Nintendo in the Headlines, Special Olympics and Microsoft team up for Gaming for Inclusion, and some Game Bytes

Nintendo in the Headlines
On the 18th of August a Pokémon Presents by Nintendo revealed several updates to their mobile Pokémon franchise the most notable being that Pokemon Unite would be coming to mobile with crossplay available on September 22nd. The Present also announced two new Pokémon are slated to join in future updates; Marmoswine & Sylvion
Nintendo also confirmed the release of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl for the 19th of November, and a surprise Switch lite Dialga & Palkia Edition available on November 5th. For this generation remake they showed off partner Pokémon, customising your pokeball with stickers to personalise the pokeball release effects, revitalised mini-games, outfit personalisation and that personalising your underground base with statues will gain you access to specific types of Pokémon hideaways new to this remake.
Lastly, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It was confirmed this game will take place in Hisui, in an early age of the Hinoe region, and in it you will survey, observe and capture Pokémon. In new developments to this generation, you will be able to be attacked by Pokémon outside of combat, and there will be two new combat “styles” of strong and agile. This change puts a strategic edge to the move economy as they will allow for heavier but slower, or multiple attacks per round of combat. Nintendo also showed off new region-specific evolutions and type changes, as well as mounts available for fast travel within this open world game. Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be released on January 28th 2022.

Another feather in Nintendo’s cap is that for the week of August 2nd to 8th the Switch held every slot in Japan’s Top 30 Famitsu’s chart. No single console has held this title since November 1988 when Nintendo’s Famicom managed the same feat.
In other Nintendo news, earlier in the year the company was awarded $2.1 million in damages for copywrite and trademark infringements against Mattew Storman, owner of RomUniverse, a website hosting pirated ROM versions of Nintendo games. This week a Californian court has ordered Storman to keep RomUniverse offline and destroy all illegal Nintendo ROMs by August 17 after he threatened to continue to operate the site and failed to pay the first $US50 monthly instalment for damages to Nintendo.

Special Olympics “Gaming for Inclusion” hosted by Microsoft.
Microsoft has teamed up with Special Olympics to create the inaugural bracketed e-sport tournament named “Gaming for Inclusion”. The event has evolved from the Xbox Virtual Gaming Event of May 2020, which aimed to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation due to the pandemic. This time round, Special Olympians and Unified partners will participate in a bracket-style tournament over several days in September with the aim to “…showcase the power of inclusion through sport.” Each day of the event is dedicated to its own game;
Sunday 12th Rocket League,
Monday 13th Forza 7, and
Tuesday 14th Madden 22.
Participants are awarded the chance to play with celebrity supporters of the Special Olympics to be hosted on Saturday 18th.
The event will be organised by Microsoft’s online e-sports platform Smash.gg and live-streamed on Xbox’s Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel.

And now for some Game Bytes;
Activision Blizzard let go of two of the employees seen in the 2013 picture of the infamous “Cosby Suit” following the lawsuit announcement last month. Jesse McCree and Jonathon LeCraft’s departure was announced internally without an official statement.
Journey to the Savage Planet’s developers have reformed under the title Raccoon Logic after being unceremonious dropped following the failure of Google Stadia. They retained the rights to Savage Planet and have received investment funding from Tencent to bankroll an unannounced future project.
Boyfriend Dungeon have promised to update their content warning after complaints from their player base that the warning doesn’t go far enough. Developer Kitfox Games quickly apologised via Twitter for any hurt caused and reassured players the warning would be updated shortly.
To learn more about these headlines head over to our Facebook page @zedgameau.

And finally, the upcoming game releases!
On Friday 20th the release of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is coming to PS4 and 5, Heart Chain Kitty is coming to Switch, and Madden 22 is coming to PC, PS 4 and 5 and Xbox One and Series X.
On Tuesday 24th, Alien franchised online team shooter Alien: Fireteam Elite comes to PC, PS4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X. Turn-based tactical RPG King’s Bounty comes to PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. And the long-awaited sequel Psychonauts 2 comes to PC, and Xbox One and Series X.
Finally, on Thursday 26th, the arcade party game Have a Blast comes to PC and Switch, and PCGamer’s 2013 Game of the Year and its sequel Spelunky and Spelunky 2 come out on the Switch.

Pax Aus, Handsome Knuckles, Indies and Old Fun

Pax Australia cancelled

PAX Australia had plans on a big return after last year’ s event was cancelled due to the worldwide Covid 19 epidemic. Unfortunately, the event’s organisers have had to pull the plug, releasing the following statement

While PAX is cancelled this year, GCAP the Asia Pacific focussed development conference that kicks off games week in Melbourne each year leading into PAX has announced it will be an all-digital event again. Tickets will be available soon for interested developers.

Knuckles

Idris Elba, People Magazine’s Sexist Man Alive recipient for 2016 has been revealed as the voice of  none other than Knuckles the Echidna in the sequel to 2020s Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The Actor made the announcement on twitter with a picture of the character’s clenched fist and the words “Knock Knock”. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is set to hit theatres on April 8th, 2022.

Indie announcements

This week saw indie showcases by both Nintendo and Microsoft.  Nintendo’s latest Indie World revealed a number of game coming to the console in the near future including a new Shovel Knight game taking the series into the genre of puzzle games. They also surprise dropped 7 games that launched instantly on the eshop. Garden Story, Boyfriend Dungeon, Curious Expeditions 2, Islanders, Slime Rancher: Portable Edition, Australia’s very own Necrobarista and the long-anticipated Axiom Verge sequel.

Microsoft also showed off a number of indie games for its Xbox platforms at this week’s [email protected] event. A new sci fi co-op farming sim called Lightyear Frontier was announced along with Xbox version of games such as The Wandering Village, Lab Rat, Inked: A Tale of love and Sam & Max Save the World Remastered. We also got deeper dives into the upcoming skateboarding game OlliOlli World, showing off the customization options, and the Melbourne developed psychedelic rock platformer The Artful Escape which launches on September 9.

 

More retro Minis

The Amiga 500 mini has been announced. This miniature version of the classic 1980’s PC based platform will ship with 25 games including Another World, The Chaos Engine, Speedball 2 and Worms. It will launch in 2022 with a retail price of $139USD. No Australian price has been announced at this point.

Game Releases

Hades [XSX, XBO] – August 13

Road 96 [Switch, PC] – August 16

Greak: Memories of Azur [PC, PS5, XSX, Switch], Humankind [PC, Stadia] – August 17

Mortal Shell: The Virtuous Cycle DLC [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO], Out of Line [Switch], Skydome [PC] – August 18

Monster Train First Class [Switch], Recompile [PC, PS5, XSX], RiMS Racing [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch], The Vale: Shadow of the Crown [PC, XSX], Twelve Minutes [PC, XBO] – August 19

Old Troubles and New Potential

Activision Blizzard still under fire for allegations of extreme sexual misconduct.
Activision Blizzard is still under fire after details of sexual harassment running rife within the company came to light in a recent legal filing by the state of California. If you aren’t already aware the problem stretches beyond this one company, it was recently spotted that the state of California had filed against Riot Games in February of 2021 for similar reasons. This case has followed a similar path to Activision Blizzard so far and a representative for Riot has said “The truth is that we see it as a legal matter dealing with the past and our team outside of legal is much more focused on the future.”
Amidst the growing public backlash, Activision Blizzard revealed that president J.Allen Brack would be replaced with company veterans Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, as he was “leaving to pursue new opportunities”. This comes after last week’s staff strike where workers protested the companies toxic conditions and lacklustre response on the company’s California campus. About 200 people held signs and flanked the buildings driveway. It’s still unclear if this shakeup will lead to meaningful change but it seems to signal Activision Blizzard knows workers and consumers are serious.
On the 4th of August, a coalition of workers from Activision Blizzard, calling itself ABK Workers Alliance, sent a joint letter to the company’s CEO criticizing the leaderships reaction to the workers’ demands. These requests included ending forced arbitration in employee agreements, adopting inclusive hiring and recruiting practices, increasing pay transparency, and an audit performed by a neutral third party. In response, CEO Bobby Kotick announced the law firm WilmerHale will conduct a third-party audit of company policies and procedures.

Avatar & Korra Tabletop RPG Crowdfunds $1 Million in a Day
On the 3rd of August a new crowdfunding campaign launched on Kickstarter for an officially licensed tabletop RPG set in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The game launched with a goal of $50,000 which it met in just 16 minutes and continued to smash through stretch goals for the rest of the day. The game is similar to Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder but runs on it’s own system designed for you to explore the universe of the hit Avatar series. Magpie Games says that the game is a “heroic fantasy game set in the universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra in which you and your friends take on the role of young heroes from across the Four Nations who have joined together to make the world a better place.” The game is stated to be for players of all ages who want to experience the world of Avatar and Korra “beyond the scope of the existing stories”. At the time of recording this, funding for the game has raised over $3 Million and you can check it out on Kickstarter or twitter @MagpieOfficial.

And now for some upcoming games releases!
Book of Travels will release August 9th for the PC.
Dreamscaper comes to the Nintendo Switch and PC on August 10th.
Black Book is a dark RPG adventure coming out August 10th on the PC, Xbox, Playstation and Switch.
First person puzzle game Faraday Protocol releases to PC, Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on August 12th.

Activision Blizzard Served, Amazon’s New World Bumps Through Beta & An Aussie Takes Independent Games Festival’s Grand Prize

Activision Blizzard Served
On July 20th the State of California filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court against Activision Blizzard after an investigation beginning in 2018 into the company’s “frat boy” culture. The lawsuit alleges many sexist workplace issues, as well as several itemised accounts of serious allegations of sexism and harassment against women and people of colour.
In response Activision Blizzard released a statement calling the lawsuit “irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable State bureaucrats…” this was mirrored by Blizzard’s Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend’s internal email calling the lawsuit “distorted and untrue… factually incorrect, old and out of context…” However, since the release of the lawsuit Activision Blizzard employees have come out corroborating with the events described in the lawsuit.
The fallout of which has resulted in a petition signed by over 3200 current and former Activision Blizzard employees calling for recognition of the seriousness of the allegations, repercussions to those who dismissed them, and a safe space for people to speak out. Current employees are also staging a walkout to demand changes in the current leadership.
In response Activision CEO Bobby Kotick issued a public statement apologising for their behaviour and hiring an external law firm for confidential reporting and to review their workplace policies.

Amazon’s New World Bumps Through Beta
After delaying the release for over a year, this week Amazon opened its new game New World for the closed beta testing to those that either pre-ordered the game or were invited through a sign-up. Amazon celebrated with New World’s real-time combat MMORPG managing to accumulate over two hundred thousand concurrent players during weekend play and fairly positive feedback, but was hampered by some severe teething issues.
The most major of these was the reported bricking of EVGA RTX 3090 graphics cards. The bricking was theorised to be caused by frame rate spikes in menus and the resultant voltage spikes that fried the card. While Amazon stated that “We have seen no indication of widespread issues with 3090s…” they did release a patch to cap the frame rate of menus within 24 hours of the first reported issue. EVGA has also confirmed it will be replacing affected cards, with return forms reportedly already containing a specific “New World” category.
The beta of New World is scheduled to end August 2nd with the release date set for August 31st 2021.

Aussie Takes Independent Games Festival Grand Prize
The IGF took place on the 21st of July to celebrate the achievements and innovations of independent game developers. This year there were over 500 entries for the 8 major awards with over 60 games shortlisted for the awards and more than half of those nominated for one or more of the eight award categories. This year’s winners were:

  • Arrog, the hand-drawn enigmatic adventure puzzle game from Hermanos Magia and Leap Game Studios, won the Audience Award.
  • Vessels, the space narrative adventure from Local Space Survey Corps, LLC., won Best Student Game.
  • Teardown, the destructible voxel world game from Tuxedo Labs was awarded for its Excellence in Design.
  • Blaseball, an online absurdist-horror fantasy baseball league game from The Game Band, took the Nuovo Award.
  • Genesis Noir, an explorative adventure game, was developed by Feral Cat Den, with sound design by Skillbard, took out the awards for both Excellence in Audio and Excellence in Visual Art.
  • And finally, Umurangi Generation, created by Lismore developer Origame Digital, is a first-person photography game and took both the award for Excellence in Narrative and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

Now for some upcoming game releases.
Scare yourself silly with Draft of Darkness, a roguelike horror deck builder, or reflect with No Longer Home, an indie game about letting go and saying goodbye, both coming to PC on July 30th.
On August 3rd, grab some friends for Rocket Rumble, a space racing brawler, coming to PC. Or try your hand at the 25 second time looping FPS Lemnis Gate, also being released on the 3rd and coming to PC, PS4 & 5 and Xbox One and Xbox Series X.
Lastly Starmancer, the interstellar construction and management sim from Chucklefish, is coming to PC on August 5th.

Project Winter Review

Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Other Ocean Group
Music: Bob Baffy
Platforms: Steam, Xbox, and coming soon to the Playstation & Switch.
Released: 24th May 2019
Genre: Hidden Role, Survival, Strategy

Have you ever dreamed of a game that combines the survival genre and the classic hidden role board game Werewolf? If so, you share my weirdly specific dreams and I have the game for you! I bought Project Winter on a whim but quickly found myself engrossed by it. It’s an online game that came out just over 2 years ago and created an admittedly small but dedicated fan base.

In Project Winter you are stuck in a frozen landscape and have just received warning of an incoming blizzard set to tear apart everything in its path. Good news: you can single a rescue vehicle to come save you. Bad news: the equipment you need to signal them is broken.  Good news: you aren’t stranded alone, and many hands make light work. Very bad news: two of your fellow survivors are traitorous and want you dead. A typical game has eight players, two of which are traitors, and the rest are survivors. Along with your personal and team goals, you’ll have to maintain your heat, hunger and health. If you don’t make time to gather food and warm yourself by the fire, you’ll be easy prey for traitors. But if you spend too much time on this, you’ll quickly raise suspicion in your more productive teammates.  As well as your team, you’ll also be assigned a role with unique abilities to help you traverse the wilderness. There’s something for everyone whether you’re analyzing crime scenes as a detective, busting bunkers solo as a hacker, or even reanimating the dead as a scientist.

The survivors must escape before the match timer runs out and they freeze to death in the blizzard. To do this they must complete two repair tasks, phone for help, and reach the escape vehicle. Specifics vary to keep games interesting, but tasks can be anything from collecting resources to cracking ciphers. All the while they must survive traitors, dangerous wildlife, freezing temperatures, and their own paranoia. Traitors spend their time slowing down survivor progress, sabotaging objectives, sowing distrust, framing innocents, and picking of people traveling alone. They have a direct communication line with each other and can access stashes of strong gear littered through the world.

When you first pick up Project Winter, it can be a little overwhelming with all the things to consider but there’s a quick tutorial and a collection of simple role guides. If you’re like me though, and refuse to play a tutorial under any circumstances, it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of things. Turns out death waiting around everyone corner is a heck of a motivator to learn! Don’t be alarmed by the looming threat of death, if you do die you aren’t necessarily out of the game. Dead players observe the game as a ghost. They can’t communicate directly but can assist their allies or freeze their enemies. This is one of the things I loved most about Project Winter. Not only do players get to participate the whole time but they still play an important role. Ghosts can save lives, take lives, out traitors, frame innocents, and loads more. The one downside is you always have an audience watching your most embarrassing deaths.

There are two modes of gameplay beyond the base. A simple and streamlined version that’s good for learning the ropes or just a quick match. Also, a DLC mode of play called blackout that incorporates demons, magic and more which shakes the original rules up and keeps things fresh for seasoned players. There’s also continued support and engagement from the developers with consistent events and updates plus a consistent rotation of cosmetics.

No matter what mode you’re playing, sound is key while playing Project Winter and is your best defense against most danger. Footfalls, traps being placed, bears, crates being opened, alarms going off, weapons, combat, objectives, wolves, I could go on. Everything has a distinct sound that fits the world well. All sounds, including the voice chat, are delivered based on proximity which creates the perfect environment for mistrust to breed – with eight people split across a large map, stories will conflict, accusations will fly, and if you’re not careful – no one will hear you scream.

Finding a match online is surprisingly easy. Project Winter doesn’t have a huge player base, but it does have dedicated fans. You do not need to use the voice chat to play Project Winter, but you will be limited if you choose not to. I’ve been through the full range of online voice chat experiences and thankfully Project Winter stacks up pretty well in that department. I’ve found it to be an overall positive, friendly, and welcoming community to play with. There’s a lot of fun to be had playing Project Winter online but if you’re lucky enough to wrangle a group of eight together – playing with friends is extra special. There’s just nothing else like being framed and getting chased through the wilderness by a mob of your closest friends. My friends and I talk about these matches well after they’ve ended, laughing about stupid deaths or cunning plays.

If it seems like I’m reviewing this game just in hopes that more people will start playing on the Australian server, that’s not the case, just a bonus. Project Winter takes the some of the best bits in my favorite genres and creates a unique and engaging online experience. This game deserves more attention and I hope someone reading will see the appeal and give it a go!

 

 

The Long Dark – Review

Developer: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Publisher: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Music: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco
Platforms: PS4, XB0, Switch, Steam, Epic Games
Released: 22 September 2014
Genre: Survival

Maybe the apocalypse doesn’t come with a bang, with a virus that mutates out of control, hordes of zombies walking through the streets.

Maybe, the apocalypse comes quietly. With a storm that takes away the power, closes off roads and train tracks. It comes quietly, but surely, as the nights grow longer, and the days become colder, and the people grow hungry.

The Long Dark is an exploration survival game which delivers. With a beautiful, 3D paint-like art style, brutal environments that you need to explore to obtain food, clean water, tools, and medicine, and every danger that mother nature could throw at you, plus some, your solitude will become comforting, the roaring wind will make you despair, and you will have to balance every decision you make.

With multiple game modes, a story mode, and various challenges, there is something for everyone, from survival tourists who just want to check out what’s what, to hardcore survivalists, who are prepared to do whatever is needed to claw through another day.

The Long Dark is not an easy game, and that is reflected in every aspect of this game. You’ll find yourself in the northern Candian wilderness, basically alone. It is freezing, the weather changes from cold, sunny days, to brutal blizzards that you can get lost in, completely disorientated. With a night-day cycle, you’ll have to manage your time effectively, finding time to rest, but also finding time to FIND a safe place to rest. There are dangers around you, such as dangerous terrain that you can injure yourself on, frozen lakes where you’ll have to watch your step. And unusually aggressive bears and wolves, who will find you and hunt you down. You can scare them off if you hold your nerve, but you do not want to get into a fight with them.

You’ll have to maintain your health, exhaustion, body temperature, energy levels, clothing, and so much more. Scavenge for resources and tools, learn how to create snares, simple medicines, repair your clothes, and even craft warmer gear. This game made me track rabbits, find their grazing spot, set up a snare, capture them, and then make the decision to kill it with my bare hands. It doesn’t help that they’re pretty cute, but that rabbit could be the reason I make it to the end of the day. I could scavenge a deer killed by wolves, but that puts me at risk myself.

I get so excited when I find a toilet, because that means free drinkable water right away! I don’t have to gather wood, build a fire, melt snow, and then boil the water to make it safe. I can just grab fresh water right away. I managed to find a gun, a lucky find, but without bullets it’s just dead weight. Should I ditch it so I can carry more food? Or should I hold onto it and my one bullet, in case I’m not careful enough and run into the bear?

There are many game modes and difficulty levels, so if you want an easier time, you can have that! If you want to spend 30 days gathering supplies and barricading yourself before a bear arrives to hunt you? You can also do that. You want to be cursed by a spooky skeletal ghost monster? Well, you can do that too.

The music is minimal, but the audio experience feels as cold, solitary, and distant as this game feels. It’s really quite sobering to have had a difficult day finding food and wood, and to return to your little shelter as darkness falls. You can’t afford to start a fire, so you rest and wait in the dark, with the wind howling outside, the sound grating and exhausting. In those moments, I felt like how my survivor must feel, hoping for the glow of sunlight.

Your footsteps crunch through the snow, a thud can be heard nearby as a deer is startled, darting away. Was that a growl? Or the wind? Wings flutter, letting you know that perhaps a corpse is nearby. You look up to find crows circling. Is the body an animal? Or a human, like you?

It’s all connected, the sounds tell you so much, and you become so attuned to it, a soundscape being built around you. It’s not essential, but sometimes it’s the only warning I get before realising I wasn’t looking around myself often enough, and a wolf is sprinting towards me.

I adore The Long Dark. It can be difficult, challenging, and frustrating. Sometimes I’ll choose a specific game mode, to explore the story and piece together what happened to cause this town, and the communities, to fall apart. Sometimes I feel like figuring out just how long I can survive. How far I can go before I can’t go any further. The impending bear mode sounds easy enough, 30 days to prepare, but just making it through those 30 days is difficult enough, and as each day counts down to the big showdown, my anxiety will grow. And when the day arrives, I better be ready one way or another.

If you feel like you could be ready, then this just might be the game for you.