Tag: Gaming

Court, Allegations, and More Court

Apple Refuses to Testify

Apple is being urged to provide a witness for an upcoming hearing on app stores and digital competition. The demands by Senate Judiciary Committee leaders are becoming more persistent after Apple abruptly decided to not provide a witness a couple of weeks before the hearing. The hearing had been planned for weeks, and Apple had been in discussions with the staff on who would testify on Apple’s behalf.

Apple’s App Store has been under scrutiny by lawmakers over the previous year. In 2019 an investigation had been launched into competition in the tech industry, which includes Apple’s App Store, with a focus on the 30% fees Apple charges app developers. Last year, Fortnite publisher Epic Games sued Apple with the accusation that the company is violating US antitrust laws after the game was removed from the App Store. Apple had won a similar case with Epic Games within Australia, when Fortnite had been pulled from the App Store for listing an alternative method of playing the game that would allow players to pay Epic Games directly, at a 20% discount.

The hearing is set to take place on May 3rd.

French Court Overturns Dismissal Ruling for Ex-Quantic Dream Dev

Revisiting a 2018 court case against Quantic Dream, a French court has overturned the decision of that unfair dismissal case. In 2018 it had been ruled that the employee had been forced out of the studio due to toxic and targeted behaviour.

The court has come to the consensus that the alleged misogynistic, homophobic, and racist culture at Quantic Dream wasn’t the reason for the employee’s departure, so the unfair dismissal ruling doesn’t apply.

The allegations included mentions of a collection of 600 photoshopped images that were alleged to contain discriminatory jokes and altered images of employees. Four former Quantic Dream employees cited the information uncovered by that report as the grounds for their unfair dismissal claims. The court sided with one of those employees, but that has been overturned, as the employee knew about the image in question when it was created in 2015, and therefore was unrelated to their departure in 2018.

Now that individual has been ordered to pay Quantic Dream $12,000.

Quantic Dream is using the ruling as a dismissal of those toxic culture allegations as a whole.

Hearthstone Esports Player Suspended over Abuse Allegations

Hearthstone Esports has announced that one of the game’s Grandmaster tournament players, Paul “Zale” Nemeth, has been suspended due to allegations of domestic abuse.

After nearly three months of silence following these allegations coming to light, and a day before the 2021 Grandmasters season begins, Blizzard finally responded, saying that they are “aware of the allegations and are assessing the matter”. Many Hearthstone fans have expressed relief and approval for Blizzard’s response, and the act of suspending the player.

And now for some upcoming game releases!

April 15:

  • Ashwalkers: A Survival Journey (PC)
  • Carly and the Reaperman (PC, VR)
  • SaGa Frontier Remastered (PC, PS4, Switch)
  • Sea of Thieves Season 2 (PC, XSX, XBO)

April 16:

  • Super Meat Boy Forever (PS4, XBO)

April 20:

  • Don’t Forget Me (PC)
  • Maskmaker (PC, VR, PSVR)
  • MLB The Show 21 (PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)

April 21:

  • World Splitter (PC, PS4, Switch)

April 22:

  • Buildings Have Feelings Too! (PC, PS4, XBO, Switch)
  • Orbital Bullet (PC)

April 23:

  • Judgement (PS5, XSX, Stadia)
  • NieR Replicant ver1.22474487139… (PC, PS4, XBO)

Blizzcon Turns 30 & Nintendo Direct

Nintendo Direct

Earlier this week Nintendo Direct also showered us with announcements for upcoming games, updates, and events. The 2011 Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword, originally released on the Nintendo Wii, is being remastered for the Switch. It will release on July 16th this year, accompanied by new joy cons modelled after the Master Sword and Hylian Shield. Nintendo also announced the 3rd game in the Splatoon series, this time setting the bright colourful characters in a vast barren wasteland. The game will be released early 2022. As part of Super Mario’s 35th Anniversary Celebrations, a Mario-themed DLC is coming to Animal crossing, featuring costumes, decorations, and furniture. This free update can be downloaded from Feb 25th. Smash hit rogue-like Hades will get a physical release for the switch on March 19th. There are far too many announcements to list them all, but we can’t leave out a new title in everyone’s favourite Nintendo series, Miitopia.  This title boasts an entire kingdom for your Miis to explore, after you’ve dressed them up with the new makeup and wig features that is!

Blizzard Entertainment Celebrates 30 years at this year’s BlizzConline.

With this came a slew of announcements of things we have to look forward to. More and more information is coming out about the development of Overwatch 2, like character updates, new maps and details of the leveling system. Diablo II is getting a remaster which will arrive later this year on both PC and Console. PC players interested in public testing for this game can sign up for the chance here.  Word of Warcraft will be getting a huge content update for the recent Shadowlands expansion called Chains of Domination. And Hearthstone fans can expect a new expansion “Forged in the Barrens” and an entirely new mode of gameplay called Mercenaries coming later this year.

Unfinished Nintendo 64 Game

An online group of game preservationists Forest of Illusion have recently shared a leaked build of Dinosaur Planet. This game never made it to release but was repurposed for the GameCube as StarFox Adventures. This copy of Dinosaur Planet was obtained from a private game collector and dates back to December 2000. It is a late build of the game and fully playable but has a fair few bugs throughout and will need hacking to play all parts of it in an emulator. Strangely, this is not the first cancelled game from Rare to be released online this month. Earlier an unreleased build of the XBLA remake of Goldeneye was also shared.

Games this week:

The 25th of February sees the release of Ghost n’ Goblins Resurrection and Lawnmower Game: Racing, both on the switch.

Bravely Default 2, sequel to the popular JRPG, gets its worldwide release for the switch on February 26th.

Re-Logic boycotts Google, CD Projekt: The Saga Continues and Nemesis Patented

Terraria port for Google Stadia Cancelled.

After backing down from a threat to leave Australia over new regulations, and pulling the plug on in-house Stadia game development, the last thing Google needed was more bad press. Well, Google has dug their own grave as Re-Logic, the creators of Terraria, have cancelled their planned Stadia port after Google disabled and removed access to the Re-Logic YouTube account and attached Gmail and Google Drive accounts due to an alleged Terms of Service violation.

After three weeks trying to resolve the issue, co-creator Andrew Spinks turned to Twitter, burning any bridges with the multinational company by publicly tweeting “Doing business with you is a liability.”

Re-Logic has confirmed that while they will continue to support all current purchases of Terraria on Android and Google Play, any future games by Re-Logic will not be supported on Google platforms.

Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt; the Saga continues.

Since the PC release of Cyberpunk 2077, mods have been coming to the rescue to help with some of players’ issues and desires. Sadly, the way in which Cyberpunk 2077 utilised external DLL files allowed hackers to remotely execute code when malicious mods were installed on a player’s computer. This security vulnerability was quickly fixed by the Cyberpunk 2077 community before the 1.12 Hotfix was released by CD Projekt just three days later.

CD Projekt has also announced via twitter that they were recently the victims of a cyber-attack. The announcement included a copy of the ransom note with the attacker claiming to have copied the source code for their most popular games and an unreleased version of the Witcher 3 as well as other files. CD Projekt has stated that to the best of their knowledge, none of the compromised data contained any player or user data. The incident is currently under investigation by the relevant authorities. After the announcement, CD Projekt’s stock dropped by 5%.

Nemesis system patented.

After almost 6 years since the original application, Warner Brothers has finally had the patent approved for the Nemesis system. Originally utilised in Monolith Productions’ Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the Nemesis system is where hierarchical NPCs are physically and hierarchically effected by player interaction. The patent is already being criticised by developers for the vagueness of the patent’s wording and how this may stifle any similar games from being developed.

The patent is optioned for renewal till 2035.

And finally, some game releases:

On February 11th you can look forward to the console release date of 1bit minimalist RTS game Death Crown, the Switch Release of the action-adventure roguelike Undermine, and the PC and console release of the side scrolling adventure Little Nightmares 2.

We also have Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury coming to the Switch on February 12th. And the Mega Man X-inspired multiplayer roguelike 30XX (thirty ex-ex) is coming to PC on February 17th

Windbound Review

sunsest over water with the word "windbound"

Developer: 5 Lives Studios
Publisher:
Koch Media
Music:
Zander Hulme
Platforms:
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Released:
28 August 2020
Genre:
Adventure, Role-Playing, Survival

Narrative

All around you stretches the ocean. A beautiful giant, but an unforgiving beast. Right now, you have no boat and you’re treading water looking at the short a small distance away. You haven’t been given a story to go off, all you have is the ocean and the land in front of you. There’s a shrine on the first island, you walk to it and climb to the top where a shell hangs in the air, waiting for you to wrap your hands around it.

Windbound has an impressive and gorgeous art style that brings you into the world. If you imagine Zelda: Windwaker meets The Breath of the Wild then you’ve pretty much got Windbound in a nutshell. The art style is reminiscent of both the aforementioned games. I believe it’s rated for ages 12 and up which makes a lot of sense since you play as Kara, a lone traveller who has to hunt, gather, and craft to survive. The game has a steep learning curve when it comes to combat.

Gameplay

You can pick from two different play styles: adventurer and survivalist. I’ve been playing on adventurer mode to focus on enjoying scavenging and crafting. The bonus on adventure mode is that when you die (and you will) you get to keep all of your stuff when you respawn. In survival mode, you lose most of your items,09 and you are sent back to the first level at respawn. I would have found this incredibly frustrating as a player so opted to play the more relaxed, adventurer mode. I think I died about four times in the first level even on adventurer mode. I almost gave up, but before I did, I read a couple of guides to get a good understanding of what I needed to be able to thrive in-game. I’d like to point out, that survival games aren’t my usual choice for games and so I wasn’t as used to the kinds of mechanics I was about to run into. It takes time to learn how to play Windbound, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours exploring islands and the seas.

There’s one mechanic that I find both equally cool and frustrating. Each time you die and respawn, you’re sent to a different set of three islands. They all serve pretty much the same purpose; you look for shrines and collect keys while trying to upgrade your boat. If you’re playing on survival mode, you will lose your boat each time you die, forcing you to start over completely from the beginning. Except for this time, you’re armed with the knowledge you have gained from your previous playtime. Ultimately, the more time you spend playing Windbound, the better you will get at it.

Crafting is a big part of your gameplay and you will need to get good at it to survive. Crafting is another reason that I really adore Windbound. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from collecting parts for items and then seeing them done. You get to do a fair amount of cooking because you can slowly die from starvation. Food replenishes health and stamina, but uncooked food can do damage to your health. I spent more time crafting and cooking than I did trying to fight anything. This paid off pretty quickly because I was able to travel further and for longer without having to stop and refuel.

I loved spending time upgrading my boat and was constantly looking for ways to upgrade everything. Your boat acts as a good way to store extra items, but your overall storage is still pretty limited. I’d like to see more opportunities for furthering storage quicker into the game though. Not a lot of game mechanics are explained to players and there are some little side quests that should help you feel the world is a little bit bigger. I’m missing the jerky I left cooking on an island in level one. I can’t go back to it.

Music

I think one of my biggest highlights for Windbound is that the soundtrack was something I could have happily had on in the background while doing work or writing my review. Zander Hulme has done an impressive job of creating aural cues for the player. There’s a variety of pieces that play in the background of the game while you’re exploring the islands. You can easily discern between the general gameplay music and the combat music. Enemies nearby are often cued through the music. Hulme has created expansive, atmospheric soundscapes that give the game world a grand size.

 

Accessibility

I have included a section on accessibility because I am a disabled player that relies on some varied accessibility options to be able to fully enjoy games. The comments in this section are by no means a negative criticism of the studio. Accessibility options can be difficult to implement and I think that 5 Lives Studios has done a wonderful job for a small development studio. However, this section is included as more of a guide for players who may experience some disabilities.

I think younger players or players with cognitive disabilities might struggle with the gameplay. The gameplay isn’t that straightforward. It took me about half an hour of gameplay before I realised that there were actually objectives and a bit of a story that was happening. Tutorials pop up on the screen as you encounter new items and unlike other games, they stay until you’ve had a chance to read through the entire thing. However, I couldn’t find these tutorials later to reaccess them. I believe there are some guides online. So if you’re a player with a cognitive disability, it may be worth keeping a guide open while you play.

There aren’t other characters that you really interact with in the first couple of hours or so which means that there isn’t a

 

massive need for subtitles, but as a player who is hard of hearing, I was disappointed when some enemies were too easily able to sneak up on me. I had no idea what was going on until the battle music was playing and half my health was gone. I was able to chat with Zander Hulme about this and he recommended turning down the sound of the music while keeping the enemy sounds on full. It helps to be able to play the game with a good sound system or headphones. Unfortunately, the game does not include a visual tracking system for enemies. As a hard of hearing player, I have to get a little bit creative about playing with the sound up.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to remap the controls on my PC. I am unsure about the ability for remapping on other consoles. There are generally workarounds for this if you have a physical or motor disability that requires the ability to remap.

Colourblind players may run into some issues but for the most part, Windbound’s art style and colour palette are distinct enough for colourblind players to enjoy without too many issues. My experience with colourblindness is on the guidance of my colourblind partner.

Overall Experience

Overall, Windbound is a tough but thoroughly enjoyable experience. I think players over the age of twelve, who enjoy survival adventure games will have a blast with Windbound. While I ran into some issues as a disabled player, I think that 5 Lives Studios has done a wonderful job in creating something that is both visually and aurally appealing to players. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of survival RPGs, the art style alone in Windbound is enough to keep you coming back. It is far too easy to just spend hours hanging out on an island cooking, crafting, and ignoring the narrative objectives. So if you want a fun Sunday afternoon game, Windbound is the one for you.

Factorio Review

Developer: Wube Software
Publisher: Wube Software
Music: Daniel James Taylor
Platforms: PC only – Windows, macOS, Linux
Released: 14th August 2020
Genre: Simulation / RTS / Building / Management / Tower defence

Factorio in my house has a reputation, for my wife knows I will be lost for two days, rave of mathematical ratios and alien biters, and somehow gain the focus of a cramming uni student abusing caffeine and amphetamines.

But what is this, my game of 2020 and drug of choice?

Factorio was successfully crowdfunded in 2013 and released into early access on steam in early 2016. I first played Factorio later that year after binge watching youtubers creating vast belted megafactories. Visually, it is a top down, 2.1D isometric game like RTS games circa 1999, while also having a dreary diesel punk aesthetic. Despite this the world is rich with biomes, natural fauna, and easily identifiable resources to feed the factory.

Game play wise it is a beast of real-time strategy, automation, resource management and base defence.

The basic premise of Factorio is that you have crash landed on a planet and need to survive. This is really only present in the tutorial and when you set off your first rocket, the endgame trigger. The rest of the game is the dieselpunk version of Man Vs Wild while you set your mind to the machinations of the machine, engineering an extravaganza of a mega-base while protecting yourself from the natural life forms attracted by your pollution and hell bent on destroying your creations.

To create your first factory you mine, belt, chop, hand craft and build before progressing to automating with belts, inserters, and trains. The final step, if you are brave enough, the birth of true automation with flying robots, wires and storage all controlled through logistics and programming.

Your factory is now vast and consuming, both in resources and time. You stare bleary eyed at not only how long you have been staring at the screen, but how many hours you have now accumulated in your steam profile. Calculations and spread sheets strewn across your desktop as you have calculated the exact ratios of ore to final products.

This game captivates the engineer in me. The organisation to compact and replicate, modularise and expand. But I’ll be honest, I play on peaceful. For without this, those biters, worms and spitters come in ever increasing waves. They expand and search for weaknesses, and one day you look up from your hard work and hear the alarm and they’re chomping at your power station and everything goes dark.

Speaking of sound, the atmospheric sounds are inconspicuous. I don’t mean that in a bad way, rather everything sounds right for the situation. Footsteps on grass, sand, concrete and metal all sound right for the situation. The intervals between the musical interludes are filled with the wind in the wilds, or if you are in your factory the hum of machinery and belts, the crackle of arching electrics or the soft bells of sonar from the radar tower.

The musical composition of Daniel Hames Taylor highlights the desolation and feeling of isolation while still remaining calming and optimistic, it is also memorable and repeated enough so that years after playing, reopening the game and listening to the game’s music brings back instant nostalgia to the hours of gameplay you previously invested. However, should the music grate on your psyche, as in most things in this game, there’s a slider for that.

Overall while I’m sure you can tell I enjoy the game there are some teething issues for new players. The controls and key board shortcuts are extensive and while the tutorial shows a good selection of the basics, the huge selection of inbuilt shortcuts can be overwhelming to learn. There’s also little after the tutorial to tell you what or how to do things. You are left to your own devices, a research tree, and your own brain to guide you. This tends to lead new players to restart their first map a few times before getting into their stride. And when you set up your map everything has a slider, from the progression of the biters to how rich ore patches are, how many natural cliffs, water fronts and trees you need to cut down, destroy or pave over to expand your ever growing factropolis.

The developers Wube Software continue to actively develop the game, while also developing new toys and squashing bugs. The modding community is also highly active and can add different gameplay loops and complexities to your engineering marvel.

If this has wet your whistle for a play you can find a demo available at factorio.com, or you can buy if from that same website or from steam.