Rundown (12/02-12/08) Transformation In Process!

As some of you may have noticed, over this past week I have been changing bits and pieces of this site around in an attempt to clean up the residual rubbish that pops up when running a website for… over 6 years.  Now, this is really just a change in title, the removal of old (bad) content, and little else, as I am still going to be updating this site with reviews, rundowns, and the occasional novel. If anything, this is a change made to facilitate this site’s future, as after spending the better half of a decade fumbling through this wackadoo writing experiment devised by 17-year-old me, there are some things that I really should revise.  I would also want to change the theme, but a lot of the alternative offerings are lacking in what I want, so I’m going to just stick with the theme I copied from Divine Intervention.  For now anyways.

Starting off with a follow-up, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata, after being leading a  subsidiary and having that subsidiary taken away while several projects were cancelled, has established his own studio.  Only offering a brief comment that it is set to launch in January 2019 and will be known as JP Games, there is little to speculate about here.  Yet I wish his aspirations the best, hope that he manages to get something together within the next 5 years or so, and hope that this project has a far less convoluted development history than Final Fantasy XV.  

Speaking of convoluted issues, Starbreeze Studios, who are best known as the publisher for the upcoming Psychonauts 2 and System Shock 3, and the developer of Payday 2 have recently filed for reconstruction, which is basically an alternative for bankruptcy where a company retains their usual operations.  This is honestly a pretty long-winded story that has to do with them pursuing various partnerships, license-based work, and investing a lot of money into a game based on The Walking Dead, which has underperformed since launch and was welcomed by a very mixed reception.  It is honestly a bit beyond my circle of interest, as I have not been following this story as it unfurled, but it is nevertheless troublesome whenever a game developer/publisher undergoes problems like this and as always, I hope for the best for them.  Oh, and then they were raided because of insider crimes… What?

Um, anyways, for the past decade or so, Steam has been more or less ubiquitous with PC gaming as a whole, with it having effectively monopolized the market, with stragglers like Origin, Uplay, GOG, and Battle.net being there, but in a limited capacity.  However, a new player is throwing their proverbial hat into the ring as Epic Games is launching their own digital games storefront that boasts a hand-curated collection of games, support for streamers and other influencers, and a revenue split that provides Epic Games with 12% of the proceeds over the usual 30%.  

The success of a storefront such as this might just be possible, given how it uses the same client as Fortnite, which is a pretty amazing killer app all things considered, but the store is also being designed with the aid of the person behind Steam Spy, Sergey Galyonkin, who aims to make a storefront without the same issues that have accumulated around Steam.  A storefront that provides more exposure, avoids the toxicity that comes with forums, better relays information to players, and gives the developers more useful tools to manage their store pages and promote their games.  Having levied a large amount of criticism towards Steam over the years, I am naturally very pleased to see a competitor popping up that aims to dig in deep with these various issues, and could help go to break up the monopoly that is Steam.  Though, they seem to have forgotten the whole concise and intuitive UI thing, as the current form of the launcher and storefront feels bizarrely stilted compared to Steam, Origin, or even UPlay.

However, another method Epic are employing to encourage users to migrate to their storefront involves securing exclusive deals with various games, though I am still not entirely sure if they are timed exclusives or actual exclusives.  Timed exclusives I completely understand, as it encourages people who want to play those games right now to check out the storefront right now.  Actual exclusives however, I take some umbridge with. Because then those games are gated off to the player until they are willing to set up and account, install the required software, and manage their purchases across one more digital library.  

As for what games Epic are positioning as their own exclusives, they include titles like Hades, the latest game from the makers of Bastion and Transistor, which takes the form of a hand drawn isometric hack and slash action game with a discernible edginess to it, which launched in Early Access.  Ashen, a Souls-like adventure game with an emphasis in online comradery and a very muted visual style.  Along with Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, a prequel to that child friendly survival horror game that is popular with streamers.  With later titles including a PC port of the 2011 cult PS3 classic Journey and the latest game from the developers of Abzu, The Pathless, going to inspire hope in the future offerings of the storefront.  Oh, and they are offering free titles every other week, which is pretty cool of them.

While I personally am a bit dubious about this whole situation, and will likely need to see how things play out in the ensuing weeks to make much of a judgement, I must applaud Epic Games for brilliantly advertising the launch of this storefront by coinciding with The Game Awards.  Which coincidentally brings us to the main topic at hand!  While I personally have not watched the awards proper, as I had class to attend when they aired, I did catch some abridged snippets and have to say that the show has seen a great deal of improvements in its presentation, being far more focused, exciting, and overall entertaining, while also promoting inclusiveness and even giving an award to a black gay furry for being super good at fighting games.

Starting with a very unexpected title, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was announced as a Nintendo Switch exclusive published by Nintendo themselves and developed by Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja, set for a 2019 release.  From the reveal trailer, it seems to be what people would largely expect from a new entry, a crossover beat ‘em up filled with various characters from the expanded Marvel universe, with no restrictions due to movie rights or the like, and a bright and colorful visual style.  It seems like yet another nifty multiplayer game for the Switch, and while I am sure that its exclusivity will be a point of frustration for some, there’s always Square Enix’s Avengers project… which is apparently still coming… even though it has been two years since its reveal and nothing has really been shown.

With Ubisoft being keen on turning Far Cry into an annualized franchise due to the immense success seen in each release, they announced Far Cry: New Dawn, a sequel to Far Cry 5, which apparently ended with a chunk of Montana being decimated by a nuclear bomb, which in turn brought on a post-apocalyptic lifestyle and allowed two young black women with blonde hair to become the rulers of this new “world” which is coincidentally filled with highly saturated pink flowers.  While that concept does intrigue me, and I am actually a bit curious as to how this subject matter will be handled by Ubisoft, I am aware of what Far Cry is, what the formulas is, and assume that this is little more than a new campaign built on Far Cry 5… because it is set in the same location.  Regardless, the game will be out for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15th, 2019.

Following rumors that seem to have circulated for a solid year and a half, Activision Blizzard have announced that they are remaking yet another classic PSOne era Crash Bandicoot title in the form of Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.  A very self explanatory remake of the 1999 kart racer with all the visual flare and detail one would expect after the N.Sane Trilogy back in 2017.  The title is set to release on July 21st, 2019, this time aiming for a debut on PS4, XBO, and Switch, with a PC release still being likely, but I doubt it is much of a priority for the publisher.

Back in the tail end of 2017, Take Two Interactive announced a new publishing label for independent games from third party studios, announcing that they picked up the Kerbal Space Program, the developmentally troubled Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, along with unannounced Obsidian RPG, before they were bought by Microsoft.  Well, they finally chose to show off the later two, with Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey positioning itself as a sort of experimental linear platforming adventure game that follows the evolution of what would eventually lead to the human race as they battle to survive in the harsh climate of Africa, circa several million years before common era.  While I am still a bit unsure as to what this game will shape up to be, it is nevertheless interesting, and is set to release in 2019 for the expected PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Meanwhile, Obsidian’s title was revealed as The Outer Worlds, which can liberally be described as a more comedic rendition of Fallout: New Vegas set in a heavily corporatized far flung future with outlandish science and a focus on creating something that reminds me more than a little of Kurt Vonnegut’s work.  From what was shown so far, this seems like a game that Obsidian genuinely wanted to make and are being given the resources needed to bring this project to life. With the developer ensuring that the game will be chop full of the interactive and branching narratives the studio is beloved for, while all working with what looks to be a pretty straightforward first person shooter backbone.  The Outer Worlds will launch sometime in 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  

There were various other titles shown, such as a tease for Dragon Age 4, which is supposedly not coming until the ninth generation.  The Last Campfire, a short cutesy adventure title from Hello Games that involves creatures that look like a cross between the characters from Journey and IloMilo rowing across the world to light up fires that reveal dormant evils of some such.  A new MMO from the Ark: Survival Evolved developers by the name of Atlas, which involves pirates and various mythological monstrosities for good measure.  The first in-engine trailer for Psychonauts 2, which looks pretty slick all things considered.  Mortal Kombat 11 was announced, and looks to be a pretty straightforward entry in the ultraviolet and utterly goofy fighting game series.  Oh, and there was also The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, which is an updated version of the beloved 2013 adventure game with new endings, slated for release on PC and consoles.  Yeah, I can dig it.

Though, just about everything I recapped was comparatively small potatoes next to the reveal of the first season pass character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which somehow managed to surprise just about everyone, as it was revealed that Joker, the protagonist from Persona 5, would be coming to the ultimate crossover.  I find this to be immensely exciting news, but that is mostly because I view this as a near confirmation that Persona 5 is coming to Switch, as why else would a character like this come to Smash if not for the sake of cross promotion?  I mean, sure, there is evidence you can point at where newcomers from third parties did not mean that new games were coming until several years later, but… shut up!  I want Persona 5 on the Switch so I can play it, is that really too much to ask?

Oh, but that was not enough announcements for this week, as this weekend brought forth the announced return of The Walking Dead: The Final Season after the sudden closure of Telltale Games.  With Skybound Games having picked up the development duties of the project, and numerous former employees with the intention of, at the very least, bringing this saga to a conclusion.  With the third of five episodes set to release on January 15th, 2019. Meaning that at least the saga that both saved and to a certain degree doomed Telltale Games will at least see a proper conclusion.

A few months ago, Judge Eyes was revealed as the next project from the Yakuza team, set to be a different sort of crime drama that was filled with the expected level of tension and absurdity that fans of the Yakuza titles would have come to expect, with a localization being announced shortly thereafter.  More details have emerged, with the project now being known as Judgement.  The title is currently set to launch for the PS4 in Summer 2019, where it will boast a full English dub, a move that I honestly did not expect at all, but will assuredly go to further the appeal of this wacky action-packed Japanese crime drama, as some people just don’t like watching things with subtitles.

Shifting away from various game announcements to a more serious subject that I caught wind of later on in the week, earlier this year I made note on Sony’s shifting stance towards sexual content in this games over the past year.  After much speculation, a statement was finally issued regarding this matter from the Sony Japan president, who said the following:  “Regarding the regulation of the depiction of content, it’s simply a matter of matching global standards.  As for the freedom of expression… we have to think about what might be unpleasant for children and shield them from those things while also thinking and assessing ways to find a balance [for that expression].”

Now, many have looked at this and assumed that this is just Sony not wanting children to get a hold of saucy lewds, but I think that viewpoint is not taking into account how Japanese is a difficult language to translate, and the children referred to in this statement can easily refer to the game characters themselves.  Ergo, they do not want to put out games wherein sex stuff happens to children or people who look like children. Also, based on conjecture from a recent episode of the Superbestfriendcast, this may largely be a result of them shifting offices and positions from Japan to America, and policies changed within part of the process.

Regardless, this is a trend that has not only been affecting the Playstation platform, but also Steam, which has recently began banning games with high sexual content and young looking characters.  This is regardless of the described age of these characters, and while Valve have not released an official comment on this matter, they likely do not want to be accused of selling what can be seen as child pornography to some.  Which I suppose is a pretty reasonable way to end the Steam vs. sex games saga that has played out throughout the past year.

MaoMao Discovery Team was one of the titles banned from Steam.

As for my thoughts on this matter, I find this to be unfortunate, yet completely understandable.  I personally believe that people should be fully entitled to masturbate to or enjoy whatever the heck they want so long as they are not harming anyone by proxy.  As such, I find just about all drawn child pornography or the like to be fairly innocuous and harmless so long as the masturbator is not foolish enough to try having sex with an actual child, which I want to reiterate  is an utterly reprehensible act. I personally have enjoyed media that featured what could be described as illustrated child pornography, such as the visual novel Saya No Uta and certain doujin TG comics, but its legality varies from around the world, and it remains a very messy subject.  As such, I cannot really blame either Valve or Sony for wanting to clean their hands of this subject by not allowing it on their platform, as is their right.

After all, platform holders are free to do whatever the hell they want with their platforms, such as Tumblr, which recently decided to remove all adult content from their site, which had been a sort of bastion for adult-themed artists for years now.  I mean, sure, I get it, they want to make things clean and are now indiscriminately reporting things at random, causing much of the site to collapse as far as I could tell.  Though this does represent a problem for a lot of artists, as there exists no good alternative at the moment.

Deviantart does not allow so much as erections to be shown nowadays.  Pixiv is Japanese, and not very good at sharing content like Tumblr was.  Twitter is kind of a garbage fire where content easily gets buried and is hard to find unless one knows the right terms to use, with hashtags failing to be a useful as tags.  While Newgrounds is probably the best current alternative, but it functions more like a gallery site… and a bastion for the now mostly outdated art of flash animations.

I bring this up periodically, but I used to love Newgrounds, and would spend days watching whatever weird game parodies came by way.  Stuff like Super Mario Bros. Z, Final Fantasy Gil Quest, The Legend of Zelda UO, the incredibly dated Bowser’s Kingdom, those Randy-Solem Mario videos that had insanely good animation and a lot of pooping and farting in them, and all the good stuff that Kirbopher used to make, and still does, like this half-rubbish half-amazing parody of The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny by Lemon Demon, but instead it is about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Header image is from the manga Magical Trans! by Kashii Yutaka.

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