TikTok NFTs, 505 Announcements, and TTRPGs for Reproductive Rights

This week in gaming news…

TikTok Influencer Raises US$8M for Confusing NFT Landlord Scheme
TikTok user Michael Le appears to have raised US$8M in a funding round for a confusing bid to become a video game NFT landlord. The influencer has over 50 million followers on TikTok and is known for making videos of himself dancing, having fun with his younger brother, and making sponsored content for Invisalign. Le has partnered with the co-founder of a company that produces sports earbuds to launch a startup venture known as Joystick, through which the duo plan to buy up large amounts of in-game NFT assets and rent them out to gamers for temporary use. At the time of writing the company’s website claims ownership of assets in a handful of games whose main selling points are their NFT integration and so called “play-to-earn” models. While media surrounding the company praises the way it empowers gamers to own and earn money from digital assets, the only “service” actually available right now are tokens that can be purchased online via the Ethereum cryptocurrency blockchain, money from the sales of which appears to go directly to the company.

505 Games Showcases Three Upcoming Indie Games
505 Games, publisher of recent titles like Death Stranding, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Assetto Corsa have revealed three upcoming indie titles at their first digital showcase. Among the Trolls is a survival simulator set in a troll-filled Finnish forest, Stray Blade is a 3rd person fantasy combat game with clear inspiration from the gameplay of the Dark Souls series, and Miasma Chronicles is apparently a tactical adventure set in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi wasteland. All three games were shown with new trailers or demos and none are set to be available this year.

New itch.io Tabletop RPG Bundle Supports Reproductive Rights
Dungeons & Dragons podcast Roll for Romance has launched a US$5 tabletop RPG bundle on itch.io in support of US reproductive rights organisations Planned Parenthood and the National Network of Abortion Funds. The bundle currently includes over 200 tabletop RPG titles normally valued at almost US$1400 individually and comes as a response to a leaked US Supreme Court opinion indicating that key protections for access to abortion were at risk of being overturned. Many of the titles included in the bundle are played similarly to popular RPG Dungeons & Dragons and have such wonderful titles as Beam Saber, Glitter Hearts, Village Witch, Offworlders, and In the Shadow of Tower Silveraxe.

Now for some upcoming releases…

May 19 brings…

  • Deadcraft [PC, Playstation, Xbox, Switch]
  • Eternal Threads [PC, PS4, Xbox]
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong [PC, Playstation, Xbox, Switch]

May 20 brings…

  • Beekeeping simulator APICO [PC]
  • Cotton Fantasy [PS4, Switch]
  • Dolmen [PC, Playstation, Xbox]
  • The Endless Summer – Search for Surf [PC, Xbox]

May 24 brings…

  • Soda Crisis [PC]

May 25 brings…

  • Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds [PC]

Club EA, Microsoft Integration, & Activision Blizzard Still Making Headlines.

Club EA
Electronic Arts has been in the headlines this week after announcing a new Lord of the Rings franchised game, The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-Earth. The game, developed by Capital games, is rumoured to be a Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes reskin, with all the free-to-play collections you would expect.
In more surprising news, EA and FIFA have parted ways announcing that after this year’s FIFA 23 “a new era” will begin next year with EA Sports FC series. Thanks to the over 300 licences EA had accumulated, EA insists things will not be changing much and fans can expect “the same… modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes”. In response, FIFA announced that the split will allow FIFA to launch new games developed with other studios and publishers and multiple “non-simulation” games to launch later this year. FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisted “…that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans… The FIFA name is the only global, original title.”

Microsoft Integrate Access
Microsoft this week released information regarding a whole new ecosystem of accessories, both for adaptation for accessible design and for Xbox cloud streaming. Coming later this year, Microsoft is set to release a series of adaptive controllers that allow for custom inputs and the ability to connect and design 3D-printed toppers and tails to completely customise the design suitable to an individual’s needs. But if one is not enough, the Microsoft Adaptive Hub allows four wireless connects to these adaptive buttons, and 3 more devices as needed. Allowing people with physical limitation empowerment in the digital age.
And talking of access, Microsoft has announced the evolution of their online gaming cloud… beginning with Fortnite. You can now to play Fortnite free on iOS, Android or PC with Windows if you have a Microsoft account. This “everywhere initiative” from Microsoft is planned to expand to your home tv as well, with a puck or dongle device similar to the Amazon stick or Roku puck, and will have access to a library of games through the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. However, should you already have a Samsung smart TV, Microsoft is currently working with them to create a native app. This initiative is set to be available within the next 12 months.
Speaking of Microsoft, Microsoft Excel integration is coming to Eve Online. Colloquially known as “spreadsheets in space” Eve Online is finally getting native integration with Eve and Microsoft creating the API’s to finally help manage the complex in-game economy. While the API is in its early phase of development, the number crunching fans of Eve Online let out literal cheers from the audience at the announcement.

Activision/Blizzard still making headlines.
In the wake of the multitude of accusations and lawsuits made against Activision Blizzard, the second fulltime leadership role has been filled to combat the “created culture of ‘constant sexual harassment’ and gender-based discrimination” within the company, and she comes from Disney. Jessica Martinez is credited with 14 years of experience at Disney and now takes on the roll of VP, Head of Culture with the responsibility of “growing and implementing our culture strategy” while leading the learning and development team and working closely with communications, events, and other leaders within Blizzard.
And she has her work cut out for her with Raven Software QA staff actively seeking support from other Activision Blizzard staff to aid in unionisation. Since Activision Blizzard higher ups chose not to voluntarily recognise the Game Workers Alliance earlier this year, staff of Raven Software have sought to be recognised by the government agency National Labor Relations Board. Internal emails reportedly show Activision Blizzard emailing staff with the graphic “Please vote no.” after a town hall meeting in April. The ballot is set to be counted over video conference on May 23.

And now for the new releases.
Tuesday May 10, turn-based strategy game Songs of Conquest from Coffee Stain Publishing is coming to PC. This War of Mine: Final Cut is also being released on Xbox Series S & X and PlayStation 5, and Brisbane’s own award-winning Unpacking is coming to PlayStation 4 & 5.
Wednesday May 11, Brigandine comes to PC, and the PC roguelite Source of Madness is releasing for PlayStation, Xbox, and the Switch
And on Thursday May 12, become a detective in the live-action mystery adventure game The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story coming to PC, PlayStation, and Switch. And to PC also on May 12, battle legends and gods in the isometric ARPG Achilles: Legends Untold. Or try Cantata and fight for your faction’s survival in this indie, pixel-art, turn based strategy game. And finally rock out with your cactus out in indie platformer Flippin Kaktus.

Embracer Group Embraces IPs, Halo Infinite Is More Infinite, and Sonic Is Fast

Embracer Group Takes in Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and More

Development studios Eido-Montreal, Crystal Dynamics, and Square Enix Montreal will be acquired by Embracer Group, who has entered an agreement to acquire the studios as well as multiple IPs such as Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Legacy of Kain, and many more from the Square Enix catalogue.

The acquisition also includes over 1,100 employees in eight locations, with the total purchase price reaching 300 million USD. This agreement is expected to close later this year.

“We are thrilled to welcome these studios into the Embracer Group. We recognise the fantastic IP, world class creative talent, and track record of excellence that have been demonstrated time and again over the past decades. It has been a great pleasure meeting the leadership teams and discussing future plans for how they can realise their ambitions and become a great part of Embracer,” says Lars Wingefors, Co-founder of Embracer Group.

Alleged Pokemon Thieves Killed

Police officers in Florida, USA opened fire on four suspects who were believed to have stolen Pokemon cards, as well as some pizza. After multiple units converged on a Target in Florida in response to an Audi with obscured registration tags, they spotted two teenagers who were immediately deemed ‘suspicious’ due to wearing hoodies and face masks. A security officer in Target had alleged that the teenagers had stolen some Pokemon cards and a pizza, confirmed via security footage.

Police attempted a takedown and then opened fire on the teenagers, injuring two and fatally wounding another, with a fourth suspect detained. None of the teenagers were carrying any weapons.

County Sheriff Marcos Lopez has defended the actions of the officers involved after facing backlash for the over-the-top response.

Halo Infinite Had A Massive Update

Halo Infinite’s second season is here, and it is a big one! With new maps, modes, and cosmetic items, the detailed patch notes needed a six-chapter table of contents.

Some of the new content includes a King of the Hill, Attrition, and a battle royale inspired Last Spartan Standing game mode.

Updates have also been made to some of the movement abilities, affecting what players call ‘skill jumps’, which utilised movement tricks to pull off some very hectic tricks around the various maps. The left shoulder pad of the Jorge-052 armour kit now also shows the correct texture, for the more observant fans out there.

Sonic Prime Teaser Trailer Is Here

Netflix released a trailer montage showing off some of the kid-friendly animated shows that will be joining the roster. Right at the end we got to have a glimpse at everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog, also giving fans a listen to voice actor Deven Mack’s performance.

And now for some upcoming games!

May 5

  • Best Month Ever (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch)
  • Trek to Yomi (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters (PC)

May 6

  • Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit (PC)

May 10

  • Songs of Conquest (PC)
  • This War of Mine: Final Cut (PS5, XSX)

May 11

  • Brigandine (PC)
  • Source of Madness (PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch)

May 12

  • Achilles: Legends Untold (PC)
  • Cantata (PC)
  • The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story (PC, PS5, PS4, Switch)
  • Flippin Kaktus (PC)

Cat Cafe Manager – Review

Developer: Roost Games
Publisher: Freedom Games
Music: Sonya Vos
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Released: 15 April 2022
Genre: Strategy, Simulation, Visual Novel

A ‘tail’ as old as time, your grandmother has left you her beloved cat cafe in the town of Caterwaul Way. In all her yarns, you’ve known about this sleepy little village, and the magic and joy it had given her. And ‘meow’ it’s your turn, you arrive at the address and find… an empty field and an old… pirate?

No, it’s just Bonner, a friendly fisherman who thought it would be best to inform you that unfortunately the beloved cat cafe has long since crumbled away. Just how long ago did your grandmother live here? But don’t get your hackles up, you have enough materials and resources to get a small little shack put together. Throw in a tiny little kitchen, and some… rough looking furniture and I guess you have a cat cafe! But you need cats.

Luckily some strays have turned up, and they’re super friendly. Add them to the mix and look at what they’ve dragged in. Customers! Granted, all you can serve is water but when you see their face light up as the cat you just found curls up in their lap, well.

I guess you can understand why your grandmother loved this so much.

Cat Cafe Manager is a 2D simulation managing game, in the most adorable, simple art style. You’ll be learning about what it takes to run and grow a cat cafe, eventually filled with a roster of staff and adorable little kitty cats. And you’ll also get to know more about Caterwaul Way, which is entirely populated by witches, fisherfolk, artists, vagabonds, punks, and cats of course! You’ll meet and bond with a cast of characters and learn about their relationships with each other, the village, and with the cafe. And you’ll learn about what’s going on in the woods.

Don’t worry about it. It’s not spooky.

Let me walk you through a day at the cafe.

Doors open, and customers arrive. They take a seat. Already we start to get feedback, with customers waving as they walk through the door, and a disappointed emote when they can’t find their favourite seat (or there isn’t enough of their preferred decor around).

You take their order, dash over to my little kitchen and put together their order. Some orders, like espressos and lattes, need a coffee machine. Others need a fridge and a chopping board, like sandwiches and salads. As you expand and grow your cafe, you’ll have to expand your menu too, which requires recipes, more ingredients, and specific equipment.

You bring them their order, they enjoy the order, and while they’re relaxing one of the cats hop onto their lap and curls up.

Some customers will have a favourite cat or two, but trust me, every cat is a winner.

Hopefully happy, the customer then heads on their merry way, leaving payment.

Now, the payment you receive depends on the customer. Vagabonds will pay with fabric, business guys pay with gold, punks pay with materials, fisherfolk pay with fish (obviously), witches pay with… nectar? And artists pay with gems (obviously).

You’ll need each form of currency in order to expand the cafe, buy decor and cat supplies, learn new recipes, buy new furniture. So if you have a specific goal in mind, you can adjust how you advertise to each type of customer in order to draw in specific currency. But there is one universal currency, and that is love.

After you meet a mysterious, ominous looking cat you’ll be shown the cat shrine, and you are urged to restore it. Why? You’ll find out in your own time, but the path to restoring the shrine is by love. Heart. Passion. You can select a project which will expand your cafe, unlock more furniture, allow you to house more cats, have more seats, and hire more staff. And with each project completed, the shrine starts to look just a little bit less wild.

Every customer has preferred themes, decor, food, drinks, and cats. Some cats will be naturally attuned to fisherfolk or witches. So to make everyone happy, you’ll have to keep growing. And it’s really satisfying watching that D rank at the end of the day gradually climb to a C, and then a B. I’m getting pretty close to an A rank myself.

It’s actually kinda a lot of work! So you need more staff.

You can go to the village noticeboard, where you can adopt out cats, or hire more staff. And as time goes on, you can train your staff, perfect for when you get hit with a rush of customers. They’ll get better and quicker at taking orders, small talk, making orders, cleaning up, and calming cats down. Just like a real cafe!

There were a few polish issues that were sometimes a little silly, like cats teleporting around the cafe, customers phasing through walls, just goofy little stuff that didn’t really detract from my overall experience. I did experience a couple of crashes, and occasionally there was some aspects of design that made it a bit frustrating (like my not realising that chairs needed to be set a certain way for them to work properly), but the team are really diligent, and would often fix these issues while I was asleep, and I could return to the game the next day with problems resolved. There are probably a couple of other little things that’ll pop up, but nothing ever really stopped me or made me want to stop playing.

Cat Cafe Manager has a lot of little details that I find really charming. The title screen is sweet and calm, sniffing out the village drama is a delight, and hearing the cats purr is so soothing. Hearing them yowl is less soothing, but the game delivers on those cafe noises. And spooky noises. And the little beeps and boops that bring life to a game. It’s understated, a bit relaxing, and if I wanted to play my lofi anime beats to run cat cafes I could.

There’s a few key things you should probably know about me. I love cats, I work in a cafe, I love cat cafes, and I really enjoy games where you build something and create resources to expand the thing you’re building. So when I heard about this game I grabbed at it with both of my… paws?

I’ll quit it with the puns. That was ‘A-PAW-LING’.

:D

Cat Cafe Manager is built up of so many things I love, so I was super excited to boot this game up and start my cat cafe adventure. Which is sounding like I’m building up to revealing I was severely disappointed, but I wasn’t. I liked Cat Cafe Manager! It was fun, I enjoyed the main cast revealing little parts about their lives to me, piecing together their upbringing, their problems and hopes and joys, and watching them grow and resolve things, with a little bit of input from their friendly neighbourhood barista.

It was nice to see the cat shrine grow and become restored, seeing more and more cats return. Bonding with the cats in my neighbourhood and cafe, watching them return and building trust with them. Watching the cats bond with my customers, and then getting the cats adopted to loving homes.

The game can be slow at times, really each day is about passing the time and calling your regulars over so you can talk to them. But there was a sense of pride with watching my cafe come together. Each day becomes another step towards expanding it, making it bigger and better, cultivating it to become a welcoming space to everyone who walks in.

Whether they’re a witch, punk, vagabond, fisherfolk, artist, or even a business guy. They’ve all got a place at my cafe.

Money and More Money and Bombs

Twitch wants more money

Twitch, Amazon’s video game streaming platform, is currently considering making big changes to the monetization systems. These changes are starting to concern streamers as Twitch wants to implement multiple changes to its partner program that will hopefully boost profits. Some of these changes are new revenue split from subscriptions, a new tier system, and bolstering advertisements. “YAY!” – said no one. The proposed cut would see partnered streamer’s revenue from subscriptions drop from 70% to 50%. A Twitch streamer PleasantlyTwstd commented to Kotaku saying, “Smaller streamers I think are going to have little to no incentive at this stage to really push for growth. It’s going to start feeling like if you want to make a payout you have to hit more subs and the struggle at current is discoverability at all.” Twitch intends of releasing these new changes to the website in the coming few months.

Activision Blizzard losing some more

Activision Blizzard has released its latest financial report, and the numbers are bad. Revenue, player numbers as well as poor sales on new releases such as Call of Duty means that Microsoft are going to have to work hard to pull them out of this one. For the recent quarter Blizzard was reported turning over $1.77 Billion compared to $2.28 Billion the previous year, but the big hit is the number of users logging in and playing. There are currently 372 million players for this last quarter as opposed to the 435 million from last year. 60 million less players per month is a huge nose dive. All this plummeting revenue and player count seems to be linked to the buy out from Microsoft not to mention the large number of players boycotting Activision Blizzard from its on-going internal harassment and abuse allegations. Especially since the latest news is that Bobby Kotick former CEO of Activision Blizzard has been reported threatening to kill someone. Only time will tell what happens next.

PlayStation bomb scare in Boston

Passengers at Boston’s Logan International Airport were recently evacuated over the Easter Holidays as the local bomb squad were called in to check out a “suspicious item”. Turns out it was really a PlayStation in a “degraded condition”. A spokesperson from the Massachusetts State Police stated “The condition of the console caused abnormalities in the image produced when it was x-rayed, prompting the screeners’ concern. During the investigation of the object and secondary sweeps of the area, passengers in Terminal A were evacuated.” After a thorough investigation an hour later the bomb squad gave the “all-clear.”

This week in gaming releases:

April 28th
• Bugsnax [XSX, XBO, Switch]
• Bugsnax: Isle of Bigsnax update [All Platforms]
• The House of the Dead: Remake
• Kaiju Wars [PC]
• Kapital: Sparks of Revolution [PC]
• Rogue Lords
• Trigon: Space Story [PC]

April 29th
• Dandy & Randy DX [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
• Nintendo Switch Sports [Switch]
• Ravenous Devils [All Platforms]
• Sea of Craft [PC]

May 4th
• Wildcat Gun Machine [All Platforms]

Survive – Review

Developer: Juuso Hietalahti
Publisher: SANDBAY GAMES OY.
Music: John Leonard French
Platforms: Android, iOS
Released: November 11, 2016
Genre: Survival, Text Adventure

Right, so perhaps driving up to a lake 50 miles away from town in a terrible, awful storm wasn’t the best idea. Maybe I should’ve checked the weather beforehand. Maybe I should’ve let someone know where the heck I was going.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do any of that. And now all I can do is assess the situation, figure out what my next step is, and survive.

My car is totaled. Thankfully I’m fine, I’ve got a couple of bottles of water, some energy bars, a trash bag, a few other bits and bobs. It’s still pouring rain, the area I’m in is at risk of flooding, so I need to move. I at least have a vague direction to travel, but should I go towards the lake, or down this really muddy path?

Survive is a mostly text-based mobile survival game, with enough visuals to add to your immersion, and a surprisingly complex combination of mechanics, easy to learn, difficult to master.

So, Survive is fairly straightforward. You can select from a number of starting areas that promises differing levels of difficulty, whether it starts you further away from civilization, or the terrain will be more challenging. The items you start with varies, your starting condition varies, and even if you select the same starting point, no run is the same.

You take stock of what you’ve got, where you’re at, and what options you have. Which boils down to gathering wood or resources, tracking prey, building shelter, a fire, or raincatcher, crafting, and travelling. Each action takes up time, energy, body temperature, everything has a cost.

You’ll want to travel as far as you can, ideally during daylight. But you’ll need to find drinkable water, or create some. You’ll need to look for food, but you’re not guaranteed to find anything useful, especially in some areas. Raining and you’re starting to get dangerously cold? Shelter. Hungry? Your actions take more out of you. Repair your shelter, hopefully you can make a fire but, oh no. It’s raining! Of course you can’t make a fire. Maybe you should try to push forward, maybe you should stay put. You have to weigh up your resources, your actions, your options, what could go wrong if you walk, what could go wrong if you stay.

And just travelling isn’t straightforward. You’ll have a choice of paths, one may head in a direction that could offer more resources, but the other is supposed to head towards a road and you can travel a lot further, more quickly, on a road.

And night is falling, you probably don’t want to try to travel through thick forest in the dark. But it’s getting awfully muddy where you are, and the rain is pretty heavy.

Survival games can get pretty complicated, and text adventure games can be pretty hard to keep track of, and Survive does a pretty good job of balancing the two. With some simple visuals, a clear user interface, Survive streamlines some of the survival mechanics. For example, when you travel, you will always travel in the right direction, so you don’t need to draw up a map to keep track of where you’re going. Crafting is simplified, and your stats are kept to the essentials. But these decisions to make it more streamlined doesn’t necessarily make it a simple game.

There’s a lot of things Survive does that doesn’t really make it a true text adventure game. Images kinda get in the way of that, but it’s not overdone. It’s enough to communicate the game and events, it’s pretty minimal, and makes it easier to navigate and visualise. And one of the things it does is also create a soundscape with a bit of music. Footsteps when I’m travelling. Rain building up to a storm. It’s not much, but it makes me feel like I’m being told a story by a narrator who is getting really into it.

I love text adventures, ever since I was a wee little tyke with those choose your own adventure books, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But Survive leans enough into it for me to take in each word and build my environment in my mind, but to also make it clear what I have, where I am, and where I need to go.

One of my favourite things is that Survive is a really good game to play on a commute. A run takes maybe 10-15 minutes, so I can usually play a round or two on my way to work. If I have to abandon a run for whatever reason, it doesn’t feel like a huge deal. But while I’m playing it does take my entire focus.

It’s a game I’ve been playing on and off for a few years now, and it just seems to keep improving here and there. It’s easy to pick up, easy to put down, but in between it’s a joy to play and get my survival game fix.

And look, not a lot of games has a dedicated achievement when you make the very hard decision to eat maggots. So, Survive is just a perfect mobile game as far as I’m concerned.