Category: News

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.

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.

Cancellations, Crunch, & The Cloud

Facebook debuts new cloud-streaming service for Facebook Gaming

This new service will be integrated with Facebook Gaming and is already in the beta form for some users. According to Jason Rubin Facebook’s vice president of play over 200,000 people have already played games on the beta cloud streaming service. Currently there are five games available; Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA TOUR Gold Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale and WWE SuperCard. Facebook are promising more games as the platforms continues to get better throughout this testing phase. Rubin has said, “Even with latency-tolerant games players may notice some glitches. We’ll occasionally show player rating cards and feedback forms to help improve the experience over time. Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future.”

Sad news for PS4 lovers as Night Call is no longer coming to the console

Developers Monkey Moon and Black Muffin have announced that the game will not go to PS4, this news comes just a month after the game Uppers was cancelled after 6 years in development. According to the developers of both games it simply comes down to a lack of funds. Night Call’s official twitter account has stated that the game hasn’t done very well with sales not to mention issues with porting the game. A tweet sent out by Night Call has said, “Dear PlayStation players, we’re super sorry to announce that the PS4 version of Night Call is officially cancelled. Please note that we’re probably as disappointed as you are. But we just can’t afford it.” Fortunately, Uppers will still be available to play on the PC for roughly $40 should you be sad about either of these games not coming PS4.

Features being cut from Cyberpunk 2077 ahead of launch and a 21-day delay

With the release of CD Projekt Red’s most anticipated release of the year Cyberpunk 2077 has had some big feature cuts after being delayed 3 times already, actually make that 4. Miles Tost the senior level designer has said, “Cutting features and scope is a very normal part of development, you can witness it so openly with our game, because we happily gave in to community wishes and showed you that 2018 demo.” Tost goes on to emphasise these feature cuts will only enhance the game play experience and that these cuts were “hard decisions” to make for the developers who truly love working on the game. There is much speculation around this as these feature cuts come after not a month ago Cyberpunk 2077 received criticism for its staff working under strenuous working conditions also known as crunch leading up to the game’s launch that appeared to be enforced by the studio. Only time will tell how it all turns out after release on the now new release date 10th of December.

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.”

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.”

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.

TGS2020 Done, AGDA2020 Soon, Farmville Shutdown and Luna Launch!

TGS 2020

The Tokyo Game Show went online this year running from the 24th until the 27th of September and featured a wide line of presenters including Microsoft, Square Enix, Sega, Capcom, Level-5, Konami, Koei Tecmo Games and Bandai Namco just to name a few.  We were shown two new Monster Hunter games for the Switch, Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stories 2, a new Ni No Kuni spin off called Cross Winds and Dynasty Warriors 9. Along with new titles there were new details for Hyrule Warriors: The Age of Calamity, Resident Evil 8, NieR: Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139, Microsoft Flight Simulator and Scarlett Nexus for some highlights.

There was also a reveal of the new animated Resident Evil show on Nextflix. Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness will be released next year.

As well as game announcements and updates TGS featured the Japan Game awards. A small panel of notable industry figures including Hideki Kamiya, Masahiro Sakurai, Hidetaka Miyazaki and Yoko Taro were charged with selecting the winner for the Game Designers Award. This year the award went to indie puzzle game Baba is You. The big award of the show, the Grand Award went to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Visit the awards homepage for a full list of winners.

AGDA 2020

The Australian Game Developer Awards are scheduled for next week, October 7th and will be hosted by comedian/musician/gamer Jordan Raskopoulos. You can watch the awards on The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association’s Twitch Channel at 7pm, right after Zed Games. For details on the event check the GCAP website.

Farmville is shutting down

The iconic online game is finally switching off the servers after 11 years. The Developer Zynga stated that due to the game using Flash, Facebook and browsers would not support the game after this year as Adobe pulls support for the technology.

“We’re aware that many of you have been with us since the very beginning, helping to build an incredible global community of players over the years who’ve enjoyed this game just as much as we have. For that we say thank you.”

If you absolutely can’t live without Farmville you can always try Farmville 2: Tropic Escape, Farmville 2: Country Escape or the upcoming FarmVille 3.

Amazon announces Luna

Amazon has announced it will be joining Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud by Launching its own game streaming service named Luna. For a monthly fee, users will be able to stream on two devices at once including PC, Mac, Amazon Fire TV and iPhone/iPad. There are currently no announced plans to launch the service in Australia but those wanting try cloud based streaming may not have to wait long.  It seems Microsoft could be first to make a move in Oz. Responding on Twitter to a question regarding xCloud’s availability in Australia, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer had this to say.

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.