In this week’s Zed Games Podcast Maylee and Tobi bring you banter, blood and beavers. With the long awaited review of Dead by Daylight from Maylee, and finishing with our newest team member Hazel reviewing Timberborn, this one is a blast from start to end!
Australian Game Developer Awards Winners Announced!
The winners for the Australian Game Developer Awards have been announced, with Queensland and Victorian developers leading the way.
Local game Unpacking by Witch Beam has taken the Game of the Year Award, with the relaxing puzzle game also taking home the Excellence in Accessibility Award. Art Director and Designer Wren Brier says,
“It’s humbling to be part of a roster of amazing studios with incredible games that have won this award. We’re so pleased that Unpacking also took home the Excellence in Accessibility Award as we’re firm believers that video games can and should be enjoyed by everyone.”
Another local game, Webbed, the adorable game about spiders, received Excellence in Gameplay.
Beethoven & Dinosaur took home Excellence in Art and Excellence in Audio Awards for The Artful Escape. Black Lab Games won the Studio of the Year Award.
Steve Wang from Wargaming Sydney was awarded the Adam Lancman Award for his contribution and advocacy for the local games industry.
Chad Toprak, Kathleen Smart, and Ashley Van Wynngard were jointly awarded the Rising Star Award for the impact they’ve made to the industry in a short amount of time.
The Forgotten City by Modern Storyteller took home Excellence in Narrative, The Oregon Trail by Gameloft Brisbane won Excellence in Mobile Games, Sharmila by Chaos Theory Games and the World Food Programme took home Excellence in Serious Games. Pico Tanks by Panda Arcade was awarded Excellence in Ongoing Games, and Video World by Things for Humans won Excellence in Emerging Games.
Largest DDoS Attack Mitigated
Microsoft reveals that its Azure cloud service mitigated a 2.4 terabytes per second denial of service attack this year, which makes this the largest DDoS attack recorded to date.
The attack was carried out using a botnet of around 70,000 bots primarily located across the Asia-Pacific region. The target of
the attack has been identified as an Azure customer in Europe. The record-breaking attack came in three short waves over the span of 10 minutes, with the first at 2.4 Tbps.
Thankfully the DDoS attack was mitigated, preventing Azure from going down. Previously the DDoS record was a 2.3 Tbps attack on Amazon in February 2020.
League of Legends Removing Opposing Team Chat
Riot Games has announced that chat between opposing teams in League of Legends will be disabled in an attempt to cut down on toxic behaviour.
“While chat can be the source of fun social interaction between teams as well as some good-hearted banter, right now negative interactions outweigh the positives. We’ll evaluate the impact of this change through verbal abuse reports and penalty rates, as well as surveys and direct feedback from you all.”
And now for some upcoming game releases!
- A Little Golf Journey [PC, Switch]
- Bonito Days [Switch]
- Despot’s Game [PC]
- Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Dungeon Encounters [PC, PS4, Switch]
- Godstrike [PS4, XBO]
- Jackbox Party Pack 8 [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Ruin Raiders [PC, Switch]
- Sphere – Flying Cities [PC]
- Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt [PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Crysis Remastered Trilogy [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
- Demon Slayer: The Hikonami Chronicles [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
- The Good Life [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Greylancer [PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town [PS4, XBO]
- Nuclear Blaze [PC]
- Dying Light: Platinum Edition [Switch
- Into The Pit [PC, XBO]
- War Mongrels [PC]
- Youtubers Life 2 [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Healing Spree [PC]
- Jars [PC, Switch]
If you’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons then you’re probably aware of the role of the DM, otherwise known as the Dungeon Master. The mastermind behind the game, the one who holds your fate in their hands, all-powerful, all-knowing, yada yada yada.
Here’s a secret. They’re actually just another player! Take a moment to absorb that. The DM might be guiding the game, and they might be managing multiple characters, and they do know what’s around the corner, but really they’re just another player. I’m demystifying that role now.
Dungeon Masters don’t know everything, they don’t have all the rules memorised, they don’t have everything planned out, and they absolutely do not have enough unique voices for every NPC your party runs into.
It’s understandably a rather intimidating role, but it doesn’t have to be. And hopefully by the end of Zahra’s Very Brief Intro to DMing, you’ll feel ready to take it on. Because really, you’re already ready, you just need a bit of prep.
So, quickly, what is Dungeons and Dragons? It’s a tabletop roleplaying game where a group of people create characters, and using dice and modifiers you play as those characters, overcoming enemies, solving puzzles, and learning about the world you’re in. It’s a lot of fun! It can be as dramatic or as silly as you want, it can be a single session or a campaign that lasts years, and it’s a collaborative experience, where all the players all contribute to gameplay and the story. It’s customisable, and unique to every party.
But you need a Dungeon Master. They’re the one who creates the setting for your party. They are in control of enemies and non-playable allies, they adjust the game as you play depending on the desired experience, and they often have a story that they want the party to play through.
This doesn’t mean the DM is in control of everything! They are also subjected to the same rules that the party must abide by. If their big bad evil guy rolls badly and trips over a rock, they can’t just say no, I’m not letting that happen. Likewise, if the party turns down the wrong path (that has loads of warning signs plastered all over it), and end up falling into lava, well, they can’t really stop that.
Every game is different, and every group is different. But you remember what I said about DnD being a collaborative experience? The DM may put you in a setting, filled with vibrant and cool characters. And they may have a story they want to tell, but the party also decides on where they want to go, what they want to do, and will influence the story in their own way.
That’s not always the case, you might want more of a Party vs DM kind of game, which can also be quite fun with its own unique challenges.
But at the end of the day the most important thing is that people are having fun, and they’re engaged.
So, now that you know what the DM does, just how do you DM?
Depending on your group and the desired experience, outline a world. It might just be a forest with little villages in it, could be an undersea city. Don’t get bogged down by details right now.
You’ll need to create various characters, some may be villains for your party to go up against. A lot of them might be allies, annoyances, just silly little guys. It’s up to you! Think about your players and your goals, and create obstacles to challenge them, and helpful folks to nudge them in the right direction. This bit is a lot like creating characters as a party member, and for minor characters you can just have the most basic sheet with their stats and attacks on it.
For more important, major characters? Making them is exactly like creating a party character. Feel free to flesh them out as much as you wish. Give them goals, strengths, weaknesses.
For longer campaigns, outlining story beats is helpful for me to do upfront, and then before each session I will flesh out that beat. I’ll give my players a quest or two that will either move them through the story or act as a way to round out their experience. How do I give them that quest? I might simply say ‘This ragtag group is on their way to defeat an evil wizard who has been terrorizing the local population! What will they do?’. It can be that easy.
Often though you’ll give your party a handy inn nearby with an innkeeper who knows about everything and everyone, and will have a quest or two on hand. It’s a bit cliched, but it works, and it’s nice for your party to have a homebase and an NPC who welcomes them.
And finally, make a map. Will your party be going through a dungeon filled with traps and dangers? Or a swamp where one wrong move will have them walking into the jaws of a monster? You’ll want to make a map, it can be crudely drawn it just needs to be clear, so then your players can more easily understand the space they’re in. You don’t need a map for everything, like the long boring walk between towns, but for anywhere where having a space visualised will be useful. And keep a couple of pieces of grid paper nearby for those unplanned fights.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of prep, right? And here’s where I reveal the biggest secret for DMs. It’s all improv! Think about it, you can’t predict what your players are going to do, who they’re going to talk to, where they’re going to go. You can make them a super clear path, but they may decide to just slash their way through the forest. They might decide that they need to help a little girl find her pet dog, or they might want to try to seduce the innkeeper. Give them some space to explore and do their own thing, improvise as you go, and when you need to give them a nudge then have a messenger run up to them with a request for help.
But what about when you’re playing through the session and your players ask if they can do kickflips off the back of the enemy ogre but also they want to convince the ogre to let them do that? What skill check is that? What numbers do you need? You didn’t prepare for this, you’re feeling the pressure, is it persuasion or acrobatics? Both? Don’t panic! Here is my other secret.
You can just google it, look it up in the handbook, consult a cheatsheet, or you can even just go ‘this sounds right, does that sound fair?’ and make a decision. It’s fine! You can’t know everything, and it’s stressful being put on the spot constantly. Some DMs will have a ‘Rule of Cool’, where if a player proposes something extremely epic then you’ll do what you can to make it work. I like the ‘Rule of Keeping Momentum Going’. It’s more important to keep the game moving than it is to make sure every single move is perfectly legal. It really doesn’t matter all that much.
It doesn’t mean just do whatever you want, but you can just use your best judgement, and if it sounds fair then your players will be fine with it. Let’s keep this fight going!
And finally, you don’t need to create this perfectly unique, epic, homebrewed story with your own language and tonnes and tonnes of details and lore. You can just find an adventure or campaign that someone else made, and use it! There are adventures specifically for new DMs that will give you all the information you need for a successful session, gently teach you, and give you advice as you go. You can still put your own spin on it, introduce customised puzzles for that one person who is really good at moving tile puzzles, and make a friendly wolf character for your party to adopt. It’s all fine!
So let me just recap:
- The DM is just another player, just with a lot more paperwork.
- The DM does NOT need to know everything, they don’t need to know all the rules, they don’t need to plan for every possible decision the players might make.
- You can just improvise.
- You can just make up reasonable rules, or make a decision based on your own judgment in order to keep the game moving.
- You can use pre-written adventures.
- Maps are very important.
- Have fun! The party should have fun, but the DM also needs to have fun too!
You’re all playing make-believe. It’s not that serious.
This week Zahra brings in guest Hazel to encourage you all to become Dungeon Masters, but first they discuss the news. Then after regaling us with their favourite Dungeons and Dragons moments, Zahra introduces the basics of being a Dungeon Master.
Activision Blizzard strikes $18 million settlement with US employment watchdog
Less than a day after the federal lawsuit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the $18 million settlement, subject to court approval, will be used for payments to employees who have experienced sexual harassment, sex discrimination or retaliation while working at the Californian video game publisher.
Any remaining funds will be split “between charities that advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness around harassment and gender equality issues” Activision Blizzard said in a statement. This settlement is separate from a lawsuit filed in July by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the publisher.
Microsoft launches cloud gaming in Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico
After several months of testing, Xbox Cloud Gaming has been released in 4 more countries, expanding the service to 26 in total. This service allows members of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate access to over 100 titles over the cloud, meaning that you can stream titles such as Gears 5 or Sea of Thieves on something as simple as an android or apple device. No hardcore gaming PC’s or consoles required!
“Since cloud gaming is powered by custom Xbox Series X consoles, that means these games are being played by an Xbox in the cloud, bringing faster load times and improved frame rates to the gameplay experience” Catherine Gluckstein, Microsoft’s head of Project xCloud.
Playstation introduces a new feature – Game Trials
Sony has introduced an interesting new feature this week in the UK, offering timed trials on selected Playstation 5 titles. At this stage only two games, Death Stranding Director’s Cut, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are included, allowing players 5 to 6 hours to try them out before making the decision to purchase.
The feature is limited to Playstation 5 users, and can only be used once per account, per game. Should this feature make its way to our shores, there is one problem, the trial starts when you click download. Given our average internet speeds, that could pose a problem for some gamers.
Upcoming Gaming Releases
• Age of Darkness: Final Stand
• Far Cry 6
• The Lightbringer
• Moonglow Bay
• Knockout Home Fitness
• Lego Marvel Super Heroes
• Metroid Dread
• Tetris Effect: Connected
• Nintendo Switch OLED
• Book of Travels
• Back 4 Blood
• Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
• Ori: The Collection
With lockdown looming Ezie takes to the studio alone, but not in spirit. With Games keeping the company they discuss gaming news from Maylee, Tobi reviews the wholesome RPG game Garden Story, and Ezie reviews the brain twitching puzzler Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions.
Netflix buys Night School Studio
Earlier this year Netflix announced they were expanding into the world of video game entertainment and they’ve now made one of their first big steps. They announced on Tuesday that they’d acquired indie developer Night School Studio best known for their first game Oxenfree. Night School Studio is currently working on a sequel for Oxenfree, development of which will continue under Netflix’s name. This is the first studio to join with Netflix but definitely not the last. A representative of Netflix said “We’ll continue working with developers around the world and hiring the best talent in the industry to deliver a great collection of exclusive games designed for every kind of gamer and any level of play.”
Hasbro also expands into the video games arena.
Hasbro is a huge media corporation, controlling IP across toys, board games, and TV shows. They’ve recently begun the move to produce video games based on some of their brands, beginning with opening a AAA game division and studio. Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast, currently responsible for games like Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering, will take the helm of the New Raleigh-Durham Studio. It is based in North Carolina, and the division will be focused on both console and PC games that are based on Hasbro properties. Hasbro has already announced some of the franchises that will be getting a AAA game – Transformers, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, and even Ouija, but the possibilities beyond that are almost endless.
China’s restrictions on gaming tighten further.
In recent weeks we’ve seen strict regulations introduced in China limiting the time people can spend playing video games and what sort of content is allowed in Chinese video games. On Monday the 27th China released it’s 10-Year national guidelines for children’s development, detailing more rules and steps to better classify games, review content, limit game time and protect children’s personal information and privacy. They also called on operators who provide online services including social media, live streaming, audio and video streaming to limit the time and money minors spend online. Despite potential negative impacts most of China’s gaming companies have come on board with these changes, more than 200 recently making a pledge to remain compliant with the new regulations, to self-regulate within the industry, and to ban content depicting “sissy men,” “gay love” and “money worship,” as well as those deemed “politically harmful” or “historically nihilistic.” While most are compliant, some companies have been looking for loopholes to exploit. To combat this, China has launched a new website for citizens to report rule-breaking. Many consumers have expressed discontent with the new rules on social media. Some pointed out that the age of sexual consent, at 14, was now four years younger than the age at which people can game without limit. Unfortunately for them, it seems restrictions will only tighten for the foreseeable future.
Developer: Hungry Couch Games
Music: Hungry Couch Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Released: Early Access – 9 July 2021, Estimated Release July – 2022
Genre: Top Down Shooter, Sandbox, Pixel Graphics
Your name is Eva, and you have woken up with all the excitement of a child with a day full of possibilities, joy, and adventure. Appropriate adventure of course. Your father has returned from a lengthy journey, bringing back treasures and wonders from far-away floating islands. And as you run around the Fathership, you are met with this rich, bustling town in the sky, airships travelling from town to city. Above you, sky-squids dart by, and far below you, the giant shapes of flying turtles, drifting by.
You are given your first weapon, a pistol that is barely more than a toy, you ‘borrow’ your father’s airship to retrieve your brother who has managed to get stuck in a box. Along the way you encounter a variety of characters from various backgrounds, all who lend you advice and a smile.
And finally, your family is together, ready to witness whatever it is your father brought back. Something wondrous, something never-seen-before, something…
One swipe from this beast, a panicked reaction. A death.
And everything changes.
Black Skylands is a top down pixel shooter, with bullet hell elements, an absolutely gorgeous world filled with layers of details that are changing and evolving. It has been years since that fateful day, and monsters are ravaging the skylands, and land and resources were already scarce to begin with. To make things worse, Kain, your basically-your-uncle Kain, is now leading bandits and controlling whatever islands they can get their hands on. And your father is gearing up for a desperate attempt to fix his mistake.
It’s up to you, your brother, and the allies you make along the way, to save not only the Fathership, but also Aspya. Your entire world.
There is a lot of detail to this game, a lot to do, and a lot to manage. It’s a top-down shooter, and obviously you have some weapons. An array of guns of course, but also a grappling hook (which is an essential when you live on floating islands in the sky), and with a handy knife, you’ll be equipped to go toe-to-toe with the roughest of bandits. Well, kinda. You’ll need to be strategic about your approach, and not be afraid to retreat. Some of the enemies you run into are pretty tough, and if you get overwhelmed by an ambush it won’t take you long to get crushed.
Gradually, you’ll find upgrades for your weapons, and be able to construct better armour and gear, making you better equipped for the challenges ahead. You can make similar upgrades to your airship, giving you the edge you need in those dogfights. More efficient cannons, a stronger hull, a larger hold, all helpful and essential as you make your way through the skies.
But these upgrades are difficult to work for. You’ll need resources, some of which you can find out in the world, such as wood or ore. Some need a bit more work than that, such as building a farm to grow food, flax, or cotton. Eventually you’ll need a way to process ore into useful metals. It can be a struggle, and often you’ll need to slowly fight your way through an occupied island to find more resources.
It’s a bit exhausting, but when you do clear these islands of enemies, you rescue people and get rewards.
And then you have to continue to defend that island, getting alerts when the rescued people need your help.
And when you’re trying to progress through the story, find and make resources, and fight for upgrades, it’s a lot of work! I sometimes feel like I’m trying to keep a classroom clean and tidy, but my 3rd year students have got their hands on glitter glue and have formed factions.
But you get stronger, you get smarter, you get new weapons and useful abilities, and there is so much to explore and see and interact with in this game that I can take detours from the main story to help out people you find along the way. I can find my grandfather and rescue the moths. Blast asteroids for coal, carefully chip away at the more formidable islands. Discover little pockets of beauty and history and story about the world of Aspya.
Perfect your shots, time your dodges right, and you’ll be able to face down some of the nastier monsters and baddies without too much trouble.
And if you do have trouble, you have your moth friend with you to whisk you away to safety, allowing you to plan and consider a different approach.
There’s a lot of sounds to this game, with immersive music that changes as you roam around floating towns and cities, run into danger, get a little bit too close to those occupied islands. It’s whimsical, beautiful, adding to the sense of wonder and adventure. It has some kinks to work out, with some jarring transitions, but it’s easy to look over. Especially when I discovered how many things I could break. There are few things more satisfying than smashing a crate and getting the jingle of currency in return.
You get the putter putter of your ship’s engine propelling you through the sky. The clank as you repair your airship, build new farms and facilities. It’s pretty satisfying!
If it wasn’t obvious, I love Black Skylands. I have not finished the game, I know I’m a while away from finishing the game, but it has sucked me in. I log off for the night and lay in bed considering how I’m going to approach that boss fight. I weigh up my upgrade options, trying to make the best decisions for my point in the game. The dialogue options are worth considering too, and I’m curious how the outcomes could change. There is so much in this game, so much to do and see and keep on top of, and then there is the fact that at the time of this review, it’s still in early access, with nearly a year of development ahead. This is a labour of love, passion, and care and it shows. Sure there are a couple of buggy quirks here and there but it doesn’t distract from the overall experience, which is that Black Skylands is a beautiful, hectic, busy game that requires patience and a cool head. And it’s probably the first bullet hell game I actually enjoyed.
In this weeks podcast we Hey, Hey, Hey it up with Maylee, Paul and Rani discussing the news and new releases. Paul and Maylee lead a discussion of Psychonauts 2, while Paul waxes lyrical on The Artful Escape.
Blizzard’ Entertainment CLO resigns.
Claire Hart the Chief Legal Officer of Activision Blizzard’s Entertainment announced her resignation this week posting on her LinkedIn saying “After more than three years at Blizzard Entertainment, I have decided to move on to my next adventure. The past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses.” Claire Hart doesn’t make any comment about whether her resignation is anything to do with the very public and ongoing harassment lawsuit with Activision Blizzard.
An update on that lawsuit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has reportedly launched a wide–reaching investigation into Activision Blizzard, they will be looking into how the publisher dealt with the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and toxic behaviour. California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed this lawsuit back in July. They also subpoenaed several of Blizzard’s higher executives including the CEO Bobby Kotick. It would appear that the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) have started asking Blizzard to hand over various documents. These include personal files of those higher ups. A spokes person from Activision confirmed that there is indeed an ongoing investigation and that the company is cooperating with the SEC.
If you are looking for awesome deals on games now is the time with sales
rolling out before the Christmas period. Amazon have a bunch of good prices for PS4/PS5 such as;
- Deathloop – now $79 (down from $99.95)
- Death Stranding: Director’s Cut – $69 (down for $79.95)
- F1 2021 – now $56 (down from $99.95)
- Far Cry 6 – $72.90 (down from $99.95)
- Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut – $99.95 (down from $124.95)
There is also a bunch of deals going for Xbox console games such as;
- Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate – now $44.98 (down for $89.95)
- NBA 2K22 – now $80.90 (down from $109.95)
- Star Wars Squadrons – now $14.98 (down from $59.95)
- Watch Dogs Legion – now $30 (down from $99.95)
- Nintendo Switch lite is also down to $259 from $329.95
The 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Melbourne caused quite some disturbance this week however did inject some funny moments into people’s lockdown. Former Carlton player Brendan Fevola was playing Call of Duty he tweeted out saying “I’m sitting here playing Call of Duty on the PlayStation with me headphones on and my whole screen started shaking, my PlayStation nearly fell off.” It would appear that many game players and streamers experienced moments of fear for their gaming gear during the earthquake. If you have a story to share about nearly losing a console or PC with a lucky save message us on Facebook @ZEDgamesau we’d love to hear about it.
This week in gaming releases;
- Diablo 2 Resurrected [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Embr [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Flewfie’s Adventure [PC]
- Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries [PS5, PS4]
- Medieval Dynasty [PC]
- Sable [PC, XSX, XBO]
- Sea of Thieves Season 4 [PC, XSX, XBO]
- Death Stranding Director’s Cut [PS5]
- Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot [Switch]
- Lost Judgment [PS5, XSX, PS4]
- Chernobylite [PS4, XBO]
- Ghostrunner [PS5, XSX]
- In Sound Mind [PC, PS5, XSX]
- Lemnis Gate [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
- New World [PC]
- Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye DLC [PC, PS4, XBO]
- Guardians of Hyelore [PC]
- Insurgency Sandstorm [PS4, XBO]