First with the bad: This was a bad week for fans of the website Joystiq in a matter of a couple of days we saw the announcement that AOL would be shutting down most of their blogs including the 10 year old Joystiq. The shutdown will result in the loss of 150 jobs, Joystiq may continue in some form folded in as a channel within the Engadget blog but the vibrant and at times raucous community will be lost. If this wasn’t bad enough, beloved former Joystiq writer Andrew Yoon recently turned game designer with the impressive title Divorce! The Card Game successfully funded and on its way to release this month and the award winning GXDev 2015 title Cactus Seeking Hug was found drowned at McKinney State Falls Park in Austin. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the families and loved ones of Andrew and those who lost their jobs at AOL. (Source Games Industry and Joystiq)
On top of that, it appears that things are on the move for a variety of functions and abilities of the Vita. All google based functionality is being stripped from the Vita, no more maps, no more native YouTube and even the Near incentive application which polls nearby Vita players and rewards you for being a part of the community is being yanked. Expect this all to be gone by April.
Lastly, Sony is killing their subscription music service Music Unlimited, unable to effectively run it they will be replacing it with a skinned version of Spotify. This does not bode well for people who invested in the platform and further degrades the quality of the platform as it still lacks the ability to play music over your network and you are now entirely dependent on a third party with a limited catalogue and a contentious relationship with artists to provide you with your music. In a world where Sony is pushing to move all content online and streaming even their games their inability to maintain working platforms and manage their content in an effective manner is certainly disconcerting. (Source Polygon here and here, Ars Technica, MCVUK, and Joystiq here and here)
Games as Documentaries: Former Rockstar developer Navid Khonsari (GTA series) left Rockstar to do something that had previously never truly been tried, essentially create a documentary using video games. The nixxed Six Days In Fallujah was going to attempt to tell the story of the events of Fallujah but never happend mainly because of the nature of the gameplay as a first person shooter, in this case though Khonsari’s 1979 Revolution is taking a different tack. Recounting the experiences of the Iranian revolution that has in many ways remained a mystery and the source of much misinformation (see Oscar winning Argo) using a style similar to Telltale games Khonsari looks to draw from his own experiences as a young child growing up during the revolution. A more detailed story can be found on Engadget but I truly looking forward to this boundary pushing piece of work which was recently featured at the Sundance film festival as well as future projects which look to recount the American cultural revolution of the 60s and the Cuban revolution. (Source Engadget)
Evolving… not always a good thing: Evolve is a game that has had a mixed reception, initial skepticism after the first beta has given way to excitement by many after the latest open beta, this enthusiasm was then tempered by a slew of DLC combinations and platform exclusive content. This was mitigated by the promise all gameplay modes would be free and all content would be cross compatible between players who purchased the content and those who did not. Well, once again a bit of an ugly turn has mutated from the mess.
The “companion app” is something of a now almost required element in AAA titles. Ubisoft have had a variety of games that have launched side by side with their titles with varying degrees of success and fun. Evolve soft launched a triple matching puzzle game in Canada along with the last beta, it has since gone into full release open to any iOS or Android device owners. The game allows you to play through a series of challenges as Hunters collecting bones and “mastery points”. Your hunters level up and face a variety of creatures including the various big bads from the console cousin of the game. The title also features the ability to watch replays of your console matches so you can look over your strategies and adapt and “evolve” them.
So far so good, but where the controversy comes in (which is angering many gamers) is those “mastery points”. These points can be used to give permanent pep to your hunters. Spent via the game you will give buffs to your hunters that translate to an in game advantage that have many gamers crying foul. The even playing field and balance that is so hard to achieve seems to be broken and this threatens to undermine the launch of the game. Look for our review of Evolve’s mobile game along side our review of Evolve itself shortly after launch. (Source Evolve’s website)
Let the games begin: China’s 14 year ban on consoles ended last year when Microsoft started selling the Xbox One in the Chinese market. Sony was supposed to launch last year but pulled out last minute due to requests from the Chinese government regarding content delivery. There has been little clarity on this but when have corporations like Sony or governments like China been transparent? Things get really interesting this week though as China announced they are opening up the market even further, previously restricted to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone consoles will now be available for purchase across China. This could be an incredible boon to Microsoft increasing their market share exponentially (as they are currently the only console on the market). Local platforms are being investigated but are some way aways from delivery and the Ouya console has recieved a substantial ten million dollar injection from Alibaba a chinese electronics firm to bring their content to their set top boxes leading to discussion of a Chinese Ouya release. (Source Bloomberg and Joystiq)
Countdown on: Last week during the PAX South convention Gearbox unveiled the first trailer for the Homeworld Remastered collection, the first gameplay images have been something many a gamer has been highly anticipating but were doubly pleased to see a February 25th launch date announced. (Source Gearbox Software)
Speaking off…: Gearbox has also recently released a help wanted ad for talent, given recent departures on the staff Gearbox is looking for new team members to help with the next Borderlands entry. If you want to be a developer and love diamond ponies, now’s your time and if you want some inspiration for that job application check out Lady Hammerlock the latest playable character for the Pre-Sequel (the slightly less than savoury sister of Sir Hammerlock). (Source Joystiq here and here)
The Force is strong with this one: Once more stepping into the breach of critical discourse Anita Sarkeesian is looking to launch two new video series after concluding Tropes vs. Women on Feminist Frequency including one exploring the portrayal of masculinity and a second highlighting positive portrayals of women in gaming. Given the recent release of the material she gathers over the course of a week on twitter she is far braver than I. (Source Joystiq and Polygon here and here)
Dragon tunes: The Dragon Age series has had an amazing soundtrack from day one, Inon Zur put together a soundscape that defined the first two games. Trevor Morris picked up that challenge and did the same for Dragon Age: Inquisition. All three games both had set piece musical moments, in the first was Leliana’s song around the camp fire, the second was actually during the credits with the Florence + The Machine reworked I’m Not Calling You A Liar and in the third there was the hymn around another camp but the real music that defined the game were the beautiful and at times haunting tavern songs. Sadly these songs were not included on the soundtrack but Bioware have made up for that fact by making the songs and their sheet music available for free (for a limited time) at their website. Composed by Raney Shockne and performed by Elizaveta the time to get the music is now. (Source Joystiq and Polygon)
What are the guys gonna think?: The dungeon crawl title Torchlight had previously launched on Mac via the Steam platform. It’s little sibling Torchlight 2 joins Torchlight on Steam next week. The project was expected to be released a “few months” after release of Torchlight 2 but ended up taking over 28 months. In the end the folks at Runic ended up realizing how silly this was and released probably the best teaser ad for a game ever. (Source Joystiq)
I think I’m going to vomit: Just because you pretend a problem doesn’t exist, that doesn’t make it go away. It is with that sentiment I say that Destructive Creations has released a new trailer for Hatred. It’s pretty much as bad as you would expect. I don’t want to give them oxygen but by operating under the illusion this isn’t news it doesn’t make them fade away any faster. We can only hope for a dismal release of the AO title, that it is full of bugs, and that it fades to obscurity quickly. If the trailer is any indication there’s a good chance that will be the case. (Source Polygon)
Sarge: Remember a few years ago when the DLC turned full release Halo: ODST was released? Well it turns out that the title is making its way back from oblivion. We were already aware of a remastered version that will be given to all Master Chief Collection owners but it turns out that a new novel featuring the story of Sargent Buck (aka Mal aka Nathan Fillion) will be coming out. So, if the adventures of Crime Novelist Castle aren’t Fillioning you (get it?) hopefully this is a sign of more ODST to come (or maybe some Fillion in Halo 5)! (Source Polygon)
Beware there be spoilers here: The Witcher 3 creeps inevitably closer to its May release date and the long drawn out dance of the “hype” that has become a part of the release cycle for AAA video games has begun in earnest. Developer CD Project Red has released a 14 minute gameplay video showing you some of the game in action. Check it out below if you want to get the vibe of the game including the now ever present “whistle” mechanic for mounts. Seriously, video games need to find a better way of dealing with mounts than their magically appearing when you whistle. Some dude steals your horse it isn’t going to come back if you pucker up and blow. (Source Joystiq)
Kamala is my hero: Kamala Khan has served as a breath of fresh air in the white sausage fest that is modern comics. Yeah there’s always been a few characters of colour or the occasional female usually with ridiculous costumes but Kamala the star of the new Ms. Marvel has been a refreshing change from these old stale stories and characters. When a hate group bought up ad space on the sides of San Francisco busses (how that even happened I don’t know) a creative street artist found the perfect response and in a moment of inspiration a fictional hero became a real hero and even received a shout out from the character's creator. (Source Polygon)
Avengers some assembly required: Lego is releasing a $350 dollar S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier and I must possess this. That is all. (Source Polygon)
Meh with a side of what evs: So with a handful of months before release in August (at a time when movies releasing around the same date have launched a plethora of material) we finally get to see a Fantastic Four trailer and it’s hard to form an opinion. There are a couple of neat little tidbits but for most part looks like a highlight reel from the last four Abrams and Nolan films. This does not inspire much hope for the film rumoured to be a mess. (Source Polygon)
Nerds rule: Weird Al recently took over Nerdist News to show us the truth. See for yourself and if you haven’t already done so get yourself Mandatory Fun tickets! (Source Nerdist)