Come Toast To A New Year with Zed Games! Get out your fireworks, bread, butter and soul crushing existentialism and raise your breakfast utensils to this week’s Zed Games. Join the Team of Zahra, Hazel and Rani while they chat Gaming News, Hazel tests the skill ceiling in Toasterball, while Zahra questions reality in the walking simulator The Invincible from Starward Industries.
Stalking NFTs With big brands like Nike and Adidas jumping on Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, it would seem like a mistake for game developers not to do the same. However, Ubisoft’s experimental NFT sales for Ghost Recon Breakpointappear to have sold just 15 NFTs since their release on the 9th of December. Jumping on this bandwagon, GSC Game World, developer of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, announced on the 15th of December their intention to introduce NFTs via auction in January of 2022 and later. These NFTs would range from “genesis” collectables to the rights to be scanned using photogrammetry and inserted into the game as an NPC “metahuman”. Within 24 hours after the publication went live, GSC Game World was hit with community backlash and responded with a tweet saying, “Based on the feedback we received, we’ve made a decision to cancel anything NFT-related in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.” but not before doubling down in a now deleted tweet attempting to reason with the community. It must be noted that in the third quarter of 2021, NFT games such as Sky Mavis’ Axis Infinityreportedly generated about 2.32 billion US dollars in revenue, paving the way as further incentive for future developers to integrate NFTs into games.
Winning Games In an unprecedented year for games, Hades now sits alongside Oscar-winningMedal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s Colette for being the first game to win a prestigious industry award in 2021. In this year’s Hugo Awards, the World Science Fiction Society used its bylaws to create the one-off 2021 Best Video Game award. Many games were nominated with Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games and Animal Crossing: New Horizons from Nintendo coming runners-up to the award winner Hades from Super Giant Games. While Super Giant Games were unable to be there, Greg Kasavin, Creative Director and Writer of Hades had the following to say on twitter.
Wish I could have attended the #HugoAwards in person. I wasn’t able to make an acceptance speech there on behalf of the team though did have a few words here. I’m grateful that the awards are recognizing work in this category, much less the work we did! pic.twitter.com/S9bfSp1i8H
“We are incredibly honoured to be the first-ever recipient of a Hugo award in the category of best video game. We, myself included, grew up experiencing these classic works of science fiction and fantasy, from Ursula K. Le Guin to Philip K. Dick, what have you. That’s when we first came across the Hugo Awards name, of course, as kids. “To have earned this distinction all this time later, especially alongside such an incredible slate of nominees, games of all shapes and sizes, from teams big and small, it really means the world.”
Keep an eye out in the future as there are rumours floating around online that this gaming category may become an annual Hugo event.
Now for some Gaming Bytes:
Finishing First HowLongToBeat’s stat breakdown of game releases in 2021 show that Resident Evil Village is the most completed game this year with 2.6 thousand completions of the game so far narrowly beating Metroid Dread with 2.2 thousand completions.
CD Projekt Settles CD Projekt has settled with suing investors over the release of Cyberpunk 2077 to the tune of 1.85 million US Dollars. The lawsuit accused CD Projekt of misleading investors over the release quality of the game and suing for damages incurred by this.
North America Unionises North America finally has its first ever video game studio union, formed at the Vodeo Games Studio, developers of Beast Breaker that released for PC, Mac, and Switch this year. The Vodeo Workers United union formed to protect independent contracted workers and salaried staff to maintain a fair and equitable workforce and lock in some of the perks they love… like the 4-day work week they currently enjoy.
Sony Faceplates Finally After exerting legal pressure to stop the creation of personalisedfaceplates for the PS5 late 2020 and more recently against dbrand in October of this year, Sony has finally released their own personalised faceplates with 5 different colour offerings of Midnight Black, Cosmic Red, Nova Pink, Starlight Blue, and Galactic Purple.
Now in upcoming games: On the 23rd of December the 3D platformer puzzler Scarf released by Uprising Studios has you forming an unbreakable bond with your dragon who is also your scarf on PC and Stadia. Teratopia and Tunnel of Doom are releasing their Switch ports on the 23rd. On the 24thTunnel of Doom is also porting to the Xbox One and releasing on the 28th of December, the Switch port of Lacuna.
Nintendo in the Headlines On the 18th of August a Pokémon Presents by Nintendo revealed several updates to their mobile Pokémon franchise the most notable being that Pokemon Unite would be coming to mobile with crossplay available on September 22nd. The Present also announced two new Pokémon are slated to join in future updates; Marmoswine & Sylvion Nintendo also confirmed the release of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl for the 19th of November, and a surprise Switch lite Dialga & Palkia Edition available on November 5th. For this generation remake they showed off partner Pokémon, customising your pokeball with stickers to personalise the pokeball release effects, revitalised mini-games, outfit personalisation and that personalising your underground base with statues will gain you access to specific types of Pokémon hideaways new to this remake. Lastly, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It was confirmed this game will take place in Hisui, in an early age of the Hinoe region, and in it you will survey, observe and capture Pokémon. In new developments to this generation, you will be able to be attacked by Pokémon outside of combat, and there will be two new combat “styles” of strong and agile. This change puts a strategic edge to the move economy as they will allow for heavier but slower, or multiple attacks per round of combat. Nintendo also showed off new region-specific evolutions and type changes, as well as mounts available for fast travel within this open world game. Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be released on January 28th 2022.
Another feather in Nintendo’s cap is that for the week of August 2nd to 8th the Switch held every slot in Japan’s Top 30 Famitsu’s chart. No single console has held this title since November 1988 when Nintendo’s Famicom managed the same feat. In other Nintendo news, earlier in the year the company was awarded $2.1 million in damages for copywrite and trademark infringements against Mattew Storman, owner of RomUniverse, a website hosting pirated ROM versions of Nintendo games. This week a Californian court has ordered Storman to keep RomUniverse offline and destroy all illegal Nintendo ROMs by August 17 after he threatened to continue to operate the site and failed to pay the first $US50 monthly instalment for damages to Nintendo.
Special Olympics “Gaming for Inclusion” hosted by Microsoft. Microsoft has teamed up with Special Olympics to create the inaugural bracketed e-sport tournament named “Gaming for Inclusion”. The event has evolved from the Xbox Virtual Gaming Event of May 2020, which aimed to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation due to the pandemic. This time round, Special Olympians and Unified partners will participate in a bracket-style tournament over several days in September with the aim to “…showcase the power of inclusion through sport.” Each day of the event is dedicated to its own game; Sunday 12thRocket League, Monday 13thForza 7, and Tuesday 14thMadden 22. Participants are awarded the chance to play with celebrity supporters of the Special Olympics to be hosted on Saturday 18th. The event will be organised by Microsoft’s online e-sports platform Smash.gg and live-streamed on Xbox’s Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel.
And now for some Game Bytes; Activision Blizzard let go of two of the employees seen in the 2013 picture of the infamous “Cosby Suit” following the lawsuit announcement last month. Jesse McCree and Jonathon LeCraft’s departure was announced internally without an official statement. Journey to the SavagePlanet’s developers have reformed under the title Raccoon Logic after being unceremonious dropped following the failure of Google Stadia. They retained the rights to Savage Planet and have received investment funding from Tencent to bankroll an unannounced future project. Boyfriend Dungeon have promised to update their content warning after complaints from their player base that the warning doesn’t go far enough. Developer Kitfox Games quickly apologised via Twitter for any hurt caused and reassured players the warning would be updated shortly. To learn more about these headlines head over to our Facebook page @zedgameau.
And finally, the upcoming game releases! On Friday 20th the release of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is coming to PS4 and 5, Heart Chain Kitty is coming to Switch, and Madden 22 is coming to PC, PS 4 and 5 and Xbox One and Series X. On Tuesday 24th, Alien franchised online team shooter Alien: Fireteam Elite comes to PC, PS4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X. Turn-based tactical RPG King’s Bounty comes to PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. And the long-awaited sequel Psychonauts 2 comes to PC, and Xbox One and Series X. Finally, on Thursday 26th, the arcade party game Have a Blast comes to PC and Switch, and PCGamer’s 2013 Game of the Year and its sequel Spelunky and Spelunky 2 come out on the Switch.
Netflix Making Moves into Games In the early hours of Friday the 21st of May, The Information published an article claiming Netflix had approached “veteran game industry executives” over the past weeks looking to hire someone to “oversee an expansion into videogames.” Within 3 hours Netflix had informed severaloutlets that they were seeking to expand on the success of games like those based on Stranger Things and the interactive stories of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and according to GamesRadar Netflix is looking towards a subscription based service akin to Apple Arcade. This confirms what Netflix’s COO and Chief Product Officer Greg Peters announced in April;
“There’s no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and important modality to deepen that fan experience…”
Switch Not Getting GamePass In documents released in the Epic v Apple legal battle a discussion has been unearthed between Microsoft and Nintendo around the topic of bringing xCloud – the Game Pass streaming service – to the Switch. While the documents were heavily redacted it implies, according to gamesindustry.biz, that Microsoft was willing to compensate Nintendo to fulfill Microsoft’s Head of Gaming’s Phil Spencer’s ambition of “…bringing [sic] Game Pass to any device that somebody wants to play on.” from 2019. Sadly, at least for Spencer, according to the documents talks seem to have dissolved into corporate politeness with Nintendo declining Microsoft’s offer.
D&D Goes Bumper in 2020 In a bumper year for tabletop gaming Wizards of the Coast has boasted that 2020 was their best year ever and 7th consecutive year of growth. With more interest than ever in Dungeons and Dragons, and increased sales even after releasing free content for the “Stay at Home Play at Home” initiative the company has announced crossover content and more in the future. Demographics released show a fairly even split in age, and a 60:40 split between the sexes showing that while this hobby is perceived to be male dominated, the ratio is changing.
Research Released about Women’s Experience of Gaming In response to an increase in women playing games, recent research by Lenovo and Reach3 Insights have revealed that while, on average, women play the same games as men, they receive a disproportionate amount of harassment based on their gender. Of the 900 women surveyed from China, America and Germany 70% faced judgement of their skills in game based on their gender, 65% experienced gatekeeping and 44% received unsolicited relationship asks while gaming. 59% of those surveyed also said they used non-gendered or male identifiers when playing online to avoid conflict. The research concludes with 71% of women agreeing that increasing the presence of women in gaming ads could foster more inclusive behaviours in gaming.
Upcoming Game Releases. On May 27th, the psychedelic, genre-busting beat ’em up Kung Fu Jesus comes to PC. And the pixel art, Police Action RPG Pecaminosa come to PC, and Switch. On May 28th, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World comes to PS4, and Switch. On June 1st, the co-operative espionage adventure game Operation: Tango is coming to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. And Stonefly, a Ferntree Gully take on a mech adventure is coming to PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch. And the life sim, Hokko Life, is coming to PC on June 2nd.
Perched on the edge of a cliff, you don’t know what’s ahead of you, but with a leap you spread your wings, embarking on a journey.
The destination isn’t important, the joy of Dune Sea is in the journey. The process. Watching the landscape go by, making your way through the air, finding and coaxing friends to join your ramshackle flock, avoiding obstacles, learning how to soar with acrobatic grace.
Dune Sea is a side-scrolling adventure game, if adventure meant a meditative zen-like experience with a little bit of a challenge. With a simple, low-poly art style, soothing music, and a steady pace, Dune Sea is exactly what I needed to play, when everything was too overwhelming, too noisy, or just took too much energy.
Gameplay is soothing, if that wasn’t clear already. It introduces controls simply and slowly. First, let’s figure out how to hop off the cliff and spread your wings. Next, figure out how to fly quickly, change directions, and how and where to land for a rest. A some of the controls are explained to you, but a lot you are left to figure out. You’ll pick up some little collectables and learn that it’ll give you a bit more stamina. You’ll also learn what happens when you do run out of stamina.
A lot of it is very straightforward, and what you’d expect from a game like this. But you have a few interesting tricks to learn. If you encounter a flock of birds, honk at them! One of them may decide to tag along for a little while. And with enough bird friends, you’ll be able to unlock new and interesting pathways, and move past difficult obstacles. Is it necessary? Not really! But who doesn’t want a ragtag flock who can help you blast rocks?
Sometimes, the lack of explanation can be frustrating. I had quite a lot of trouble at the very first launch, where I was told to press two buttons, but I didn’t really know how to, or how long, or in what order.
I’m not afraid to admit I crashed off that cliff at least half a dozen times. But once the mechanics of flight clicked, it clicked, and the rest just fell into place. It helps that it is a forgiving game, with plenty of checkpoints. You don’t get punished harshly for a mis-timed dive. Instead the game goes ‘hey, let’s give that another go’. So you spend less time struggling, and more time just enjoying the journey.
In addition, there is a Zen Mode, where you don’t even have to worry about obstacles or crashing. You can choose to only have to fly.
Like the simple art style, and soothing gameplay, the music just ties it all together. You don’t HAVE to listen to the music, but I think you need to. It’s so gentle, melodic, easy to allow into the background of your flight. It really ties it together, giving pace to your experience. Gentle guitar tones, violins in the background, an echo of the melody rings in the background. It feels open, and warm. I wouldn’t fall asleep to it, but I found it relaxing. I had a better meditation experience playing this game, than I did in my last yoga class. Everything just compliments each other so well, woven into one experience.
There’s no rush, no glaring need to keep flying, no overwhelming drive to DO things. It just lets you fly.
What is Dune Sea? It is a journey, an experience, that serves no other purpose than to just let you experience it. Your destination doesn’t matter. Your goals can be to just stay off the ground. You can build a giant mega-flock, or you can just see where the game takes you, for as long as you want. It’s not exciting, it’s not busy, it’s sort of boring. But in the way that paddling down a quiet river in a canoe, and you look up at the sky and watch the clouds drift by is boring. In the way that sitting by a stream, and tossing sticks into it and mentally betting on which stick will reach the big rock first is boring. In the way that sitting on the train and watching the landscape change and the buildings go by is boring.
It just felt like, for a few minutes at a time, I could just breath. And fly.
That is Dune sea.
Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 2nd of December 2020