Steam Deck, Netflix Gaming, and Bot Farming

Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC.

Video gaming developer Valve has debuted the Steam Deck which promises to deliver the ability to play your Steam library portably. That includes AAA titles at a PlayStation 4 quality. Basically, the Steam Deck is a portable and dockable PC, featuring touch pads, a 7 Inch LCD screen with 1280 by 800 resolution. The Steam Deck also is expected to have a battery life from 2 to 8 hours on a single charge. It is, however, also a little on the heavy side weighing in at over half a kilo. The Steam Deck is releasing in the US, Canada and Europe this December at around $540AUS and isn’t expected to release down under until 2022.

A Ukraine Warehouse Packed with PS4s.

What was thought to be a cryptocurrency farm situated in a Ukrainian warehouse actually turned out to contain over 3800 PS4 consoles that were bot farming FIFA Ultimate Team. There are images showing rows and rows of PS4 consoles with game discs sticking out of them indicating the bot farming. The idea behind bot farming is to grind a certain game thus packing those game accounts with in-game currency and then selling those accounts on the black market. It’s a hefty business making hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and not just with games like FIFA Ultimate Team. EA have attempted to combat this issue over the years unfortunately it’s not always an easy solution. The Ukrainian warehouse has been shut down and out for the rest of the season.

Netflix Confirms Video Games in Subscription Packages.

A recent letter sent to investors from Netflix HQ has explained that they intend on expanding into games for the mobile. Netflix is in tough competition with the likes of Disney+ or Amazon Prime, so gaming is expected to give them a competitive edge. An independent telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore has said, “The company will have to delegate significant resources including time and investment with no guaranteed success.“For sure this is a long-term play as Netflix needs to strongly think about retention and engagement.” Netflix have also recently announced the hiring of Mike Verdu former EA Vice President of Game Development as well as Bridgerton creator Shonda Rhimes. These moves definitely show that Netflix is serious about a future in gaming.

The Week in Gaming Releases

  • July 22nd – Last Stop [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
  • July 23rd – Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed [PS4, Switch]
    • Observer: System Redux [PS4, XBO]
    • Orcs Must Die! 3 [PC, PS4, XBO]
  • July 27th – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles [PC, PS4, Switch]
    • HighFleet [PC]
    • Microsoft Flight Simulator [XSX]
    • Neo: The World Ends with You [PS4, Switch]
    • Night Book [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
    • SkyDrift Infinity [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
    • Tribes of Midgard [PC, PS5, PS4]
  • July 28th – Final Fantasy 1 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Final Fantasy 2 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Final Fantasy 3 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Unbound: Worlds Apart [PC, Switch]

New Connections, New Technology & New Records

Tencent has Introduced Facial Recognition to Catch Kids Staying up to Game.
China’s tech behemoth Tencent has recently announced it would begin using facial recognition to catch kids staying up late to play it’s video games. This is to better enforce the law passed by China in 2019 that bans minors from playing video games between the hours of 10pm and 8am. The law intends to prevent gaming addiction. It required Chinese gaming companies implement real name verification systems as well as limits to how long children can play and how much they can spend. Many have been able to bypass this security so Tencent hopes these new security measures will be stronger. This system currently only operates in China, and it is unlikely it will spread outside anytime soon.

 

The Witcher Universe Collides
A trailer recently dropped for the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher – with it set to release December 17 this year. The show takes inspiration directly from the books rather than the game but the two are strongly linked regardless, especially as it dipped into the games fan base   for the foundation of it’s incredible popularity. Alongside this announcement, CD Projekt Red announced that “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition”, which is set to release later this year, will include free DLC based on the Netflix series. This upgrade is available to anyone who purchased the original game, whether you’ll be playing on a new console or not, so you’re already set.

 

Retro games continue to smash price records at auction.
Earlier this week an incredibly rare copy of The Legend of Zelda, still factory sealed, was sold for a record-breaking price of 870 thousand dollars. The sale occurred on the online platform Heritage Auctions which also hosted the previous record-breaking sale of Super Mario Bros at 660 thousand dollars. This version of The Legend of Zelda features barely noticeable differences from the original but the chance to own a unique piece of the franchises history makes it a highly sought-after collectors piece. The Legend of Zelda didn’t get to hold onto the record very long as it was knocked off the top spot three days later by a copy of Super Mario 64 which sold for over 1 and a half million USD. It might seem like an outrageous amount to spend on a game but it’s easy to understand the desire to own a piece of gaming history. “It seems impossible to overstate the importance of this title, not only to the history of Mario and Nintendo, but to video games as a whole,” said Valarie McLeckie, a video games specialist for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale. Prices for historical games like this have skyrocketed in the past years and there’s no way of knowing where the record might land next.

 

 

Big Announcements 7 Inches is better than 6.2

Overwatch under investigation

The US department of Justice antitrust division is looking into the Overwatch League over its soft salary cap policy. The idea behind this investigation is to determine whether the existing policies in the league are anticompetitive. An Activision Blizzard Esports spokesperson told Dot Esports in a recent statement, “we have received an inquiry from the DOJ and are cooperating accordingly, we deliver epic entertainment to our fans and support out players and team in producing the most competitive and enjoyable esports leagues in the world.” The soft salary cap had a threshold of $1.6 million USD in 2020 and if the team were to exceed that amount in annual player salaries Blizzard Esports would have to pay players’ salaries as well as that excess amount to the league as a luxury tax, thus making every dollar over 1.6 million twice as expensive. That luxury tax would then be distributed among the non-offending teams. It’s possible that only a few teams may have passed this threshold however the details are still unclear. A spokesperson from the DOJ declined to comment on the matter and the existence of an investigation.

Nintendo’s OLED Switch drop

A recent surprise announcement from the gaming giants Nintendo showed off a new model of the console with a 7-inch OLED display as well as a bunch of other small hardware updates including bigger storage 64GB and wider kickstand, it even has a built-in ethernet port for all those Lan parties you’re having. There is also improved audio quality. The current Nintendo Switch has a slightly smaller display at 6.2 inches and only 32GB of storage. The Nintendo Switch OLED will be released on the 8th of October at $539AUS and they are available for pre-order now.

Games Done Quick 2021

It’s that time of year again where Games Done Quick raises money for good causes. For over 10 years, Games Done Quick has been raising money via speedrunning. Basically, a bunch of awesome volunteers play games at incredible speed for entertainment. The events are live streamed on Twitch.tv nonstop from the 5th of July until the 10th of July. Each streamer will share some tips and tricks around how they get the fastest times from their speed runs. This year’s charity will be Doctors Without Borders which is an international medical humanitarian aid organisation that works in over 70 countries providing lifesaving medical care and speaks out about what they have seen in those areas. Their work aids people based solely in need, irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. If you’d like to check out Games Done Quick and how you can contribute by clicking here.

Gaming Releases this week:
• July 8
o Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual [PC VR]
• July 9
o Black Skylands [PC]
o Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin [PC, Switch]
• July 13
o Curved Space [Switch]
o Outsider: After Life [PC]
o Where the Heart Leads [PS5, PS4]
• July14
o Skydome [PC]
o Space Punks [PC]
• July 15
o Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective [Switch]
o Space Jam: A New Legacy – The Game [PC, XBO]

Wingspan Review

Developer/Designer: Monster Couch/Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Music: Paweł Górniak
Platforms: Board Game (1-5 Players), Windows, Mac, Switch & Xbox
Released: September 17th 2020
Genre: Board Game, Card Game, Relaxing Strategy, Turn Based
Age: 10+
Playtime: 40 – 70mins

Wingspan comes in two forms a physical board game, which it’s most known for however it is also known for its video game on Steam that simulates the physical game. First off, I’ll read to you the description on the back of the box. “You are bird enthusiasts – researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors – seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your aviary.”
Wingspan is a card driven, engine building board game that has a medium level learning curve that is why it is recommended for players aged 10 and up. This game is lavishly designed and produced with brightly coloured boards, over 150 cards with stunning pastel illustrations of birds and habitats alike.

You also have a bird feeder dice tower that you assemble which is simple to do so, custom wooden die, cute little eggs and all the rule-books, appendix and other forms of paper are all this wonderful water proof fabric to protect the integrity of the pack. The game is visually charming, it inspires a relaxing environment and a pleasant state of mind. Wingspan is considered in the top board 10 games of 2020.

Now Wingspan is a game where you are trying to do one of two things that you determine before you start playing. You could go the points route or the goals route to determine a winner. Points is just how many points can you accumulate from each round from things such as; eggs, bonus cards, cache food, end-of-round goals achieved and tucked birds. If you were to go the goals objective points are less relevant unless those points are to build towards achieve set goals. For example; the player with the most eggs in nests or the player with the most birds in this particular habitat.
The game is played out over 4 rounds each round giving you less turns as you go. Such as first round you have 8 moves, second round 7, third 6 and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each player is given a personal player board at the beginning of the game that is segmented into three different habitats; forest, grasslands, and wetlands. Each habitat has their own unique set of abilities and activating a habitat will grant you bird powers such as; the grasslands will mean you can lay eggs; forest is for obtaining food and the wetlands to draw more bird cards.

For every bird you play onto the board they will most likely have their own unique powers. Which is listed on each card. Those unique powers will only be triggered when you either play the bird for the first time or every time you activate that habitat. On each card is also listed the wingspan of each bird, that’s where the game title comes in.

Now there is a lot to get into with Wingspan and the layers of strategy can get quite complex. Maylee and I took about 45 mins to get the initial handle on things before we started playing actual
rounds. We did also find that the rules around how the bird feeder worked a little confusing. I did eventually figure out how it was supposed to work (thanks YouTube). So, my advice is to reference some player tutorials online if you get stuck.

In saying that when you get the physical game inside the box you receive a 30% off the digital edition of Wingspan on Steam. Which sits around $20AUS. I started playing the tutorial in the digital game and it is the exact same game as the physical one, there are no differences other than the platform. The tutorial helped me get a better handle of the game and definitely felt more hands on. Also, the digital game is just as visually stunning and the UI is easy to follow, nothing is cluttered and you get to hear all the bird sounds of each bird you play not to mention cute little animations bringing to life all the cards from the physical version.

Accompanying the digital version of the game is a soundtrack by Paweł Górniak titled My Realm that you can also purchase as a DLC from the Steam store. The music is cinematic, relaxing and filled with wonderful string and wind instruments taking you on an adventure into the wildness. Whether that be in a calming meadow, wondering the grasslands or exploring the treetops Paweł does a wonderful job of transporting you there with this exquisite composition.

My time with Wingspan is only just starting, as I convince my family and friends to get in on this bird loving action. This game is peaceful, awesomely fun, competitive and invites you to appreciate our natural world. Which is something I think we always need to do.

 

Freeplay, WitcherCon, Farewell Dogmeat

Freeplay 2021 Awards

Freeplay is Australia’s largest celebration of Australian independent games, and each year displays a diverse array of games, made by developers from all walks of life. This year, the Freeplay Award was granted to Umurangi Generation by Origame Digital, a first person photography game set in the future.

Some other finalists includes:

  • Webbed by Sbug Games for Excellence in Design
  • A Long Goodbye by Dana McKay for Excellence in Narrative
  • Neon Cyborg Cat Club by Edwin Montgomer for Experimental Game Award
  • Completely Stretchy and Uncomfortably Sticky by Daniel Ferguson for Excellence in Visual Art
  • The Lighthouse At The Edge Of The Universe by Ella Lim for Non-Digital Game Award
  • The Snowgardens by Anthony Cristiano for Student Game Award
  • Mealmates by magicdweedoo for Excellence in Audio
  • UNDER A STAR CALLED SUN by Cecile Richard for Micro-Game Award
  • Before We Leave by Balancing Monkey Games for Across The Ditch Award

For more information about Freeplay, and to check out these finalists, as well as semi-finalists, you can click here.

WitcherCon is Almost Here!

Fans of the books, games, and show will be able to come together for all things Witcher at WitcherCon, a digital convention taking place on July 9 on Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch.

Fans are being warned that there will be no new game announcement, however there is plenty to look forward to, such as a deep dive into the making of the games, the Netflix series, merchandise, and behind-the-scenes footage. In addition, there will be interactive panels with people involved in the creation of The Witcher, with never-before-seen reveals, and explorations into the lore and the world of The Witcher.

There is a lot more to look forward to, so if you’re a fan, definitely check out the full schedule here.

Real Life Dogmeat Passes Away

Fallout fans are probably well aware of Dogmeat, the canine companion who helps and backs up the player through thick and thin. A brave and capable German Shepard, its no secret that Dogmeat is held fondly in many hearts.

The real life inspiration for the Fallout companion, River, has sadly passed away. Fallout 4 senior designer, Joel Burgess, tweets:

“Dogmeat is a tether.  He grounds you in the world, will always stand by you, lead you to your family, and anticipate your needs.  He wants you to be safe and happy.

In other words, he loves you.  

And if love is River’s legacy, I am contented.

Rest in peace, big girl.”

River had won an award for her role in Fallout 4, and true to Dogmeat’s companion role in the game, she had a major role as a companion to developers.

And now for some upcoming game releases!

July 1

July 6 

July 7