Category: News

Xbox & Bethesda, GCAP and Rayman Legend

Bethesda and Xbox team up

That’s right the creators of The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and many more have entered into an agreement to take over ZeniMax Media which is the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. Microsoft purchased ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash on Monday which makes it the biggest gaming acquisition in Microsoft’s history, which well and truly surpasses that time when Microsoft purchased Mojang (the creators of Minecraft) for $2.5 billion. “Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. Microsoft will gain 8 more creative studio teams adding the over 2,300 staff of Bethesda to the mix. Phil Spencer the Head of Xbox has said, “Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in exploring new game franchises, and in telling stories in bold ways. All of their great work will of course continue and grow, and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.”

Michel Ancel the game designer behind Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil leaves game development

That’s right after more than 30 years Ancel has posted on Instagram saying, “’I’ve decided to stop working on video games and fully focus on my second passion: Wild Life! My new project take place in the real world and consists in a wildlife open sanctuary dedicated to education, nature lovers and… wild animals.” He goes on to reassure fans that the games Wild and Beyond Good & Evil 2 will be taken care of by the teams at autonomous. Guillaume Brunier the senior producer for Beyond Good & Evil 2 said in a statement, “For years, Michel imparted his creative vision and helped us remain faithful to BG&E’s incredible universe. His uncompromising passion pushed us to redefine what was possible in crafting an expansive, multicultural, and futuristic science-fiction world. As we move forward, we are all committed to remaining true to this vision.”

GCAP 20 begins on Monday 5th of October!

Games Connect Asia Pacific is Australia’s premier professional development and networking event for game development, specialising in all different types of disciplines. This year’s GCAP tickets are only $2! With 100% of that $2 being donated to the Ready Foundation which is a non-for-profit company that aims to assist in relieving poverty, suffering, distress, or misfortune experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and other disadvantaged youth. The event will be hosted virtually during Melbourne International Games Week and there will be a variety of talks over the course of 3 days. If you’d like to purchase a ticket click here or if you’d like some more information head over to the GCAP website here.

Next Xbox Release Details, Ubi-Games and PAX Online

Australian release date and price for Microsoft’s next generation consoles revealed

Microsoft will release their next generation hardware, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on

November 10th at a price of $749 and $499 respectively. They will also be continuing their Xbox All Access program through Telstra which provides a console plus Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a monthly fee of $46 or $33 over a duration of 24 months. Additionally, Microsoft has announced that Game Pass will now include EA’s subscription service, EA Play at no additional cost.

Those looking for Playstation launch details may not have long to wait as Sony has a Playstation 5 Showcase scheduled for Thursday (September 16) morning at 6am AEST.

Ubisoft announces new projects in the latest Ubisoft Forward

In the latest presentation from the scandal plagued publisher several new titles were debuted and detailed.

Riders Republic is a massive multiplayer focused extreme sports game that follows in the footsteps of Steep. The game allows up to 50 players at once to compete in open world sports including biking, wingsuiting, skiing, snowboarding and others.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is receiving the remake treatment from Ubisoft India. The remake is the studios largest title to date and features all new graphics and gameplay updates.

Gods & Monsters the Breath of the Wild inspired open world action RPG based in a colourful world of Greek mythology has had a name change. Now known as Immortals Fenyx Rising you can expect the game to drop this year on December 3rd.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is being re-released with a Complete Edition. The stylish beat em up based on the comic series featured art direction from Australia’s own Paul Robertson and disappeared from sale back in 2014. The new edition contains the base game and all DLC.

Before the presentation Ubisoft released a video message from CEO Yves Guilemot addressing some of the recent scandals that have surrounded the company primarily the incidents of harassment and the appropriation of Black Lives Matter imagery in Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. Yves apologised for the incidents and pledged to improve in order to prevent such incidents in future, provide opportunities for underrepresented voices in the company and pledge their support for Black Lives Matter as well donating a million dollars to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Pax Online is Live

In lieu of PAX Australia and PAX West this year event organiser Reedpop has launched the online event PAX Online running from September 12 to 20. During the free event you can check out panels and events streaming around the clock on the PAX Online channels, tour a virtual show floor and even play demos of unreleased games on Steam. Included in the line up are some of Australia’s very own including Unpacking, TopplePOP: Bungee Blockbusters, Ring of Pain and Justice Sucks: Recharged among others.

BGG, Sings and DOOM Pregnancy

Twitch Sings will be no more

Twitch TV has confirmed that it will be closing down Twitch Sings at the end of this year starting from December 1st with January 1st, 2021 being the total deadline. Twitch will be removing all content that is linked to the Sings wing of the service such as clips, highlights, videos as well as any remaining VODs. In a FAQ Twitch has said to be “inspired” by all the passionate fans and talent that has been drawn to the service and intends on investing in the “broader tools and service” to help assist the music community on the streaming platform. There has been a lot of disappointment around the closure of Twitch Sings with one fan saying, “I’m not going to lie, I’ve been quiet depressed during the pandemic, Twitch Sings the beautiful people I have made friends with has been a singular saving grace.”

Black Girl Gamers for a more inclusive gaming landscape

BGG is a multi-age platform and LGBTIQ+ online gaming community with over 6,000 followers on Facebook comprising of mostly black women who share their love and passion for gaming. Created by Jay-Ann Lopez back in 2015 to help create a gaming space that was less toxic for black women. Lopez said that she was frustrated with the racism and misogyny that she was experiencing and that she wanted to increase visibility and inclusion for women within the industry. The isn’t Jay-Ann’s first time creating a community for minorities, she’s also created an online empowerment platform called Curlture which encourages black women to embrace their natural hair and beauty. Black Girl Gamers community now has over 50,000 followers across Twitch, Twitter and Instagram if you’d like to spread the word and support this awesome community or simply join up for some wholesome gamer community action.

Play DOOM on a pregnancy test

That’s right you heard me, thanks to Foone Turing who is a collector and computer tinkerer posted on Reddit showing off a GIF of DOOM that was rendered on a pregnancy test display. In the GIF you can see on the tiny walls, floors, doors, and the pixelated corridors of DOOM. Foone tweeted a day or so after sharing the GIF on Reddit saying that the processing power of the pregnancy test is probably faster than the original IBM PC that DOOM started on. If you’d like to take a look at that GIF click here.

Bans Backlash and Branching Out

 

Apple has followed in Google’s footsteps by removing Fortnite from its App Store.

On the 28th of August Apple confirmed that Epic Games’ developer account has been terminated for violating the company’s Terms of Service. Apple says this removal is standard policy for the terms of service violations that kicked off this whole saga. iOS players are now completely unable to update the game and play the new Chapter 2 Season 4. Despite a similar ban, players on android are still able to play by updating outside the Google Play Store. Although a judge supported Fortnite’s removal, they ensured Epic Games can still develop the Unreal Engine for iOS to prevent harm to third-party games (including battle royal competitor PUBG Mobile). Epic Games still shows no sign of bowing to the platforms demands so we can’t be sure when, or if, it will ever return to mobile.

 

Sony to bring more first party games to the PC audience.

This year we’ve seen Sony launch previous PlayStation exclusives Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Detroit: Become Human on the PC. In their recent 2020 Corporate Report Sony confirmed more of their games would follow suit. They highlighted online PC games as their biggest competition and hope this move will find their games a bigger audience. “Targeted outcomes include growth in active users, stronger retention and a shorter cash conversion cycle, from which expanded cash flow can be expected. We will explore expanding our 1st party titles to the PC platform, in order to promote further growth in our profitability.” Sony didn’t reveal what games are slated for PC release, but it seems more likely their older titles will find new life than that PS5 exclusives will make the list anytime soon.

 

Ubisoft faces criticism for use of Black Fist Imagery in recent release.

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad is a mobile military RPG released on August 25th. It has since faced criticism for its use of the ‘raised fist’ image as a symbol for its antagonists UMBRA. In the game UMBRA is an organisation that, on its surface, promotes and “egalitarian utopia” but simultaneously commits terrorist acts to foster political unrest. In real life this symbol is associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement which has had similar accusations lobbed at it by alt-right conspiracists. In response to the backlash, Ubisoft has promised to remove the symbol in the games next update. They also apologised, stating the fist was chosen as it is a universal symbol of resistance and they did not intend any connection to Black Lives Matter but acknowledged its inclusion was insensitive and harmful.

Superheroes, Mysterious Objects and the Art of Giving

New DC games announced

DC Comics hosted an event last weekend and announced a number of projects. The online only event called the DC Fandome was created for the company to communicate with fans due to COVID-19 restrictions. New details on several upcoming films including Wonder Woman 1984, The Suicide Squad and The Batman were revealed and we also saw the announcement of two games. Gotham Knights,   WB Games Montreal’s new game is set after the apparent death of Batman and will let players explore an open world Gotham as Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing or Red Hood. The 3rd person action game lets players team up with a co-op buddy to battle villains and uncover the mysterious Court of Owls. The game is planned for current and next gen systems with a release date of next year.

Also at the Fandome was the first glimpse at Rocksteady’s long awaited new project titled Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. While details are currently scant, the colourful 4 player focused action game pits Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and King Shark against a Justice League turned bad. The game is currently scheduled for a 2022 release on next generation systems.

212 story high obelisk discovered in Melbourne

Players of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator have discovered a 212 story high obelisk in the suburbs of Melbourne.  The Verge reports that the glitch was traced back Nathan Wright who, as a University student had been working with Open Street Maps for a class task. When entering data Wright simply made a typo and typed 212 instead of 2. The data then made its way into Bing Maps which is used to generate the terrain in Microsoft Flight simulator.

Fall Guys Battle of the Brands

Fall Guys, the party game styled battle royale is one of this year’s breakout hits, selling over 2 million in its first week on PC alone. Developer Mediatonic has leveraged the games popularity to get a charitable bidding war going. The brand who donates the most money to the charity Special Effect will have a skin added to the game. Special Effect is a UK-Based charity focussed on assisting disabled gamers.  At the time of recording the highest bidder is FGTeev at $422,222.22USD.

Summer Games Done Quick 2020

Games Done Quick have just wrapped up their Summer Games Done Quick event which has raised over $2.3 million USD for Doctors without borders. Now in its tenth year the popular speedrunning event was run entirely online after being delayed due to COVID-19. Whilst the event may be over you can still check out this year’s runs on Games Done Quick’s Youtube channel.

Epic Lawsuits, Atari Launch and Skateboard Tricks

Epic Games files suit against Apple and Google following the removal of Fortnite from their digital platforms

A recent update to Fortnite on mobile violated both Apple and Googles Terms of Service by providing an alternative payment option for V-bucks which also gave players a discounted rate. In response the game was removed from both stores. This was not unexpected however as Epic then filled separate suits against both platform holders and launched a pre-prepared campaign including a video which mocked the classic “1984” advertisement by Apple placing the tech giant in the place of the Orwellian Big Brother. The suit seeks to challenge Apples 30% take of all transactions and their control over the iOS platform.

In retaliation Apple has informed Epic Games that their access to development tools for both iOS and Mac will be terminated later this month. This would affect not just their games but any further development of the Unreal engine on these platforms.  An injunction has now been filled with the court to stop Apple from taking these actions while the original suit is pending. According to Epic’s filing:

“If the Unreal Engine can no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that use it will be forced to use alternatives. The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable.”

Australian launch for Atari VCS

Good news for those waiting for release information on new consoles later this year. The Atari VCS has been given a timeframe and Australian price. In November for $699 or $849 you’ll be able to buy the new console. For $699 you can get the retro inspired console and no controller  while the $849 version sports both a classic and modern controller.

Bluemouth Managing Director, David Provan who is the Australian distributor had the following to say about the release

“At a time when we are all looking for fresh and innovative ways to consume various forms of content (both new and old), the VCS combines nearly 50 years of entertainment into one stylish creation, opening up our lounge rooms to near infinite content possibilities from one device.”

The Atari VCS comes with 100 classic Atari games and a new version of Missile Command.

Classic Tony Hawk move renamed

The upcoming remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 will rename the “Mute grab” to be the “Weddle grab” after its originator Chris Weddle,  who is deaf. In an Instagram post Hawk addressed the name change

“They referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy.” So it became known as the mute air, and we all went along with it in our naive youth. In recent years a few people have reached out to Chris (who still skates) about this trick and the name it was given. He has been very gracious in his response but it is obvious that a different name would have honored his legacy”

Apple, Amazon, and Animal Crossing

 

xCloud and Stadia violate App Store guidelines

It has been suspected that issues would arise as Microsoft’s xCloud service, and Google’s Stadia, turned their focus towards Apple devices, but it has been confirmed by Apple that such services violates the App Store guidelines, and cannot exist on iOS in their current forms.

In an official Apple statement: “The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.”

The main reason cited for rejecting xCloud and Stadia on the App Store is that they offer access to apps Apple can’t individually review. Back in March, Apple offered a very similar justification when they were asked about potential anti-trust issues with Apple’s Arcade game subscription service, which the company runs.

In a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson: “Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to games on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalogue are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.”

Twitch Prime will become Prime Gaming

With Amazon rebranding the company’s live streaming platform. Although they are dropping the Twitch name and focusing on the Prime part of the brand, the service will continue to offer the same benefits subscribers are already used to. This includes a free monthly Twitch subscription you can use on your favourite streamer, exclusive in-game content, and free games that you keep forever.

Nintendo has reported selling 22 million copies of their March release: Animal Crossing New Horizons

The Switch game continues to be the driving force behind Switch hardware purchases since its release. With an operating process of $3.39B in revenue, and Switch sales up 166%, Animal Crossing New Horizons is now the second best-selling Switch game, running behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Nintendo states that of all the new Switch consoles that were played for the first time during the last 3 months, more than half of them played New Horizons on the first day.

Riot Ubisoft and Halo Infinite

Riot’s LEC league nearly partners with an openly anti-LGBT sponsor

An announcement from NEOM which is a city created by the Saudi Arabian government, that was born under a regime that comes with a history of human rights abuses that includes persecution of LGBT people. Many involved with Riot including esports casters, players and developers were speaking out against the partnership in troves. This all comes after not just last year Riot Games were accused of a toxic and sexist company culture. Fortunately, however Riot have tanked the partnership with NEOM due to the community outrage. Riot have released a statement saying, “As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognize when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them. After further reflection, while we remain steadfastly committed to all of our players and fans worldwide including those living in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the LEC has ended its partnership with NEOM, effective immediately.”

Halo Infinite developers 343 Industries are getting flack for their recent revel at Xbox Games Showcase

Many complaints have been flooding in about Halo Infinites lighting, low texture details and overall flat graphics. 343 Industries have addressed the issue in a community update, John Junyszek the Community Manager has said, “We do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game,” he says. “The build used to run the campaign demo was work-in-progress from several weeks ago with a variety of graphical elements and game systems still being finished and polished. While some of the feedback was expected and speaks to areas already in progress, other aspects of the feedback have brought new opportunities and considerations to light that the team is taking very seriously and working to assess.” There still isn’t a solid release date for Halo Infinite due to come out in Summer this year.

Ubisoft update Tommy Francois is officially no longer with the company

Tommy Francois was Ubisoft’s vice president of editorial & creative services, Business Insider reported on the situation stating that ‘sources with knowledge of the matter’ claim that Tommy was fired following the investigation, that is a number of harassment and abuse allegations pointed at Tommy, however Ubisoft have not disclosed the nature of his departure, so for now it stands as speculation. Francois’ departure comes after several other executives stepped down including vice president Maxime Beland, head of human resources Cecile Cornet and chief creative office Serge Hascoet.

Time for a Clean Up

A complaint posted on Glassdoor reports burnout and crunch at Respawn

Glassdoor is a reviews website where both current and previous employees can share their experiences about working at a company. The complaint was posted by a current full-time employee at Respawn who are the developers of Apex Legends, the post details that the studio was struggling with the negative side effects on businesses relating to COVID-19. A snippet of the lengthy review says, “Mostly every other company has extended project deadlines to accommodate for lower efficiencies and general stresses or anxiety during COVID-19, but not on the Apex project. I feel extremely stressed and burnt out trying to keep our seasonal releases on the same aggressive timeline as pre-shelter in place productivity. I currently work 12 – 13 hours a day and there is no separation between my home and work life.” Chad Grenier Respawn’s Apex game director has acknowledged the studio struggled during the pandemic, he further addresses the complaint on Reddit saying that he insisted that Respawn has always had it’s employees best interested and health in mind however the transition to working remotely was very hard on the team.

Ubisoft has a plan to address the studio’s culture of misconduct

Over the last month Ubisoft has been dealing with immense backlash from the game’s community over a number of its employees being named as abusers, those employees have either been dismissed or resigned. Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot has said, “I am determined to make profound changes in order to improve and strengthen our corporate culture. We already have acted swiftly and firmly, announcing, and introducing large scale initiatives intended to transform our organisation.” Yves plans of using a five-part plan to ensure the safety and inclusivity of all its employees. Below is a screenshot for Gamasutra’s report of the Plan.

U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) wants to stop U.S. military recruiting through Twitch

AOC is determined to stop the Army, the Navy and the Airforce from putting its messaging in front of impressionable young people and children, she tells Vice, “War is not a game, and the Marine Corps decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practise entirely.” The reps for New York’s 14th congressional district filed a draft amendment that should prevent the military from using funds from the House of Appropriations bill to maintain presence on Twitch or any video game, esports, or living streaming platform. The Committee is due to meet this week let’s see how it all turns out.

That’s all this week in gaming news.

COVID-19 Effects, Games Archive and What’s Next

How COVID-19 has affected the games industry

Due to a recent survey conducted by Game Developers Conference (GDC) 33% of it’s developers reported that the game they were working on has been delayed, having to relocate working from home has been the largest contributing factor. In the report 70% of the developers had to make that move from the beginning of the pandemic. Some studios reported that the move to working remotely went smoothly, however some partnered companies who lagged behind were responsible for their delays.

Other reasons for delays that were reported included barriers to accessing required hardware such as gaining access to development kits which can be highly policed by companies for security reasons. There were also struggles to record voiceovers and audio work for home and not to mention the ambient stress that pandemics can cause. For developers that didn’t have delays 41% claimed they had felt their productivity drop because of the lockdown. 35% said their creatively decreased and 26% said they have seen a decrease in their household income. However, on a positive note 12% of people have said they will no longer work in an office environment and prefer to work from home even after a vaccine is released.

Hundreds of free to play unreleased prototype games have become available

Some of the most iconic games such as Double Dragon, Street Fighter 2, Mega Man 3, AKIRA, Prince of Persia, Dr Mario, NBA JAM, Killer Instinct and many more have been uploaded to Internet Archive and anyone can download to play. This archive contains 934 ROMs playable on any browser and stretch from 1983 to 2001. Some of the games uploaded by The Hidden Palace which are a video games preservation wiki include Spyro The Dragon, and Earthbound (Mother 2) from an EPROM cartridge. If you’d like to look at the Internet Archive click here.

What’s coming up for the Summer Games Fest

On July 23rd Microsoft Xbox Games Showcase will be featured on loads of different streaming platforms that include Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook pages. Where we will be getting a sneak peak into Halo Infinite as well as appearances from Hellblade II, Psychonauts 2, and potentially Everwild.

Gamescom have their Opening Night Live hosted by Geoff Keighley on the 27th of August and in September PAX Online begins which will be replacing PAX West and PAX Australia this year. PAX Online will span 9 days and contain 24-hour content from September 12th to the 20th.

If you’d like more details on the schedule click here.