It’s a new week, so lets go #Glorbo This week Zahra, Hazel and Caroline go (hedge) hog with gaming news, a recap over the who, what, where, when, and that of this years Queensland Games Festival, and then the team talks of the sadness that the lackluster new series of Sonic Prime brought them.
Government backs Aussie gaming. Screen Australia has announced the backing of Aussie games to the tune of $3 million AUD through it’s “Games: Expansion Pack” fund and “First Nations Games Studio” fund. The First Nations Games Studio fund awarded AU$600,000 to two studios, Guck, & Awesome Black, both working on projects related to First Nations storytelling and talent development. Additionally, the Games: Expansion Pack fund provided AU$2.4 million in funding to 21 different studios across the country. The funded games cover a wide range of genres and platforms and aim to accelerate skills and creativity within the Australian games industry. Additionally, the Federal Government has introduced the Digital Games Tax Offset, providing a 30% refundable tax offset for projects with budgets over $500,000. Click the following for a list of all the projects funded and their synopses.
Smell Like a Gamer In recent news, Xbox is going a bit crazy with the themed sweepstakes with both a Barbie movie tie in with a Barbie Dream House Custom Console, and Barbie and Ken controller face plates. But they pulled out all the stops for the game release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. This release not only has a sweepstake for four controllers designed after each of the turtles themselves, but the can also “…come with a built-in scent diffuser shaped like a slice of delicious New York ‘za.” Smell-O-Vision at it’s finest. If you’re interested in the TMNT Mutant Mayhem Controller this giveaway will be running till August 13 this year, where you will need to retweet the Xbox Game Pass sweepstakes tweet or whatever they will end up being called with the X rebrand.
AI in the News Goes Glorbo This week the World of Warcraft Reddit community tricked an online publishing AI by feeding it false data about a made-up character, Glorbo, it’s mandatory item Klikclac, and their nemesis Quackion, the Aspect of Ducks, resulting in the generation of fake content presented as actual news under the pseudonym Lucy Reed. This account is credited to writing near 80 articles a day with potentially little to no oversight. This incident raises questions about the validity of AI automated publishing and the potential impact on the increased value of human generated, or at least human moderated, content.
Now in Activision Blizzard News Sigh… Look I’m just as sick as you that these guys keep being in the news. TL;DR is basically, they screwed up the Diablo 4 season release and people are complaining that company’s being cheap, of unfairnerfing, that the menu design is tricking people into buying the season pass, of new items causing nausea, and that some player’s characters butts are out in the open. Also, that the FTC has backed out of the whole merger with Microsoft blockage, and Overwatch 2 is coming to Steam. To read more about these stories, check out the links in the news post on our Facebook page @ZEDgamesau.
And now for a couple of quick bytes:
Mods have given your favourite NPCs in Stardew Valley AI Brains, yep, think about that like Jordan Gerblick of GamesRadar;
“…when you know those video game characters had to have their existing inner-workings hollowed out and replaced with the increasingly ominous power of AI, I can only imagine those interactions feeling incredibly creepy – as if it’s not really them anymore.”
And the US Entertainment Software Rating Board wants to scan you and child’s face to validate age with digital purchases. The proposal to the FTC would have you upload a photo into a system controlled by Yoti – an Epic Games subsidiary, with collaboration with company SuperAwesome, which would be analysed and then deleted. They go on to claim the system poses no substantial risk to parents’ privacy.
And now for some of the upcoming game releases. On Friday July 28, Disney Illusion Island is coming to Switch. Monday 31st, F1 Manager 2023 is coming to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. Wednesday August 2nd, Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun is coming to PC. And lastly on Thursday August 3rd, explore nature, relax, and take photos in Flutter Away coming to PC.
Apple has unveiled their newest creation, their first spatial computer! What does this mean? Well, it’s a headset much like your typical VR headsets that is supposed to seamlessly blend digital content with the world around you. Imagine, being able to project your workspace onto a wall, while still being totally aware of the world around you thanks to the ability to see through the headset. It features 23 million pixels across two displays, and it tracks your eyes, hands, and voice.
Your monitor and keyboard can be set up anywhere, at any time, effortlessly, so you can partake in hustle culture for the low price of $5,250 or so for Aussies.
Speaking of Corporate Greed…
Eric Covington, a former Activision Blizzard designer, wrote a few cheeky lines for a World of Warcraft Venture Co. loot goblin. The lines were approved and implemented into the game, and the jokes were promoted on the official World of Warcraft Twitter account, but uhh, that doesn’t stop you from getting fired for allegedly “inserting inappropriate non-game related content into a game”.
The lines this Venture Co. loot goblin had? “Let’s call this a cost of living adjustment.” “No profit sharing!” and “Looks like another yacht for me!”
Blaseball is Done
Blaseball, best described as a ‘cultural event’, was a game that looks like a baseball stat-tracking page. You could pick your favourite team, such as “Kansas City Breath Mints”, bet with fake money, and even partake in voting for rule changes.
With weather events such as ‘jazz’, players being able to die and be resurrected, and something about a peanut god, it is clear that Blaseball will be missed. Unfortunately it was just too costly in terms of finances, time, and resources, meaning that the developer The Game Band has had to make the difficult decision to bring it to a close after 3 years of joy, heartbreak, and absurdity.
Duke Nukem Remastered: AI Art
Blaze Entertainment has revealed a remaster for Duke Nukem 1 and 2, including some album art with some… weirdness going on with the fingers, a typical sign that it was generated using an AI tool.
AI generated art has been facing a lot of controversy recently, as the tools often use original artists’ works to train, and are considered ‘lazy’ and ‘cheap’, whilst AI artists claim that it is nothing more than utilising a unique set of skills to create something ‘new’.
Blaze Entertainment initially double-downed, but has posted a statement acknowledging that the original image was AI-generated, and that they would be commissioning a new piece of art to replace it.
Gays? In My Overwatch?
Not if you’re in countries with intolerant laws towards the LGBT+ community. All Pride content will be opt-in, giving players control over how they want to express themselves, or if they’re rather not express themselves at all.
In selected countries, the option won’t be available at all, with Pride content being blocked.
“Our values are to protect players… You can equip a cosmetic in one country and travel to somewhere else with different rules and get in trouble. So we feel like it’s our responsibility to help protect people like that” says Aaron Keller, an Overwatch 2 developer.
And now for some upcoming games!
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie (PC, PS5, XSX, Switch)
Mask of the Rose (PC, Switch)
Pro Cycling Manager 2023 (PC)
Speed Crew (Switch)
Tour de France 2023 (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)
Greyhill Incident (PC, PS5, PS4)
Black Desert Online: Land of the Morning Light expansion (PC)
WWE 2K23: Race to NXT Pack DLC (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)
Don’t be afraid… It’s just a Zed Games podcast with some gaming news, a review from Paul on the award winning visual novel A Space For The Unbound, and at the end of it all Zahra talks nightmares while reviewing The Fridge is Red.
DnD OGL Update Aftermath In the aftermath of the Open Game Licence 2.0 leak, Wizards of the Coast have struggled to claw back their fanbase as DnD Beyond servers suffer under the load of mass subscription cancelations. Additionally, several big third-party publishers who would be affected by the new royalty system have tabled their intention to either jump ship or create their own licensing system. Kobold Press teased “Project Black Flag”, Matt Colville’s MCDM Productions is working on both a new OGL as well as a new TTRPG, and Paizo/Pathfinder looking to collaborate on an open RPG license. In response, a statement was released insisting “It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.” They also tried to clarify stating that any future revisions “…will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds.”
Activision Blizzard… when will it end? As the saga continues, here’s the current headlines coming out of the company that can’t stop making waves.
Activision Blizzard has refused to acknowledge the union that formed late December. Management at Proletariat issued the statement that leadership “…has always been pro-worker“ and that employees “…deserve some time to process (sic) and to better understand its potential impacts.”
The Microsoft Activision Blizzard merger that was announced in January 2022 has had new challenges with the European Union filing an antitrust challenge and Google parent Alphabet Inc, and Nvidia are filing for unfair advantages in the gaming market. These join other objections placed with the US Federal Trade Commission to be investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority, and finalised in April.
In some hearsay arguments Activision Blizzard claims that it was Netease that rejected the six-month extension of their partnership. Various sources cite irreconcilable differences including Netease president referring to an Activision Blizzard executive as a “jerk”. Because of these, after January 23rd several titles will no longer be accessible in China, most notably World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Starcraft, and Overwatch 2.
Doors Close on Stadia As the curtains close on the experiment that was Google Stadia, refunds have been processed for everything but Pro subscriptions… but payments were also paused the day shutdown was announced. But what about all that hardware you don’t have? Well, if you did manage to get the controller, Google haspushed a self-serve tool to enable Bluetooth connections with the gamepads. Meaning, your Stadia Gamepad may be obsolete, but at least you can still use it on the hardware you didn’t get because you used Stadia. Oh! Remember that guy who had 6000 hours in Red Dead Online on the Stadia who was pleading for a character transfer? Well, not only did Rockstar organise a transfer, he also got a gift box from the company. Unfortunately, Rockstar has announced they will no longer be releasing any major content for Red Dead Online, instead focusing on the upcoming GTA6.
And finally, a moment for the death of Google Stadia…
And now, for some upcoming games. On Friday January 20th, the next instalment in the series Fire Emblem Engages and its Wave 1 DLC are coming to Switch. World War 1 horror survival Trenches emerges from Steam early access onto PlayStation, Xbox, & the Switch. Tuesday January 24th, the RAM-hungry, RPG, fantasy shooter Forspoken is coming to PC & PS5, and deckbuilding & strategy boardgame mashup Mahokenshi comes to PC. And on Thursday January 26th, for that nostalgia hit Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is coming to PlayStation and Switch. The strange Hitman: World of Assassination hodgepodge that collects Hitman 1 to 3 as well as Hitman 3: Freelancer Mode are all coming to PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch. Fight the nightmares of a girl in the twin stick shooter NeverAwake, coming to PlayStation and Switch.
Overwatch 2 has replaced Overwatch 1 Love it or hate it, Overwatch has had a huge impact on multiplayer gaming since it was first announced. It released to huge acclaim, continued strong for some years before losing a fair part of the player base recently. Blizzard, still embroiled in scandal, hopes to win back those players, and more, with the recent launch of Overwatch 2. Overwatch 1 officially died on October 4th when Blizzard turned the servers off to prepare for the sequel’s launch shortly after. Leading up to the shutdown many players declared ceasefire so they could come together and celebrate the game they all enjoyed. Servers for Overwatch 2 went live in the early morning of October 5th. Huge amounts of players logged on to try out the game but were unfortunately met with long queues and error messages caused by the surge in popularity and a DDoS attack. Blizzard president Mike Ybarra was quick to assure the community that “Teams are working hard on server issues with Overwatch 2,” he tweeted. “We are humbled by the excitement of players and will continue to focus on issues and get players into the fun! Thanks for your patience. Thankfully these hiccups are slowly being smoothed out and fans should soon be able to explore the game more freely. It’s still too early to know how Overwatch 2 will be and energy it has received already could be a good sign for the IP.
CD Projekt Red Announces Ambitious Plans CD Projekt Red – the developer behind Cyberpunk 2077 and the Witcher Games- has released a strategy document outlining their direction for the future. Notable was a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077, currently codenamed “Project Orion” that is promised to “prove the full power and potential of the Cyberpunk universe.” There isn’t much more information on the game at this point but it’s safe to assume it won’t be complete for many years. In the meantime, Cyberpunk fans can look forward to the upcoming expansion “Phantom Liberty” which is currently in its final stages of development. If you’re yet to be convinced that the Cyberpunk name is turning a corner, or perhaps it’s just not for you – CD Projekt Red has also announced big things coming for the world of the Witcher. There are multiple games in production including:
Project Polaris: A story-driven open-world RPG built on the legacy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Project Canis Majoris: Story-driven, single player open-world RPG set within The Witcher universe.
Project Sirius (Developed by The Molasses Flood): An innovative take on The Witcher universe telling an unforgettable story for existing Witcher fans and new audiences.
On top of expanding their current IP’s, CD Projekt Red also announced they are working on an entirely new addition – codenamed “Hadar” still currently in the concept phase. The strategy document also promised the studio would be “Introducing Multiplayer to most of our new games to enrich the single-player experience”. CD Projekt Red has a rocky past for development, but they seem to be looking to the future with unshakeable enthusiasm. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Dream Face Reveal Hugely popular youtube creator “Dream” revealed his face on October 3rd after many years hidden behind a digital smiley-face mask. The 23-year-old boasts over 30 million subscribers and owes a lot of that popularity to Minecraft videos & streams. In the video he revealed the move was necessary for him to branch out as a content creator and meet some of the friends he’s made online. He also spoke about the stress of people constantly trying to uncover his appearance and that he was looking forward to no longer being “bunkered up”. Many fans were excited to see his face after so many years, many others like me, had no real knowledge of the streamer but were drawn to the spectacle of the event. As of writing, the face reveal video has over 4 million views. There was no great shock or revelation- just a normal regular face. Still, he has faced an onslaught of cruel comments that’s all too common for similar content creators. #PutTheMaskBackOn trended on twitter, flooded with comparisons to cartoon villains and cruel mockery. In contrast, Dream ended his face reveal with positivity. “Anyone can be under the mask, and I don’t want my face reveal to take away from that fact,” he said. “Dream could have been anyone from anywhere.”
As Indonesia rolls out new content moderation laws, many online services have been affected, including Steam, PayPal, Epic Games, and even Yahoo.
Companies that are considered private electronic system providers have to register with the Indonesian government’s database to operate in the country. Any companies that failed to do so by 27th July have been banned.
Aside from making it challenging for those in Indonesia to access video games, the requirement is part of an overarching law that is intended to allow the Indonesian government to obtain data about users, and remove content that “disturbs public order”.
Microsoft, Google, Apple, TikTok, Netflix, Spotify, and many other service providers have successfully registered a licence, allowing them to continue to operate.
As of now, Valve is attempting to comply with the requirements, and PayPal has been temporarily unblocked.
Steam Bans Award Logos
The practice of putting award logos and review scores in key art on Steam is coming to an end. Valve is introducing new rules for store key art, or “store graphical assets”, prioritising cleaner images for the storefront.
Review scores, award names, and promotion of a different product are all banned starting from September 1st. If developers want to promote a major update, they can use “artwork overrides”, which slaps a separate layer over existing images.
Valve states that the move is prompted not only to reduce visual clutter, but also to avoid review scores that may be outdated, or even the sketchy practice of making up award names to make a game look a little fancier.
Diablo Immortal Player is Alone
Diablo Immortal has been having some bad press, but now the focus is on a player who has spent $142,000 AUD on the MMORPG, effectively locking him out of the game.
Diablo Immortal’s system allows players to invest financially in order to upgrade their character, a system often called ‘pay-to-win’, and it definitely works. Now this player’s barbarian is so overpowered that he has won hundreds of matches against other players, with very, very few losses. As a result, the game simply will not match him with another player, as there are simply none who could be fairly matched against him.
The player has contacted Blizzard hoping for a way to resolve this problem, however with an upcoming event called the Rite of Exile, he is unable to assist his clan, and with being stuck in matchmaking purgatory, he is unable to even qualify.
He isn’t exactly being met with sympathy, with some players saying that ‘he got what he paid for’.
Activision Blizzard’s Free-To-Play News Earlier this month in an Overwatch press release, it was revealed that the new evolution would be going free-to-play to commit to “…an always-on and always-evolving era… for many years to come.” Since then it has been revealed that they will be going against the model announced at BlizzCon 2019, where Overwatch prime and Overwatch 2 could play together. Rather, that because the monetisation model will now be free-to-play, the release of Overwatch 2 on October 4 will replace Overwatch. The Overwatch development team have confirmed that “Content unlocked in Overwatch will automatically carry over…” and matchmaking ratings will not be reset. In other news, the release of free-to-play Diablo Immortal in China, possibly its biggest market, has been delayed by NetEase at the last minute. It is speculated that this is not due to the newly found hidden mechanic of upgrading legendary gems pushing the average monetisation cost to max-upgrade a single character to over $500,000, but rather a Weibo post from Diablo Immortal’s official account which translates to “Why isn’t the bear stepping down…” This account has been banned from making further posts and hosting company NetEase could see further restrictions by the government which would affect other Blizzard titles distributed by NetEase in China such as Warcraft and Overwatch.
Minecraft gets the banhammer out Microsoft has upgradedMinecraft server moderation powers with in-game chat reporting coming to Realms and private servers to Java Edition in the 1.19.1 update. Players will now be able to report in-game chat text for violations of Minecraft’s Community Standards from within private servers. These reports will be reviewed by moderators, who will have the power to ban accounts permanently from online play, and may expand to the marketplace and Minecraft Earth. Players may lose access to their own worlds, as per Bedrock-edition Xbox bans. Reviews of bans will be available with players able to submit a case review if the ban does not infringe on Minecraft’s Community Standards, invalidate the End User Licensing Agreement, or break the Terms and Conditions.
Nintendo Direct Mini goes Big Nintendo had a Direct Mini Partner Showcase June 28 announcing several new games coming to the Switch in the next year. Some notable announcements were… Return to Monkey Island is coming to Switch as a console exclusive. The highly praised and long awaited game from the original developer and writer Ron Gilbert, Return to Monkey Island was announced as “launching first for consoles on Nintendo Switch this year.” So, while no release date has been set, it sounds like Switch players will be first to walk the plank. Persona 5 is finally coming to Switch. After being announced at the Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase this year as coming to PC, Xbox, and Game Pass October 21st with Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable coming in the future, Switch fans were feeling left out. But after rumours swirling around for years, it has finally happened. The Switch port for Persona 5 Royal has been confirmed to be releasing the same time as Xbox, leaving only those with a Steam Deck and Switch able to go portable with this JRPG. Oh yeah, and Portal 1 & 2 are now out on Switch, so that’s also a thing that happened.
This week in game releases On Thursday June 30 comes comedic adventure cross space combat game The Galactic Junkers to PC, Xbox One and PS4. The 30th is also day of the DLC’s, where Cuphead gets The Delicious Last Course for PC, Xbox One and Switch, Monster Hunter Rise gets Sunbreak for the Switch, and Outriders gets the Worldslayer “Upgrade” for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. And Friday July 1st the EA Sports Racing Sim F1 22 comes to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. Also on the 1st, the 8-bit collection Parasite Pack containing 2D platformer Flea! and the grid-based challenge Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is coming to Xbox, PlayStation, and the Switch.