This week Maylee wrangles a full crew with Zahra, Hazel, and Caroline coming in to talk games and chat this week in gaming news. We also have two review with Toby digging deep with a review of A Mortician’s Tale, and Maylee takes us on a amaurotic trip through Blind Drive.
Club EA, Microsoft Integration, & Activision Blizzard Still Making Headlines.
Electronic Arts has been in the headlines this week after announcing a new Lord of the Rings franchised game, The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-Earth. The game, developed by Capital games, is rumoured to be a Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes reskin, with all the free-to-play collections you would expect.
In more surprising news, EA and FIFA have parted ways announcing that after this year’s FIFA 23 “a new era” will begin next year with EA Sports FC series. Thanks to the over 300 licences EA had accumulated, EA insists things will not be changing much and fans can expect “the same… modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes”. In response, FIFA announced that the split will allow FIFA to launch new games developed with other studios and publishers and multiple “non-simulation” games to launch later this year. FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisted “…that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans… The FIFA name is the only global, original title.”
Microsoft Integrate Access
Microsoft this week released information regarding a whole new ecosystem of accessories, both for adaptation for accessible design and for Xbox cloud streaming. Coming later this year, Microsoft is set to release a series of adaptive controllers that allow for custom inputs and the ability to connect and design 3D-printed toppers and tails to completely customise the design suitable to an individual’s needs. But if one is not enough, the Microsoft Adaptive Hub allows four wireless connects to these adaptive buttons, and 3 more devices as needed. Allowing people with physical limitation empowerment in the digital age.
And talking of access, Microsoft has announced the evolution of their online gaming cloud… beginning with Fortnite. You can now to play Fortnite free on iOS, Android or PC with Windows if you have a Microsoft account. This “everywhere initiative” from Microsoft is planned to expand to your home tv as well, with a puck or dongle device similar to the Amazon stick or Roku puck, and will have access to a library of games through the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. However, should you already have a Samsung smart TV, Microsoft is currently working with them to create a native app. This initiative is set to be available within the next 12 months.
Speaking of Microsoft, Microsoft Excel integration is coming to Eve Online. Colloquially known as “spreadsheets in space” Eve Online is finally getting native integration with Eve and Microsoft creating the API’s to finally help manage the complex in-game economy. While the API is in its early phase of development, the number crunching fans of Eve Online let out literal cheers from the audience at the announcement.
Activision/Blizzard still making headlines.
In the wake of the multitude of accusations and lawsuits made against Activision Blizzard, the second fulltime leadership role has been filled to combat the “created culture of ‘constant sexual harassment’ and gender-based discrimination” within the company, and she comes from Disney. Jessica Martinez is credited with 14 years of experience at Disney and now takes on the roll of VP, Head of Culture with the responsibility of “growing and implementing our culture strategy” while leading the learning and development team and working closely with communications, events, and other leaders within Blizzard.
And she has her work cut out for her with Raven Software QA staff actively seeking support from other Activision Blizzard staff to aid in unionisation. Since Activision Blizzard higher ups chose not to voluntarily recognise the Game Workers Alliance earlier this year, staff of Raven Software have sought to be recognised by the government agency National Labor Relations Board. Internal emails reportedly show Activision Blizzard emailing staff with the graphic “Please vote no.” after a town hall meeting in April. The ballot is set to be counted over video conference on May 23.
And now for the new releases.
Tuesday May 10, turn-based strategy game Songs of Conquest from Coffee Stain Publishing is coming to PC. This War of Mine: Final Cut is also being released on Xbox Series S & X and PlayStation 5, and Brisbane’s own award-winning Unpacking is coming to PlayStation 4 & 5.
Wednesday May 11, Brigandine comes to PC, and the PC roguelite Source of Madness is releasing for PlayStation, Xbox, and the Switch
And on Thursday May 12, become a detective in the live-action mystery adventure game The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story coming to PC, PlayStation, and Switch. And to PC also on May 12, battle legends and gods in the isometric ARPG Achilles: Legends Untold. Or try Cantata and fight for your faction’s survival in this indie, pixel-art, turn based strategy game. And finally rock out with your cactus out in indie platformer Flippin Kaktus.
Developer: Igor Uduslivii aka icoeye
Publisher: Spooky House Studios
Audio: Composer – Gemfire (Andrei Scerbatiuc)
Platforms: Mobile and Windows
Release Date: iOS/Android: Summer of 2019, Steam 8/9/2020
While away from my aging beast of a computer and staying with family, I found myself listless and avoidant of the games I had brought along to play on my Switch. So, like any sane person, I started trawling the Google Play store for a game. A game that was not bogged down with ads and provided some escapism from this family trip without draining the rural wifi, or relying upon non-existent mobile connectivity… and for the low, low price of freemium. This is how I came upon today’s game, Progressbar95.
Some things really bring out the nostalgia in me. I thought the sound of a dial-up modem, or the smell of warm chipsets would be the only things that could bring me back to my childhood gaming world, but Progressbar95 brought out a new one in me.
I never thought I would hear that warming computer rattle sound again, the click as the cathode ray tube monitor started up, and while the start-up sounds have been changed, they are still reminiscent of the operating system … of your choice…
Yes, not only can you relive the operating system ending in 95, but you can go as far back as inserting a floppy disk in the A:\ drive and loading your DOS operating system. You can also push forwards to the questionable choices of the present, and even sideways to operating systems you may have only ever heard of. And for those of you who had fancier parents than I, you can even unlock the other operating fruit’s systems as you progress.
So why am I dancing around the names of the systems? Because that’s what Proagressbar95 does… there will be no glass filled wall holes or fruit-based names found in this game. Instead Wista, Largehorn, and Bar OS will tickle that nostalgia nerve within.
The progression of this operating system sim occurs through a range of casual arcade minigames, the premise of all being the collection of segments to complete the infamous loading bar. The points you receive award you with computer part upgrades that you need to then move to the next operating system.
The first core gaming loop to gain these points is to collect the completed blue segments as they fall from the top of your screen in the ever-diminishing space in your loading bar. All while avoiding pink errors, yellow fragmented particles, red system errors, complicated pop-ups, mines, electrical surges, occasional lasers and the omnipresent and always helpful Clippy. These are all available in the unlockable difficulties of Normal, Relaxed, Hardcore, and Custom, as well as the random bonus stages reminiscent of galaxy zooming screensavers and The Matrix’s computer interface!
But be not afraid of the many popups and system errors that will drain the heart tally at the top of your screen. You can occasionally fall back on the minigame fixes with Defrag and ScanProgress to assist you with errored segments and blue screen of death system errors. All with appropriately long cooldowns.
As you level up your skill by filling your load bar, your progression will unlock more minigames that take you deeper into the rabbit hole of nostalgia.
A selection of these being; ProgressSweeper, a mine-finding game similar to another sweeper game you may have heard of, with a double layered twist; Progress Defender, a tower defence version of the base game where you work to block the persistent Clippy and protect programs generating loading progression segments; Progress Commander, where you need to react to make sure to accurately move a command in time to build your loading column; plus so many more, and with current development schedules, even more are coming!
Other ways to get points can be found by finding dead pixels on the screen, or lady bugs in programs, shutting down the operating system when you finish your playtime, mini puzzles, and a DOS simulation. This is one of my favourites, as in this DOS sim Command/DOS aficionados can find hidden cheat codes and bonuses in randomized file systems and match 5 HEX puzzles, plus the ability to explore the programming files and all that entails.
Finally, there is also Bin. Bin is your Tamagotchi-esque pet who needs constant reassurance, petting, and cleaning. Cleaning this pet daily rewards you with a nice chunk of points, especially if you fill them with folders from the previous day of DOS based files. Plus seeing them grow in happiness is its own reward.
However, this game would not be the joy it is without the nostalgia that glues it together. What immerses me in this game and makes me rave to my wife about resurfacing old memories, is the soundscape changes that match the game’s visual changes. A DOS based operating system would not seem accurate without hearing the A:\ drive clunk and grind away loading up the blue visual base, and the near constant whir of fans and hard drives in the background. I was almost disappointed when I reached the point where I managed to get solid state drives removing the need for the background hum, and then with joy did I see a popup asking if I wanted to keep it.
It’s the accuracy of these and the mouse clicks, the sounds marking the opening and closing of basic user interfaces, the alert tone of system crashes and associated hardware shutdowns, all of these makes the game feel close enough to the old experiences allowing one to wallow luxuriantly in the joyous nostalgia.
Now I experienced most of this on my PC, as once I returned from my rural family visit I wanted to explore this game through my other everyday screen. This means I generally missed-out on the pop-in advertisements and pay-to-progress elements that are built into the mobile version of this game. However, I did not find that my freemium experience was intruded or overwhelmed by these monetisation methods, and for those that do find issue with this, there is an ad-free price point available to purchase.
There are also a few bugs in the Steam version. Earlier in my game time (<20 hours) I was unsure if the game glitches were intentional or not, because, as we all know, operating systems can be very buggy. But as I put more time into the game, I was not too sure. Despite this, Progressbar95 has a great fan-based bug reporting system with constant developer updates and regular game expansions, so I can only see this game bettering over time.
So, if you are like me and remember fondly the days of A:\ drives, Windows upgrades and DOS commands, I would recommend downloading ProgressBar95, because at whatever price point you choose, the memories that this game revives are worth the price of entry.
Zed Games Podcast – Episode 269
In studio: Razor, Lee May, Candi Payne and chip musician Slato joins us as guest host.
We’re joined in studio by musician/radio host Tim Shiel. We talk about his career as a musician, the soundtrack to best-selling mobile game Duet, and his collaboration with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Lee gets back inside the head of B.J. Blazkowicz for Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.
Aired 13 May 2015.
Subscribe to the Zed Games Podcast on iTunes
Review: Adventure Time Presents Card Wars
Platform: Android, iOS
Developer: Kung Fu Factory
Australian classification: Unrated
‘Card Wars’ was originally an episode of the Adventure Time cartoon parodying collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering. In that episode Jake the Dog perfectly summed up Magic: “It’s a fantasy card game that’s super-complicated and awesome but, well, it’s kind of stupid.”
Now there’s an app that lets you play the actual game as seen in the show, which is an idea that’s simultaneously dumb and brilliant. Thanks to the popularity of video games like Hearthstone, those mechanics are everywhere – it seems like every fantasy setting has its own virtual card game where you summon monsters that crawl off the cards and onto a digital tabletop – and ripe for making fun of.
Review: Out There
Platform: Android, iOS
Developer: Mi-Clos Studio
Australian classification: Unrated
A game like FTL: Faster Than Light gives you basically the full Captain Kirk Star Trek fantasy. Your own spaceship, your own crew to boss around, and an endless supply of enemy craft to hail over the intercom and bargain with or blow out of the sky. Out There is an undeniably similar game of crossing the galaxy in your own spaceship, but it’s a very different fantasy: you’re alone, your ship has no weapons, and your greatest enemy is an empty fuel tank. It’s not Star Trek; it’s a bleak Polish novel about the vastness of space.
The first time I played Out There I realised I was running low on fuel, so I set the course for a gas giant I could probe to harvest hydrogen. Flying to that planet cost fuel, getting into orbit around it cost more fuel, and when I pressed the button to send the probe I discovered that also cost fuel, which I no longer had enough of. I didn’t have enough fuel to refuel. In Out There you don’t get to reload if you goof like this, it’s game over. You press the “give up” button and start again.
I press the “give up” button a lot.
Zed Games Podcast – Episode 203
We chat with James “Peanuts” Schultz (community manager) and Matt Knight (designer/artist/voice artist) of Halfbrick Studios (Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, Fish Out Of Water). In this candid interview we discuss Colossatron: Massive World Threat and Band Stars, find out what it’s really like in the games testing department at Halfbrick, and we poke Matt repeatedly until he does his “Rick Dalton” voice.
Lee reviews The Banner Saga (PC), “an epic RPG inspired by viking legend”.
In studio: Razor, Lee, Candi, Jody and Alanah
Aired 22 January 2014
Zed Games Podcast – Episode 203