since March after deciding to stay once COVID-19 restrictions came into effect whilst on holiday. During a zoom meeting with Geoff Keighley for the Game Awards Newell shared his positive experience of the country and suggested Valve is looking at possibly  moving to the country.

“Because I’ve been going on a pro New Zealand campaign lately I’m probably going to be meeting with the Prime Minister. And one of the positions I’m going to be arguing for is that, given, that there is something super valuable that has been created here in New Zealand, due to the hard work of the population of New Zealand, there is likely a large want to temporarily relocate production teams into the country.”

Drake Hollow Review

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Music: Walter Sickert
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
Released: 2nd October 2020
Genre: Base Building, Survival, Multiplayer

The second game I reviewed for ZedGames was Flame in the Flood, a gorgeous survival game by The Molasses Flood. Now it’s my pleasure to review their latest release – Drake Hollow! In Drake Hollow you play as a human transported to a mystical world plagued by feral beasts and dark forces. You are tasked with defending the adorably helpless vegetable folk known as the Drake. This is hardly a burden though; the drakes are incredibly adorable. In addition to fighting monsters, you need to build a home that can support the Drake’s needs, hunger, thirst, energy, and entertainment. Yes, they can literally die from boredom. Search the world for resources to craft with. Fill your base with gardens, beds, wells, solar panels, puppet shows, and pinball machines. Spend an hour rearranging until it looks just right. Repeat. It might be that classic survival game play but it’s distinctly Drake Hollow.

As you progress through the story, you will periodically be transported (along with your drakes and camp) to a different region of the blighted world – each more difficult and rewarding than the last. Each region you visit spans more than a square mile and is procedurally generated so it will be unique from any other! Over the game, you will play through the seasons, each of which painting the world in its own vibrant palette. No matter what season you are in, the visuals of Drake Hollow are magical, fantastical, and unique. It’s a colorful, cartoony world scarred by destruction and dark forces. The blight monsters are a great juxtaposition to the cute drakes but still fit naturally within the world. I couldn’t shake the games aesthetic similarities with Fortnite, to the point I tried several times to chop down furniture for supplies. This isn’t a bad thing though; the game looks great and holds a lot of character in its designs.

Each map you visit consists of 20 or so islands to explore. You set off to find food for your Drakes and find more along the way. Then you want to age them up but to do that, you’ll need to fight monsters or the aether infection to get crystals. Unfortunately, the bigger the Drakes get, the more they need to eat, drink and keep entertained so you’ll need to collect resources and recipes to expand your base. I’ve not even mentioned curio crafting, defending against raids, or just getting across the seas so it’s safe to say you rarely run out of things to do. To secure resources in good number, you’ll need to set up supply chains across the map. Beams of light connect way-points between supply trucks and a base, across any distance. Building my first supply chain was when I discovered one of my favorite parts of this game – you can skate along the light beams! High speed, high altitude highways of light that let me live out my skater daydreams. Hell yes!

One of Drake Hollow‘s main draws is the co-op play. Up to four players can play together, fight together, build together, and explore the realm together. Unfortunately, there is currently no matchmaking service so co-op is strictly BYO but if no one will join you, or you simply prefer to run solo, the developers have made sure the experience is still robust and engaging. Plus, in a world full of adorable magic plant people, are you ever truly alone?

I played through the campaign twice within a week of the games release and was worried I would run out of things to do with Drake Hollow. Thankfully they released the sandbox mode, with cosmetics to unlock and no end to the fun! I adore the character creation in Drake Hollow, I change my look and outfit each time I open the game to play. Honestly, it’s not the most detailed system but the beautiful visuals and choices on offer delight me! Your hair can be in bright colours, available skin tones run the full spectrum, and every option for the characters is gender neutral!

The soundtrack for Drake Hollow is no less than I’d expect from the studio. It’s composer, Walter Sickert crafted several different instruments to create the specific sounds of the hollow! The sound effects mix with the soundtrack to form the magical world of Drake Hollow. The best part is the little noises the Drakes make when you interact with them – adorable chirps and buzzes.


The Molasses’s Floods previous game, Flame in the Flood was a spectacular survival game I fell in love with. So, I’ve been looking forward to Drake Hollow since before it was announced, and they did not let me down. Once again, The Molasses Flood has crafted a magical world, a captivating journey, and an engaging craft system with more on offer in every way. More to explore, more to build, and more cute cute drakes to befriend!

 

 

Crucible Terminations and Videogame History Saved

Apple deletes all of Epic Games from the App Store

You may have heard that Apple is having a feud with Epic Games, well Apple have now stepped up their game by terminating the developer’s account on the App Store thus removing all of its games. Previous to this happening Apple did warn Epic Games that this could become a reality should they fail to adhere to the App Store guidelines which was a move that Epic said would “cripple the Unreal Engine.” Following this lengthy lawsuit filed originally by Epic Games seeking preliminary injunction, Apple has now followed through with that very threat. A statement from Apple says, “We are disappointed that we have had to terminate the Epic Games Account on the App Store. We have worked with the team at Epic Games for many years on their launches and releases. The court recommended that Epic comply with the App Store guidelines while their case moves forward, guidelines they’ve followed for the past decade until they created this situation.”

Crucible Cancelled

That’s right Amazon’s free to play multiplayer shooting game that just recently had a closed beta has been axed. Crucible was first launched in May after years of development, it was then pushed back into a closed beta in July. The developers will be hosting a final playtest or more like a community final play experience in the next few weeks. The company is also offering a full refund for any purchases you may have made. In a blog post the Crucible team have said, “We very much appreciate the way our fans have rallied around our efforts, and we’ve loved seeing your responses to the changes we’ve made over the last few months, but ultimately we didn’t see a healthy, sustainable future ahead.”

UK National Videogames Museum has been awarded a grant to secure its survival

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the UK’s only museum dedicated to video game culture and education has been threatened to be permanently shut down, however the Arts Council of England’s Culture Recovery Fund has jumped in to hopefully keep in going for another 6 months thanks to the £200,000 that was raised by JustGiving earlier in the year. Ian Livingstone, chair of the BGI charity that governs the museum has said, “The generous funding for the nation’s cultural organisations including the UK’s only museum dedicated to video games is very much appreciated. It was a great relief to learn that our educational and cultural programs will be able to continue in Sheffield for the foreseeable future.”

MO: Astray Review

Developer: Archplay, Rayark Inc
Publisher: Rayark Inc
Music: SIHanatsuka
Platforms: PC, Switch
Released: October 2019 (PC), September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 2D adventure puzzle

It’s dark, shadowy, and you don’t know anything, except how to move, and then how to jump.

And then, how to remember.

A little blob, you make your way through this mysterious world, absorbing memories of other creatures. And like a dream, you awaken from this world, and find yourself in a laboratory. Destroyed, overgrown, and filled with danger.

MO: Astray is a beautiful 2D game, with a gorgeous pixel artstyle, where you play as a memory slime, capable of possessing and accessing the last memories, or the strongest memories, of that creature. Some of them are human, others are not.

Most were once human.

Slowly, through the world and the memories you access, you begin to piece together what was here, why you’re here, and what happened. And as you explore, dodging danger, a voice guides you, lamenting what once was, cheering you on. That voice gives you a name.

Mo.

Gameplay is surprisingly simple! You have the ability to move and jump, but you can also stick to surfaces. So that manages getting around for the most part. But Mo has the interesting ability to possess other creatures, although what you can do once you possess them is limited. You can make them walk, activate buttons, and unlock doors Mo wouldn’t be able to unlock on their own. You can’t directly attack anyone, but you can move them around and manipulate your environment. With a well-timed flick of a switch, you can crush enemies, move boxes around, and open and lock doors. But you’d be surprised by how much you can do by simply jumping out of the way at the right moment.

You move from area to area by solving various puzzles, but believe me, finding the solution and then executing the solution are two separate tasks. It’s rather forgiving, in that if you do die, you simply respawn at the start of the room, so you never lose a lot of progress. But I did find myself having to put my switch down for a quick break after failing a jump for the billionth time.

It’s a challenging game, but not a punishing one.

However, the real bread and butter comes from Mo’s ability to access memories. Throughout the game you find large blobs of memories that give you insight into the past, but also makes you just a little bit stronger. And when you possess a creature, dead, alive, or otherwise, you can see their strongest or last memory.

It’s rather haunting.

As you progress you unlock new abilities, and learn new ways to get around. Jumping from bubble to bubble, learning how to double-jump, and even learning how to clone yourself and control your clone creates interesting and varied ways to navigate these levels, and come up with solutions to puzzles.

Sound, like the environment and art, is beautifully crafted, unifying your experience seamlessly. It is satisfying, descriptive, and immersive, without being distracting, or a hindrance. For this reason, I recommend wearing earphones, settling down, and get ready to get sucked into this world where you know so little, but learn so much.

MO: Astray is a beautiful, challenging, interesting game that is full of heart and care. There is so much detail put into the world that the team has created, with a unique culture, creatures I wanted to understand and get into the head of, and a tone of darkness that thrums throughout the game. I’ve not yet finished the game, but I have enjoyed every moment so far. Even when I would mess up a puzzle a dozen times, I would attempt it a dozen and one times because I need to know more about what happened. Mo and I are on this journey together.

What are these parasitic plants? Why are all humans like this? What was this facility for? Why am I here?

Game Latency, Game Rebates, And Game Piracy

Optus’ Game Path

Optus has launched a tool called Game Path, a program that uses machine learning to improve latency during online gameplay. With video games becoming more and more popular, Game Path is expected to improve latency by up to 30%, providing relief to many players.

Online gamers can add the service to their NBN plan, with no lock-in contract, at an extra cost of $10 per month. Additionally, the first month is free to users, so that gamers can trial Game Path and experience the benefits for themselves.

Game Path has launched on October 6th, so you can check it out now for yourselves.

Video Game Development Rebate for South Australia

The South Australian Film Corporation has implemented a tax rebate for game development. A first of its kind within Australia, it was implemented on the 29th of September, and aims to allow developers to recoup on 10% of eligible costs on projects that have spent $250,000 on development.

The rebate is modelled after the Post-Production, Digital, and Visual Effects rebate.

The leading difference is that the Video Game Development rebate is designed to accommodate ongoing production models, as: “many games have updates, downloadable content patches, additional content for purchase, and ongoing updates, and the VGD rebate had to reflect that reality” says Vee Pendergrast.

The VGD rebate has been encouraging for those seeking a long-term career in the industry, although many have pointed out that smaller studios and projects will be left out due to their limited budgets.

Piracy Group Apprehended

A Canadian man, Gary Bowser, has been accused by U.S. authorities of being one of the minds behind a group that allegedly creates tools to bypass security measures in video game systems.

Along with Gary, two others have been accused of being ringleaders of the group known as Team Xecuter, one of the more notorious video game piracy groups.

Allegedly, Team Xecuter targeted Xbox, Playstation, and multiple Nintendo platforms, selling devices that would allow them to run pirated games.

These devices have been marketed as being for gamers who had an interest in designing their own games for personal use, however prosecutors alleged that piracy is the leading goal for users.

The three accused face charges including trafficking in circumvention devices, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and wire fraud.

Lagoa Nova Airport In A Chasm

A giant chasm has appeared in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator program. Users have discovered the glitch while flying over Brazil. Some brave virtual pilots have flown into the chasm to discover that there is an airport at the bottom! Microsoft’s Flight Simulator reflects the real world, using Bing’s mapping technology and user data to recreate the world in extraordinary detail. As a result, it is Lagoa Nova airport at the bottom of the chasm, a little airstrip in Rio Grande de Norte. In reality, it is not at the bottom of a chasm.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 Remake

Developers: Vicarious Visions
Publishers: Activision
Music: Collection of Various Artists
Platforms: Original: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, Game Boy, Classic Mac OS, iOS Remake: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Release Date: Original: 19th September 2000, Remake: 1 & 2 September 4th 2020
Genre: Skateboarding Simulator, Sports

Tony Hawk Pro Skater is rated one of the best video games of all time, and not just in the sporting games category but actually of ALL TIME! For those of you who haven’t heard about this epic game it’s essentially a skateboarding video game where you get to pump out cool tricks on a variety of different maps from local skate parks to massive ramps and stadiums. You play as all famous Tony Hawk himself and as you progress in skill you are able to unlock more skateboarding legends as well as heaps of other sick things like, skateboard decks, gear, clothing, and accessories. Most of these unlockable items are from the original game however there is a bunch more added, including appropriately a disposable face mask.

Essentially THPS1+2 Remake is the exact same game as the original but with a whole new glossy look and includes incredible attention to detail when it comes to the maps, everything is lovingly touched by the designers and visually the game definitely doesn’t sell itself short. The characters, animations even the cosmetics look fully sick!

From a gameplay perspective THPS1+2 Remake gives you the power to toggle off and on the original controls if you are a purist as well as the ability to toggle off a bunch of other features including the music (which is silly and you just shouldn’t… don’t worry, we’ll get there). This game has definitely come a long way since my button smashing days of my childhood when I was grateful for anything to happen when I got some air off a ramp however the new default setting of the controls coupled with the not too ‘hand holdy’ tutorials do a fantastic job of letting you take everything at your own pace.

For those of you who have played the original THPS1+2 the remake is structured in the same way where there are tours that you take where you play through a bunch of different levels on each tour. The aim is obviously to try and get high scores, collect points, and perform cool stunts. You can also jump back and forth between games 1 and 2 with ease if you don’t want to do things in any particular order. Something new that’s interesting is the online multiplayer mode where you can play ranked or free skate modes, you can also earn a bunch of cash that you can put towards new gear (mind you I haven’t actually played the online mode yet).

There’s also this awesome feature called create-a-park mode which, you guessed it, you can build your very own skate park and then share those parks online, it’s a great way to explore the possibilities of THPS especially if you’re into world creation. As much as there is in this awesome remake, I spent most of time trying to remember how to do combos and figure where the magical S-K-A-T-E letters are around the streets of New York City and San Francisco.

Now to the music, well where do I begin, there isn’t any singular artist that designed the music for THPS1+2 but a series of bands and artists that make up the playlist consisting of mid to late 90’s garage rock and punk bands. THPS1+2 Remake has all 22 of the original artists featured plus and extra 37 new additions to the mix, you may recognise some of them such as Machine Gun Kelly and Rough Francis, some of the oldies include Anthrax and Rage Against the Machine. All this music coupled with the sounds of skateboards on bitumen and rails makes for an epic afternoon session on the PS4. If you’d like to take a look at the full list of artists from the remake click here.

I’d like to mention that I’m someone who’s only played the original THPS 1+2 I haven’t played 3, 4 or 5, or any of the other 20 something Tony Hawk games so I can’t comment on the progression Activision has had with this series, my understanding however is that things have all been rolling downhill for a while *pun intended* if you’d like a bit of history on that here is a link to an article from Kotaku ranking the best and worst Tony Hawk games.

With that being said this remake has put Activision back at the top of its game *also pun intended* THPS1+2 Remake feels literally like playing the originals for the first time. I am overwhelmed by the stunning visuals, totally transported back to the 90’s with The Vandals and Dub Pistols and not to mention the heaps of fun I had button smashing my PS4 controller and hoping something cool happened. If you’re a THPS fanatic or a newbie, honestly this is a game purchase you won’t regret.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 30th September 2020