Trailing Oculus Ads, Gaming Tourism Comes to Ireland, and some Tasty Gaming Bytes

Facebook looking to inject Advertisements into Paid Oculus Content.
Earlier this week Facebook announced the integration of paid advertisements into Oculus VR games. This initiative was introduced by Facebook to “explore (sic) new ways for developers to generate revenue”, and hints that the advertisements would be used to assist in subsidising VR products to be ”more accessible” at “consumer-friendly prices”. The Verge also reports that Facebook is searching for new ways to implement these unobtrusive ads and new ad formats, all of which are personalised through the user’s Facebook profile and Oculus store history.
Blastion, the first of the games to publicly have the advertisements implemented, have already announced they will be backing out of the trial. Tommy Palm, Resolution Games CEO announced, “Some good points have been made, and we realize that Blaston isn’t the best fit for this type of advertising test.”

Ireland teams up with Assassins Creed for Gaming Tourism
Historically, games have relied on the experience of seeing real-life locations simulated in games to evoke a response in gamers, yet Tourism Ireland is seeking to reverse this in a post-pandemic world to create gaming tourism. This week Tourism Ireland has teamed up with Ubisoft creating a showcase of in-game Irish locations and their real-life locations from the latest DLC for Assassins Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids. Tourism Ireland has also collaborated with several influencers on Twitch with followers in “key tourism markets, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain and the Nordic countries”, all with the aim to “inspire [gamers] to come and explore [the locations] in the real world.”

Xbox Design Lab is Back – but not for Aussies.
With the re-release of Xbox Design Lab gamers in the US, Canada and most Western European Countries can finally customise their controllers. While this does not include the Xbox Elite controller, it does offer 18 different colour options for most parts of the controller, with pre-set options for the menu and ABXY buttons, and the option for a 16-character engraving, all on the newly designed Xbox Series X/S controllers. But be careful with your choices – due to the customisation, refunds are currently unavailable… if we could get them in Australia anyway.

Quick Game Bytes;
GTA Online support for PS3 and Xbox 360 will be shut down on the 16th of December of this year. In the lead up to the shutdown, purchases of in-game currency for these systems will be no longer be available. However, the next-gen console release has been announced for later this year.
And Overwatch now has cross-play support. Now you can go head-to-head with your friends on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC in Quick Play, Arcade, and Custom matches. Due to the unfair advantage PC players have with a mouse and keyboard, PC players will only be matched with other PC players in Competitive Ranked matches.

And now for some game releases
On the 25th of June, Mario Golf: Super Rush is coming to Switch. Super Squad, a team based, online multiplayer, top down, shoot-em-up is coming to PC. And Bandai Namco’s RPG, Scarlet Nexus is coming to everything but Switch.
Coming out on the 29th of June is Curved Space, an arcade, twin-stick shooter on everything but the Switch.
On the 30th of June the visually unique puzzle platformer, A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories comes to PC and the Switch, and finally Doki Doki Literature Club Plus comes to PC, PS4 and 5, Xbox One and X, and the Switch.

 

The Zed Games Crew’s Picks for E3 2021


We asked the crew at Zed Games what their highlights of this year’s show were and they were happy to oblige.

Ezie

Tiny Tina’s Wonderland: Gearbox Software creators of the famous Borderlands series have a spin off shooter looter that requires no prior knowledge of the Borderlands’ universe. I’m new to having a Borderlands addiction and the excitement I have for a spin off with a fantastic and fantabulous character like Tiny Tina is very exciting. Expected to drop in 2022 with BUTT STALLION!

Halo Infinite: Master Chief is back with what appears to be a ‘new Cortana’ and I’m so excited to see out more of his journey, fight more evil aliens and venture further into unknown threats. I’ve been playing Halo since I was kid on the very first Xbox this is my most nostalgic game drop AND IT’S ON GAME PASS! Expected December 2021 along with the free online multiplayer that also looks like a while ride with friends.

We Are OFK: A making-of-the-band series & Interactive EP about dreaming, dating, and paying rent in Los Angeles.With colourful animations that give me Spiderman Miles Morales(the movie)visual vibes.A coming together making music kind of story, as a lover of interactive narrative games this is my biggest hype for indie releases fromE3this year.Developed by Team OFK and expected Spring 2021.

Woodo: A 3D puzzle game with heart. It’s everything you could want in a wholesome puzzle game. I’m excited to sit back and piece together wonderful little wooden rooms filled with cute animations. Looking to release in 2022.

Zahra

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2: Breath of the Wild is a stunning, immersive game,and I loved exploring, finding my own trails, puzzle solving, and uncovering the events of the past. And Breath of the Wild 2 builds on from that beautiful foundation, with a tantalising peek into the adventures and trials that await, while promising to be bigger and better, with new enemies and abilities to face and conquer.

Redfall: A 4 player co-op game with cool characters, each with unique abilities, personalities,and fun banter? Count me in! The trailer seems to indicate dynamic gameplay, with lots of opportunities to pull off cool attacks, while assisting and backing up your crew.I can’t wait to see more, and to find out more about this world with vampires, magic,and student debt.

Riders Republic: I have far too many breakable bones to get into extreme sports IRL, but extreme sports in a video game where I can participate in massive races, events, and game-modes where doing the most the best is the aim of the game? That I can do.And the fact that there is a lot of customisation,and that I can play it in my own style just makes it much more appealing.

Paul

Trek to Yomi: Just look at it! Taking notes from samurai cinema of the 50’s and 60’s this gorgeous looking game, I mean. Just look at it. Geez. Anyway this game looks pretty sweet which is unsurprising as it come from Leonard Menchiari who developed the incredibly cool and vastly under exposed The Eternal Castle [Remastered]. 

Warioware – Get it Together: Every WarioWare game is a classic which means this game has a lot to live up to but also an extremely strong base to build on.  It’s a real twist to the formula (not to be confused with WarioWare: Twisted) where for the first time you interact with the microgames by playing a character that moves around inside them. Also it’s designed to include 2 player in the games. Boy I am excited and nervous!

Somerville: Inside is one of the best games ever made.  Some might call that an opinion but I believe it to be a hard fact. While this isn’t Playdead’s new game it is the new game by one of Playdead’s founders who split off to start a new studio (Jump Ship) but the sensibility of Inside and Limbo are plain to see in this extremely evocative trailer.  A family living surviving in a world gripped by and alien invasion?  Get ready for feelings!

Elden Ring: I wasn’t hyped. Now I am. Open world. freaky designs and a horsie. Thank you From Software.

Honorable Mentions: Death’s Door, Replaced, FAR: Changing Tides, Metal Slug Tactics, Battlefield 2042, El Paso Elsewhere

Rani

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

Metroid Dread

Trek to Yomi

Honorable Mentions: Elden Ring

Maylee

Anacrusis: Nothing quite like a good co-op shooter, plus this game shares some of its team from Left 4 Dead. That and Anacrusis’ aesthetic make me pretty confident this will be a fun ride.

Slime Rancher 2: Maybe it’s cheap to pick the sequel of a game I really love but how can I not be excited for more slime. They’ve got bunny slimes this time!

Bear and Breakfast: I’ve known about this one for a while but seeing the new trailer got me excited all over again. It’s a cute, cozy, management game with spooky sinister undertones? Sign me up!

Tobi

Book of Travels: This tiny multiplayer online RPG (TOMRPG) aims at creating a new online community with high stakes. The aim? Shaping your own journey and finding your own story in the vast hand drawn world of Braided Shore.

Despot’s Game: Because a game with premise of creating an army and watching the outcome in an auto-battler tickles both the idler and the sadistic warmonger in me. ATTACK PUNY HUMANS!

WarioWare – Get it Together: With a new kid flailing on the floor the ability to play this alone or in multiplayer with over 200 minigames and multiple playable characters just clicks for now… and for future battles with the bub.

Honorable Mentions: Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Silt, Haunted Space and a heap from the Wholesome Direct (Venba, Dordogne, Hoa and Letters – a written adventure)

The Hottest News From E3 2021

This week in gaming news

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly known as E3 has come and gone for another year and in its, and other non-official event’s wake we have a mountain of game news and announcements.

Summer Game Fest, Geoff Keighly’s alternative E3 program kicked off the major events of the week starting with an announcement of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, Gearbox’s High Fantasy Borderlands’ spinoff staring Tiny Tina. A splattering of other announcements followed including Jeff Goldblum introducing us to Jurassic World Evolution 2, Hideo Kojima announcing Death Stranding Director’s Cut for PS5 and finally the major reveal of footage from Elden Ring, the long-awaited new game by From Software in collaboration with the writer George R.R. Martin which will launch January 19 2022.

Ubisoft hit the ground running showing off gameplay for the latest Far Cry game starring Giancarlo Esposito as well as the upcoming DLC’s which will allow players to play as the antagonists from several of the other games in the series and includes a remastered copy of Blood Dragon. More details for the extreme sports game Rider  s Republic were shown along with the PvE spin off of Rainbow Six Siege, Extraction which will pit the operators against an alien force. A new version of Rocksmith was announced called Rocksmith+, a guitar playing and teaching service that will allow player to use their real instruments and their phone or microphones to connect. The game supports electric, acoustic and bass guitar and you can currently sign up to a beta for the service online. A sequel to the 2017 hit Mario + Rabbids was announced subtitled Sparks of Hope with Mario and his strange collection of Rabbid dopplegangers going on a new cosmic scale adventure. The final announcement for Ubisoft was a reveal of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora a game set in James Cameron’s Avatar universe made by Massive Entertainment who are most well-known for The Division.

Microsoft started their event with the first footage of Bethesda’s long-awaited RPG Starfield. While we are still yet to see gameplay from the title, we were given a glimpse at the universe we will be exploring and details that it is currently slated for release in late 2022 as an Xbox and PC exclusive. The Outer Worlds 2 was announced as early in development, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was shown off with a release of next year along with sequels to Slime Rancher and A Plague Tale. Halo Infinite was confirmed to be release later this year with the multiplayer being made free to play for everyone to enjoy. Forza Horizon 5 was shown with its new Mexican location. Sea of Thieves has a story based cross over in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe coming very soon called A Pirates Life featuring Jack Sparrow and other characters from the film franchise. And the show finished on a reveal of Arcane’s new game Redfall an open world co-op shooter featuring magic, vampires and a lot of style.

Square Enix announced Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy a single player 3rd person adventure where the player controls Star-Lord leading his band of misfits across the universe. It is being developed by Eidos Montreal best known for the modern Deus Ex games and is set for release on October 26. There was also a look at Platinumgames’ new live-service game Babylon’s Fall, the new Life is Strange True Colors and a reveal of the Final Fantasy action spin off Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin.

Nintendo apologised that they had no details to share on Metroid Prime 4 but quickly followed up with a reveal of Metroid 5, which is also known as Metroid Dread a title originally in development for the DS 15 years ago which was cancelled due to technical limitations. Mario Party Superstars a collection of boards and minigames from the N64 era was announced along with a remake of Advance Wars 1 and 2 titled Re-Boot Camp. Wario is back with WarioWare: Get it Together a new take on the microgames format with a focus on 2 player games. We got a closer look at Shin Megami Tensei V’s hellish version of demonic otherworld Tokyo which will see release in November. The Nintendo show closed with a look at some Zelda announcements. DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the remaster of Skyward Sword which releases in July and a new Game & Watch device that includes the original versions of The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link and Link’s Awakening along with an altered version of Vermin that includes Link. We finally got a glimpse at Breath of the Wild 2 which will see Link adventuring into the sky above    Hyrule and utilise a multitude of new powers and tools.

Now that the show is over you can check out many of the games on both Steam and Xbox live. The Steam Next fest will run until June 22nd and included hundreds of demos of unreleased games while Microsoft has released 40 game demos from its [email protected] lineup.

The Week in game releases

June 22 – Dark Alliance (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (Switch, PC), Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC)

June 24 – Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC), Legend of Mana (PlayStation 4, Switch, PC), The Eternal Castle Remastered (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)

 

Games for Aid, E3 Hype, and Capcom Copyright

Send Aid to Palestine

Itch.io a website for indie game developers to sell and download indie games has a special bundle for $5 you receive over 1,000 games from over 800 content creators. All the profit raised will be donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA will provide further food assistance to over one million Palestinians in territories with heavy destruction. They are also helping provide emergency mental and physical health protection for those in the region. If you’d like to buy games and help aid Palestine click here to contribute.

Capcom sued for using unlicensed photos in games

The Japanese video game developer and publisher Capcom are in some deep water with a photographer suing the company for copyright infringement. Judy A Juracek has accused the company of using unlicensed photos from her book in multiple games such as Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry. The images are from Judy’s copyrighted book published in 1996 called Surfaces which features over 1200 visual references for different creative artists. It’s taken Judy some time to take action on this claim as she wasn’t positive about the infringement relating to both major games Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry, however it wasn’t until Capcom’s ransomware attack that her suspicions were confirmed. Judy’s lawyers are asking for $12 million in damages as well as up to $25,000 for each photograph used.

The biggest week in gaming is just around the corner. E3 kicks off on the 12th of June for 3 days of video game announcements, release dates and more. Starting with Ubisoft, Devolver Digital, and Gearbox showcasing their latest titles leading up to the event. EA have also dropped their latest game announcement Battlefield 2042. To stay in the loop with all the heavy hitters of the games industry such as Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Capcom, Bandai Namco and more Zed Games have put together a calendar so you can follow along at home.

The week in gaming releases:

June 10:

• Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade [PS5]
• Ninja Gaiden: Master Edition [Switch]
• One Hand Clapping [PC]
• We Are Football [PC]

June 11:

• DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ [PS4, Switch]
• Guilty Gear -Strive- [PC, PS5, PS4]
• Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart [PS5]

June 13

• Lumberhill [PC]

June 17

• Police Simulator: Patrol Officers [PC]
• Roguebook [PC]

Abyss of Neptune Review

Developer: Abyssmal Games, Synodic Arc
Publisher: Synodic Arc
Music: Abysmal Games
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Released: 27th April 2021
Genre: Survival, Horror

You’re in the infamous Bermuda triangle, sent by Divers Investigating Various External Signals (D.I.V.E.S. for short) to check out a strange signal in the depths of the ocean. The voice of the AI, D-NA is robotic, and comforting, guiding you through your tasks. It’s hardly routine of course, as you are encouraged to gather dynamite and then use said dynamite to blow up an entrance in an underwater cave.

And as you enter the cave, well, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to realise that caves and explosives don’t mix. You are cut off from the outside, and radio doesn’t work through solid rock. So, now truly alone, you have to continue your investigation into the mysterious signal. And this entire, mysterious, massive underwater facility you have found yourself trapped in.

Abyss of Neptune is a survival horror game that takes place entirely underwater. With a hidden story, freaky monsters, and a fair bit of fear, all wrapped up with a beautiful and rich environment, it’s easy to become submerged in this game.

Abyss of Neptune has a few mechanics to worry about. Other than being able to swim in all directions, and getting the hang of the floaty controls, you of course have to keep an eye on your health and oxygen levels. It’s easy at the start, less so as you progress. Doors and machines within the mysterious facility are often damaged, missing parts, or need power. So there is a fair amount of minor repairs, and battery-seeking you need to do. But I think one of my favourite things is that there are puzzles. They’re small, and not too challenging to solve, but the room you’re in is eerie, dark, and there’s a strange sound that keeps getting closer.
Getting my hands on a harpoon was reassuring to a degree, but the number of bolts you have for it is limited, and using a harpoon isn’t the easiest thing on the planet. If you stay calm you can manage, and I didn’t find myself panicking much, but I definitely was on edge.

So you have to make your way through a partially functioning, maze-like facility that is deep underwater and filled with overgrown coral, damaged machinery, and the remains of the people who used to occupy it.

And the monsters of course.

But you can hide in lockers, so that’s not too bad.

There is a lot of visual atmosphere to this game, with dark rooms, foreboding shapes made of coral and destroyed equipment, and strange, eerie sounds. But, I understand this might not be the most popular of opinions, but I found it soothing at times. The sound of water bubbling, and my movement through the water, combined with the visuals of my air bubbles drifting away from me with each exhale was kind of relaxing. Probably not what they intended, it is a constant reminder of the fact that you’re very much underwater, and the quiet doesn’t help, so if you have some fears of cave diving, spelunking, or deep water, this probably isn’t the game for you.

I haven’t finished this game yet, and I understand it to be a rather short game, with about 2-3 hours of gameplay. But I’m a cautious scaredycat, so it is taking me a little bit longer than that. But I am really enjoying the atmosphere, the amount of detail the team put into this game, and the usage of less-is-more in appropriate areas. I love finding the remnants of emails from the people who worked in this facility, and piecing together what happened. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is fun. And they’re not dragging out unnecessarily, which I really appreciate. It would be very easy to stretch this out for hours longer under the guise of forcing the player’s mind to work against them, but that can be boring and exhausting. So I enjoy the pace it has set. It’s a good balance for a small game.

And, this is the thing that gets to me, this game is free. Is it perfect? No! No game is. But it’s well-made, has a great atmosphere, and a good balance between suspense, puzzles, and action.

So, why not dip your toes into Abyss of Neptune?

Beyond Blue Review

Developer: E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Music: Curated Playlist
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Linux and Mac
Released: 17th April 2020
Genre: Adventure, Educational, Simulation, Indie Game

“Beyond Blue takes players into the near future, where they will have the opportunity to explore the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. She and her newly-formed research team will use ground-breaking technologies to see, hear, and interact with the ocean in a more meaningful way than has ever been attempted. The game features an evocative narrative and exploration of an untouched world.” – E-Line Media Game Description

Beyond Blue is evocative and heartfelt in its design. E-Line Media have a statement that says, “Inspiring Players to Understand and Shape the World.” And that is exactly how I felt about Beyond Blue. This wonderful ocean research game was inspired by Blue Planet II and you really do feel the passion and love for the ocean throughout its narrative and educational aspects.

You as the player Mirai love whales and spend time with a family of sperm whales with their new born calf Andrea. You follow Mirai on her personal journey above the water as well as her professional life underwater where she hosts live streams called OceanX Streams, collecting samples from the ocean floor, tracking marine life and of course discovering the mysteries of the ocean. All this to help educate the wider world about the “blue heart” of the planet.

There are in total 8 dives each one lasting anywhere between 15 minutes and upwards of 45mins depending on how much you like to explore. Mirai has her home base which is a futuristic submarine that she returns to examine findings and complete reports. It’s also where Mirai contacts her sister back on land where she is trying to help support her sister in taking care of their grandmother. This ties closely to the research Mirai is conducting on a family of sperm whales, the pod has a new mother and daughter duo whose family also consists of a grandmother.

Beyond Blue is so educational that while I was playing, I learnt that sperm whales live in family units and that the females will stay together forever while males will leave until they are of breeding age. Sperm whale females build strong and lifelong bonds with each other and those bonds will transcend generations. Grandmothers will pass on valuable knowledge to their younger family members. Mirai intends on studying the baby sperm whale well into adulthood and throughout her life to understand more about the species.

The voice acting is fantastic, all the characters really come alive with the phenomenal voice work of Anna Akana (Ant-Man), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Pirates of the Caribbean III), Ally Maki (10 Things I Hate About You), and Mira Furlan (Babylon 5). These talented actors really help bring the educational elements of Beyond Blue to life.

In between dives quotes from researchers, marine biologists, oceanographer and underwater explorers also known as aquanauts appear throughout the game. There is also this incredible video feature that you unlock throughout the game that is called ‘Ocean Insights’ which are a series of short videos from the real world based around real scientists sharing their love for the ocean, it’s secrets and most importantly sharing their discoveries about our natural water world.

The great thing about these Ocean Insights is that the videos you unlock usually relate to something you have discovered on a recent dive. Honestly unlocking these little mini educational videos was my biggest driving factor for completing a dive. I wanted to hear more from people like Dr. Sylvia Earle the founder of Mission Blue and resident explorer for National Geographic not to mention a bunch of other awesome National Geographic residents you get to hear from.

When exploring in game I found the mechanics to be surprisingly intuitive and the UI Hud to be so smooth an effective. Beyond Blue is considered to be an indie development however the player movement and visual design would suggest a much bigger production. It might not be high graphics but it certainly doesn’t need to be with such a smooth interface and wonderfully designed player movement.

I did have a minor issue with loading a saved game however, when I first logged back in after taking a break the game froze when I selected ‘continue’ so I did unfortunately have to get task manager involved to close the game and start up again this time opting to load a previously saved game instead. I’m not sure if this is an issue isolated to windows versions of the game or my PC just sucks but keep that in mind if you stumble across the same problem.

The music gives off ethereal ocean vibes while diving, creating this really paced atmospheric energy peacefully guiding and encouraging you explore further into the depths. When you are onboard the sub however you get this exceptionally curated playlist of ocean inspired music from a variety of different artists as well as the ability to unlock more tracks throughout game play.

Beyond Blue is touching, awe inspiring, educational, and also a challenge for us to rise to the occasion and protect this vulnerable underwater world. There is so many wonderful things to appreciate about our little blue planet and its vast seascapes and Beyond Blue has done an exceptional job of bringing the ocean closer to us so that we may learn and engage more with our ocean environment. If you are lover of the planet, get Beyond Blue you will almost certainly learn something and experience the vastness of our oceans.