Wherein I discuss my ‘addiction’, a PlayStation predator, Tencent’s new pseudonym, The
Spike Video Game Announcement XIX, Android coming to home computer (for real this time), and the expanding veil of PlayStation.
As someone who loves routine, regiment, systematic approaches, and having a consistent schedule, it should come as no surprise to hear that one of the things I plan and base my day around is my addictive electronic entertainment of choice, Draglia Lost. Though, the manner in which I engage with this gacha live service differs depending on what time of the year it is.
When Daylight Savings Time ends during the winter, I start up the game at midnight to do my dailies, use up my stamina resources, and collect my various goodies, before going to bed sometime between 00:30 and 01:00. Then, I get up between 7:00 to 7:15, eat an apple, do the daily bank activity for my mother, and then start playing sometime around 7:45, and play until I use up my accumulated stamina. After I take care of my weeklies or new content, then I do not play the game until sometime in the afternoon (the time varies wildly) where I use up enough stamina in order to not reach the cap before midnight, so I can repeat the process over again.
When DST is in effect, the reset is at 01:00 in the morning for me, and I do not stay up late enough for that. So I just take care of my dailies in the morning, play to avoid capping off my stamina in the afternoon, and play once more sometime within the time range of 21:00 and 00:00 to avoid capping off my stamina.
Now, one could look at this and say that I am allowing a game to control me, but I do not really see it that way. I enjoy having regularly scheduled tasks that I need to perform. Things that I do every day, but with a fair bit of wiggle room. And that is something that these quite bite-sized meu-driven mobile live services are really good at.
The first story that hit the media circuit this week was that PlayStation Senior Vice President, George Cacioppo, was fired after appearing in a pedophile sting video. This was accomplished by People v. Preds, a sting operation with the noble goal of luring pedophiles out of the dark and exposing them as the predators they are. Posing as a 15-year-old boy on the hook-up app Grindr, People v. Preds lured Cacioppo outside of his home on December 3rd, 2021 at 4:30 AM, where they recorded him as he silently closed the door behind the videographer.
Over the following three days, video spread across gaming news sites, and Cacioppo was swiftly terminated from his position. Thus effectively ending any future career this 64-year-old man might have.
Hearing this news, it’s easy to fall into the rut of thinking that the world is suddenly overflowing with pedophiles as people in power use said power to solicit or demand sexual favors from children. But truthfully, this is something that has been a problem for about as long as people have been able to amass power in society. Nowadays, with phones capable of streaming video to the internet, it is simply easier for people to catfish pedophiles out of the shadows and expose them as the abusers they truly are.
While this is a sad story, and likely heartbreaking news for Cacioppo’s friends, family, and co-workers, I am glad that stories like this are frequently emerging, and that the mainstream media universally agree that pedophilia is a bad thing. I’ve said it before, but I will reiterate it here. I that I think the worst people in the world are child abusers, and few are more reprehensible than sexual abusers.
Speaking of abusers, the dirty dastards at Ubisoft jumped the gun and take their place as the first AAA game publisher to make use of NFT technology with Ubisoft Quartz. The technology is going to be used to create limited edition equipment in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which will have the player’s name and a serial number embedded somewhere in the model. These will apparently be cosmetic only, but, knowing Ubisoft, that will not last for long.
As for how this will work, things will begin with a trial run where players of the PC version of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint are given these cosmetic equipment NFTs, which Ubisoft is referring to as Digits. Yes, Digits. They, curiously, are not calling them Quartz, and are instead they are using one of the most basic computer-y sounding words around.
After acquiring these NFTs, these Digits, players will then be able to sell them on verified third-party marketplaces such as Rarible and Objkt, but they also need to open a crypto wallet capable of storing these Digits, and… immediately I am seeing this entire situation as a deluge of problems with no discernible benefit.
The world of crypto is decentralized, unregulated, and is filled with people who have lost millions in assets over the years. In the world of crypto, if something is lost, then there is no way to recover it, and that will happen to certain players. Ubisoft cannot simply reset their crypto wallet passwords, and it is entirely possible for Digits to be lost forever, or for a hacker to steal them from other players. This lack of security, ability to lose value, immediately makes Digits less favorable than standard account-based purchases, and is something that Ubisoft naturally does not mention when describing the benefits of this new service.
This all looks like a recipe for one fine mass, and Ubisoft has been thoroughly roasted for launching such a value-less platform, leading them to unlist the announcement trailer after it was slammed with dislikes on YouTube. Which begs the question of if they will actually continue going through with the platform, or if they will recognize this as a giant waste of resources… which it is.
However, it is not a giant waste of energy, as Ubisoft is at least doing blockchain integration right. Ubisoft Quartz is based on the Tezos blockchain, which is Proof-of-Stake and leaves a carbon footprint so small that it’s barely worth discussing unless there is an even smaller alternative. Though, people do not seem to care if it is the ‘good kind’ of crypto, given how many people have learned to dislike crypto for other, mostly valid, reasons.
Continuing the train of bad news, you know how Tencent has been building an international gaming empire by acquiring or investing in various game developers from Japan to Europe to the United States? Well, they revealed the next phase in their grand plan by announcing a worldwide publishing label by the name of Level Infinite. Meaning that Tencent is now going to publish games worldwide, but is going to call themselves Level Infinite to obfuscate their involvement. It’s a common corporate tactic that has been in use for… decades, at the very least.
Personally, I just view this as yet another ‘name to avoid’ in the games industry, which is becoming an increasing problem for customers who want to be ethical and not support abusers. Now, I originally positioned supporting Tencent as a not-so-good idea because of their ties to the Chinese government, but I did not have much hard data to support that. But then I was linked to a Human Rights Watch article about how Tencent feeds the Chinese Communist Party with data that they used to suppress its citizens’ human rights. While I am inclined to say that Tencent is doing this because they have no choice, which is probably true to an extent, this still makes supporting them an iffy prospect, and something I would not encourage.
With that preamble taken care of, the major story this week centered around Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards. Or as I like to call it, the Winter E3 press conference. Over the past few years, after it started raking in tens of millions of viewers, a lot of people began placing a great deal of importance on The Game Awards. They started viewing its awards as having more worth and merit than others due to the theatricality of its productions… Which has never made much sense to me.
Personally, I always considered The Game Awards to be the same basic entity as the Spike Video Game Awards, which was always a crass and male show that was more about advertisement than anything else. While The Game Awards is FAR better, it is still an advertisement first, and an awards show second. Which is what I want, actually. I enjoy seeing new game announcements and footage. But I could not care less about award shows, so I will not be commenting on the awards part… because I did not actually watch the show. I just watched the trailers after the fact.
However, I will comment on the pre-show controversy. People got into a bit of a fuss after discovering that Activision Blizzard president Rob Kostich (not to be confused with CEO Bobby Kotick) was on the advisory board for The Game Awards. Which, when paired with the announcement that TGA would not discuss the ongoing controversies around Activision Blizzard, stirred up a spin-off controversy about the integrity of these awards. Now, this is all not a good look for TGA… But I would never expect them to kick off or remove an advisor. I do not expect TGA to stand for anything more than reinforcing the status quo and doing some light lip service to the popular independent game of the moment. And I think that anyone who expected TGA to stand for anything is… foolish.
Due to the sheer number of announcements, let’s get through the ones that I just have a sentence or two of things to say about, and then move onto the substantial stuff.
- The PlatinumGames and Square Enix action RPG, Babylon’s Fall, was shown again, and this time without a godawful painterly blur filter. But the game still looks like it is constrained by technical limitations, as it is trying to facilitate 4-player action combat on the PS4.
- Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is being ported to PS4, Switch, and Steam on March 17, 2022, which is an announcement that Persona and fighting game fans have been hoping to hear for a while. This very much was not the Persona game people wanted to see on PC, but it’s something, and not worth shaking one’s tail at.
- Known abusers and peddlers of not-so-good narrative-driven games, Quantic Dream announced they are working on a story-driven Star Wars game, Star Wars Eclipse. Which they revealed via a CG trailer that looks far beyond the scope of anything the studio has done prior to this, and likely does not represent the final game much at all.
- Monolith Productions (The developers of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, not the developers of Soma Bringer) announced a Wonder Woman game with a vague teaser, no details, and no release window.
- Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League got a gameplay reveal, and the game is looking to be a surprisingly robust action title with a wide range of movement options and characters with meaningfully different playstyles. It also lacks the identifiable ‘restrained’ look you see with a lot of modern multi-platform titles, as the game is a PS5 and Xbox Series exclusive.
- SteelRising was given a CG trailer that obfuscated the fact that it is basically a Bloodborne clone, but with 19th century automatons instead of Lovecraftian monsters. Though, it’s a Spiders joint, so it’s hard for me to expect the crispiest gameplay.
After the release of Alan Wake Remastered earlier this year, it really should come as no surprise that Remedy is planning on revisiting the series with a sequel, the predictably named Alan Wake 2. A title that was announced via an ominous CG trailer featuring the titular hero, but in a less composed and dignified disposition than he was back in the original title, and the interquel side game. No details were revealed beyond that, a 2023 release window, and a confirmation that the game will launch for PS5, Xbox Series, and Epic Games Store (as Epic is funding this project).
Speaking of Epic’s continued moneyhatting endeavors, they also paid Square Enix a fair bit of money for the timed exclusivity rights for Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. Nothing much to say other than how it’s great to see this game finally make it to PC, where players will be able to enjoy the game at dazzlingly delightful frame rates and resolutions. Plus, I will have the opportunity to buy it, and finally give this game a fair shake, as I’m pretty much 100% certain that I would have a wonderful time with it. And I would not need to wait very long at all (if I wanted to support the Epic Games Store), as Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is hitting EGS on December 16, 2021.
Bokeh Game Studio is where a lot of staff from Sony’s Japan Studio migrated after Sony decided they did not want to put out creative or experimental titles with lower budgets. But seeing as how the studio is headed by Keiichiro Toyama of Silent Hill and Siren fame, it should be no surprise that their first title is a horror game known as 野狗子: Slitterhead. The title was only revealed via a mix of CG and what I think is in-engine footage, but the general gist provided by the premise is more than enough to capture my interest. As it is a horror game where the monsters are… basically the sort of thing you would see in the classic manga series Parasyte.
Creatures who wear the appearance of humans, yet have the ability to morph and mold themselves into something horrific. Their faces unfurl to show rows of sharp teeth, bodies contort to create something more spider-like than bipedal, and other wack transformations that are more delightful than creepy. Though that might just be me. The trailer was brief in regards to meaningful content, but it appears to be on more of the action end of horror, which is the end that I can personally mesh with. Personally, I do not really enjoy the more atmospheric stuff, as when I get scared, I just wind up playing rap music in my brain, and that makes all the spookies go away. (Racism intended.)
野狗子: Slitterhead does not have any release window or platforms, but its body horror and dingy-ass urbanized Asian environments are something I can absolutely jive with.
The upcoming open world Sonic game, previously dubbed Sonic Rangers based on metadata uncovered by fans, has been formerly revealed as Sonic Frontiers via a series of CG cutscenes and some panning environments. Based on these though, it is clear that this is an open world, or rather an ‘open-zone’ Sonic game where the player has a lot of freedom in where they go and how they get there. Also, the environments adopt a more naturalistic vibe than anything the series has aimed for since Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) which, funnily enough, now represents the halfway point in the life of the Sonic series.
Due to the limited nature of the footage shown, there is not much to gleam without deeper analysis, but I am already a touch worried about this game, given the performance during these panning shots and the fact that we never see how Sonic moves in these wide open environments. This, combined with the fact that the game is targeting a release on Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC, leaves me shaking in uncertainty. Though, I am spiritually obligated to play Sonic Frontiers after it launches in Holiday 2022, so I guess it does not matter if it is good or not, as I’m gonna play it anyway.
After its reveal earlier this year, I was fairly lukewarm on the Saints Row reboot, and wanted to see more footage before I passed a more firm interest or judgment in the title. Which is precisely what Volition and Deep Silver provided with this 2 minute video of in-engine snippets that do a far better job of showing off how low-key silly and environmentally compelling this game truly is.
Driving against an oncoming train while your opposition burst into a vibrant flurry of red and yellow. Wingsuiting between environmental terrain to evoke the feeling that you, the player, own this city, and can do whatever the hell you want with it. Motorboats that can skirt across a coastline, which I was genuinely not expecting, given how this is a desert town. Hoverboards are a thing. You can still do dumb shit like kick a punk in the nuts, and do crotch chops. And there are loads of goofy sci-fi weapons, which will always be cooler than whatever military surplus trash that a real boy Cartel would use.
I also appreciated the environmental diversity featured here. The neon-laced grimey alleys. Older historical districts with architecture that almost looks like it is from another country. Modern skyscrapers that pierce gallantly upward, right beside standard brick buildings that… are probably hot as balls during the summertime. And an expansive desert that, while bereft of the same detail, is also free from much ground-level environmental obstruction.
It all makes me genuinely excited for this game when it comes out on August 23, 2022 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
So, this is a game I never expected to see a numbered sequel. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was a 2011 third-person action game and shooter that received a solid reception at launch, but developed a stronger following after it was distanced from the hectic 2011 holiday season. By all accounts, it was a solid and perfectly competent action game that was firmly a product of its era. And it was pretty much the only game of its ilk in the popular Warhammer series, which gave it longer legs and apparently enough acclaim to warrant a numbered successor.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine II is developed by Saber Interactive and published by Focus Entertainment, and was revealed via a mostly CG trailer that ended in 7 seconds of gameplay snippets afterwards. Looking at these clips alone, the title looks like a shooter and action game where the player assumes control of a man decked out in 100kg super armor and carrying 50kg of weaponry. It does not sound too compelling, but the game has that ‘next gen’ flourish to it, as the game is curiously only targeting PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.
Honestly, it seems like a pretty direct sequel, though I do find it curious that the original developers, Relic Entertainment, are not involved here. Although, it was odd that they, a company known for their real-time strategy games, made a third-person-shooter in the first place.
…And that’s it for The Game Awards announcements. Now to discuss something entirely different!
Android apps coming to Windows 11 is something that got me really excited about upgrading to a new OS, but there were, and are, two big caveats with this new feature. Microsoft has not fully launched the feature yet, and they partnered with the Amazon Android Marketplace instead of Google Play, where most Android apps are found. However, apparently sometime during TGA, Google teased and then formally announced that they are bringing Google Play Android apps to Windows 11. Which I personally am excited for, as that means I could conceivably play Dragalia Lost in widescreen and with some sort of controller support. Though, beyond my selfish desires, I must admit that it is nice to see Google offer proper support, because then maybe Android emulation will truly take off on PC.
To close out this jam-packed week, Sony announced yet another studio acquisition, but it was nothing major. The publisher simply acquired another support studio by the name of Valkyrie Entertainment. Valkyrie is a Seattle-based support studio who I never heard of until this announcement, but they have a lengthy history working on some pretty significant projects. Including League of Legends, Forza, and most notably, both God of War 4 (2018) and God of War 5: Ragnarok (2022). Based on those last two, and the fact that Sony published Valkyrie’s 2015 free-to-play strategy game, Guns Up!, it really comes as no surprise that Sony purchased this studio.
While there could be an argument about the independence of a studio like this, I think that the people at Valkyrie are probably pretty stoked to be a support studio owned by one of the biggest video game publishers around. Sure, they probably won’t be able to make any more independent projects, but working on prestigious titles that sell millions upon millions is probably worth losing independence or creative control.