Wherein I discuss my national bias, the organization or organized crime, and an immersive sim funded by the power of China!
A while back, I did an analysis of the games I played, whether or not they came from a Japanese or western developer, and if I strongly preferred games from either group, as represented by a score I gave them on a scale of 1 to 10. I came up with mostly similar results in regard to both of these factors, with 53% of the games I played being of Japanese origin, 47% being of western origin, and the average score for both rounding out to around 6.5. After gathering and examining this data, I walked away from this informal self-experiment feeling as if I was free from any cultural bias in my preference or the games I played
Now, over a year later, I found myself casually looking over my list of recent reviews and noticed that almost all of them are of Japanese games. In fact, aside from Cthulhu Saves Christmas, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, and Student Transfer Scenarios, I have not played a western-developed game in 2020. Oops! And to make things worse, I also looked over my current schedule for game reviews, which is populated all the way through August, and found that there is only a single game from a western developer anywhere on that list. Double oops!
Why did this happen? Well, no reason really. I play whatever games I’m interested in, and while I can recognize and understand the difference between games based on the nations and cultures they come from, I do not make decisions based on this information. Games are games, and I just play whatever catches my fancy at any given moment. But I do admit that it is amusing how I accidentally fell into the weeb hole of almost only playing Japanese games so quickly after preaching how I was an equal opportunist game liker.
Beginning this week with an announcement that began last week and concluded the following week (I don’t know, just roll with it), 2K Games has announced Mafia: Trilogy, an attempt to revitalize the staggered and not exceptionally well-received Mafia series in the form of three titles. Mafia III: Definitive Edition, meaning the same 2016 game with all the DLC and patches included, which you could have gotten for $10 a while back. Mafia II; Definitive Edition, a remaster of the 2010 title that unfortunately looks worse than the original PC version. And also Mafia: Definitive Edition, a ground-up recreation of the original 2002 title that, while discarded as a GTA clone on consoles, garnered something of a niche following on PC. All three of which are set to release for PS4, Xbox One, Steam, Epic Games Store, and also Google Stadia.
This strikes me as a very… odd decision, as the franchise really does lack much of a pronounced following, and given the clout available to 2K Games, one would imagine that they would be more interested in other projects. Instead, they are pushing this, and handling the release of these games in a very… odd manner that necessitated the use of an FAQ. Mafia II: DE and Mafia III: DE both released digitally on May 19th for $30 each. Mafia: DE will be released on August 28th for $40. Mafia: Trilogy is a digital compilation of all these titles, selling for $60, and buyers will be granted access to these games as they release.
But what about owners of the Steam version of Mafia II and all owners of Mafia III? Well, they’re in luck. Owners of the PC version of Mafia II automatically received a free copy of the Definitive Edition, and the original game has been retitled Mafia II (Classic). This original version on Steam is no longer available to purchase, but it is included as part of Mafia II: Definitive Edition. Owners of Mafia III, on the other hand, get Mafia III: Definitive Edition, meaning their game gets renamed and all DLC for the game is now free. So, yeah, pretty cool how they are offering people free things for owning these older games, but, again, I still do not know how worth it this marketing push is. If anything, this all seems like a way for 2K to get blood from a stone after Mafia III’s poor performance, as detailed in a Jason Schreier article back in 2018.
This next story is quite a doozy, and I think in order to properly explain how extremely messed up, and kind of hilarious, this turn of events is, I need to start all the way at the beginning, with a truncated history of System Shock in recent years. System Shock is a series that has been done dirty for… the past 15 years or so. The rights to the games, and the IP itself, were originally owned by developer Looking Glass Studios, who also developed the Ultima Underworld series, along with the first two Thief games. They were quite a name in their heyday, but poorly performing titles and canceled projects caused the studio to shutter its doors in 2000, where the rights to System Shock were misplaced for years.
In 2012, Night Dive Studios did the needed digging and acquired all rights to the series, along with the source code, from Meadowbrook Insurance Group, allowing them to release both original and enhanced versions of both System Shock and System Shock 2 on PC. This was all well and good, and in the process of bringing these titles back, Night Dive got the idea of doing a full-on remake of the first title as it is a bit too… archaic for most modern audiences. After holding a 2016 Kickstarter, Night Dive was able to begin the development of a full remake of System Shock… which did not go very well. Between switching from Unity to Unreal, rethinking the design principles of the original, and feature creep, things were looking grim, so the team was rearranged and development started anew in 2018. Currently the game is now poised to release in 2020, and based on recent gameplay demos, it looks pretty good.
Though, that is not the only System Shock game put into development around the same time as, back in 2015, Night Dive gave the rights to develop a System Shock 3 to OtherSide Entertainment. OtherSide being a studio founded by former employees of Looking Glass Studios, and developers of Underworld Ascendant, which was not received very well. At all. Because they were a small upstart of a developer, OtherSide needed money to fund their ambition, and their search for a publishing partner brought them to the doors of Swedish publisher Starbreeze. Which is where things get really, really messy.
The long and short about Starbreeze is that the company put way too many resources into way too many projects, and those projects were not going well, with the biggest problem child being Overkill’s The Walking Dead. The development of the title was disastrous, Starbreeze was low on liquid assets, they had to file for bankruptcy, and several of their projects were either canceled or put on hold. If you want to know more about the myriad missteps of Starbreeze, I would recommend watching Overkill’s The Walking Dead – What Happened? By Matt McMuscles, or reading The fall of Starbreeze by Wesley Yin-Poole.
The relevant point in all this is that the money that System Shock 3 lost its publisher back in February 2019, and OtherSide Entertainment took on those duties themselves. They continued the project themselves, released a pre-alpha gameplay sizzle reel back in September 2019, but have presumably been looking for alternative finance sources for a while. So, on May 20th, 2020, OtherSide announced that Chinese publisher Tencent will be publishing System Shock 3.
Let’s get this out of the way. Tencent is a company that gets a bad rap due to how close they are with the Chinese government. But in order to do big business in China, you kind of have to be, and nothing I have heard about them makes their actions seem particularly egregious. Yes, they collect people’s data and such, but they are ordered to do so by their government. Do I think that the Chinese government does some pretty bad things? Yes. But I have nothing against China as a country beyond that, and until given a clear reason to, I view Tencent as just another major corporation. Let me know when they start abusing workers, paying them in company scrip, or running human cattle farms. Then I’ll jump on your hate train. But until then… I’m glad they managed to secure another publisher, and hope this game turns out to be a worthy successor to the much-beloved System Shock 2. Because I like it when things are good.
That should be it for this week. I scrounge for something else to talk about if I really wanted to, but my roof is being redone so my house is full of the sound of banging hammers, and my eye has been irritated all day, so I’m not really in the mood to write anything more than I have to. Anyhow, until next time, see ya.