It’s been five years since Rocksteady wrapped up the Batman series that began in Arkham Asylum, continued into Arkham City, took a brief pre-tour with another developer for Arkham Origins, and then crescendoed in Arkham Knight. One of the finale’s most prominent features was also its most divisive: the Batmobile. If you ask someone their opinion of Arkham Knight, you’re likely to also get their opinion of the Batmobile. “Great game, but the Batmobile stuff sucked,” will be a common refrain.
As an observer of game design, driving game aficionado, and professional contrarian, I take issue with this conclusion. It fails to appreciate one of Rocksteady’s best design decisions in an all-around excellent game. So I am here in defense of one of Batman’s greatest toys and how well it was expressed in Rocksteady’s greatest game (although you’ll note my enthusiasm for the Batmobile hadn’t fully developed when I reviewed the game).
Sega and Sports Interactive are using a new eco-friendly package for retail versions of Football Manager 2020. The reinforced cardboard sleeve and recyclable polyethylene shrink wrap replaces the standard hard plastic case that you see now. The new packaging costs about 30% more than the current boxes, but that difference is partially offset with a reduced cost for shipping and destruction on excess manufacturing. Studio director Miles Jacobson estimates a 20-ton plastic savings over a print run, which would equal a gigantic difference if adopted by the gaming industry.
Going digital reduces a lot more plastic waste, of course, but pundits continue to debate the cost and energy of server farms against the distribution and manufacturing of media. Hit the pitch with your vuvuzela and make yourself heard!
The other day I decided it would be pretty awesome to play Rebel Galaxy Outlaw on the big screen, with surround sound, leaning back on the couch. Since it’s built to be played with a gamepad, it’s one of those PC games that transitions seamlessly into the living room, thanks to Steam’s Big Picture mode and a Steam Link. So I booted up the Steam Link, set up a controller, opened Steam’s Big Picture, and started scrolling through my installed games. This was gonna be good.
CD Projekt RED will be streaming a 15-minute edited version of the gameplay they’ve been showing to selected folks at Gamescom. You’ll be able to catch the broadcast on August 30th here or here. According to the announcement, the stream will include an interview with the team, footage of the Pacifica area in the game’s Night City, and a demonstration of the way different play styles work in Cyberpunk 2077. Nvidia posted a tiny taste from Gamescom to whip up interest.
As you might expect, some people, rather than being excited at the idea of seeing more Cyberpunk 2077, are angry that CD Projekt RED is only showing an edited chunk of the full Gamescom demo. With fans like that, it’s more fun to predict people’s reactions to the video, then what we might actually see in the stream.
More debate about how the first-person view was the wrong or right decision, followed by heated discussion of how balls the combat was in The Witcher 3, and how everyone must’ve been bought off to heap praise on such an obviously over-hyped game.
Lady Gaga still won’t know why people keep tweeting #CyberPokerFace at her.
Look at this stair-stepping! I’m calling “bullshot” on the video. It’s obviously a work.
Someone will zoom in on incomprehensibly small detail and use it to back up their pet theory of the company culture in CD Projekt RED.
Countless YouTube videos will be made purporting to show you “Easter eggs you totally missed” with thumbnail images featuring a giant red arrow pointing at nothing.
Keanu Reeves will be forced to act like the “you’re breathtaking” meme hasn’t crossed into annoyance for him.
See here? That’s some obviously poor HBAO effect. Looks like CDPR is taking the lazy route.
Cyberpunk pen and paper game creator Mike Pondsmith will remain a true gentleman, but his smile will slip ever so slightly when people accuse him of copying Shadowrun.
Is that transhuman mercenary street samurai racist? Let’s dig in!
Collective wailing and gnashing of teeth as gamers realize there are still over 200 days until the April 2020 launch.
Telling Lies, the sequel to Sam Barlow’s critically-acclaimed Her Story, looks like it had a much bigger budget than the original game from 2015. Instead of one full-motion video character, there’s four main ones in this game, played by Logan-Marshall Green, Alexandra Shipp, Kerry Bishé and Angela Sarafyan. Instead of Viva Seifert staring into a camera while being interrogated, Telling Lies features anything a secret cache of surveillance footage might have recorded. Barlow jokes that the “game engine” can now handle exteriors.
Telling Lies launches later this year from Annapurna Interactive.
You might think Guild Wars 2 is all about crazy creatures like talking bipedal polar bears (kodan), talking gorillas (grawl), talking moles (dredge), talking birdmen (tengu), talking frogs (hyleks), talking plant people who totally aren’t elves (sylvari), totes adorbs cooing penguin/seal hybrids (quaggan), and World of Warcraft gnomes (asura). But the thing about most of those races is that you can’t be them. But you know what you can be? A cat. And you know how Guild Wars has a hundred or so miniature pets, including cats? That means your cat can have a cat.
But Guild Wars 2 has decided it’s time to go deeper. Next Tuesday, on February 26th, you can get a cat as a mount. So now your cat with a pet cat can ride a cat. It’s a cat singularity, which is one of about three hundred reasons that Guild Wars 2 was designated the Greatest MMO of All Time by the International MMO Designation Committee, which is comprised of me and my cat.
Vikendi, the new wintery snow-covered map in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is live for all players. It’s not just a white-painted version of another map, a common cost-cutting technique in games, but an actual new island with unique points of interest. There’s a decrepit dinosaur park, a rickety roller coaster, and a rusting cosmodrome with a rocket. Snowmobiles are the vehicle du jour in Vikendi, and daring players are already breaking the physics to see how far they can ride on the roller coaster tracks. Is the chicken dinner best served cold?
Cam Clarke, the voice of Liquid Snake, and David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake for most of the Metal Gear series, come together for a cute fan-fiction holiday poetry reading. Clarke’s Facebook post reveals that he and Hayter concocted the video late last month.
The first four of hopefully lots more Williams tables for Pinball FX3 just came out this week. Williams Pinball: Volume 1 is $10 DLC that adds Fish Tales, The Getaway, Junk Yard, and Medieval Madness, which all feel dated…in a good way. They’re among the physical tables from the days of yore, from actual stand-up pinball machines that exist in the real world, now ported into Pinball FX3 thanks to Zen Studios’ licensing deal with Williams. They introduce an odd dilemma for those of us who’ve been playing Zen’s tables all these years.
Pinball FX’s physics have been criticized as “floaty” or “soft”, and it’s not an unfair observation. Their tables are made to play by their own rules, with their own feel for where the ball should go and how. They never claimed to model actual steel balls rolling down actual inclines, bouncing off actual bumpers, and flipped by actual flippers. You could say their physics are stylized, which has freed Zen Studios to do some truly strange things with their tables. That’s just part of the identity of Pinball FX. There are other videogame pinball options for people who put a priority on real world physics. But with these four new tables, when you play a standalone round independent of the unlockable bonuses and wizard powers, you have the option to choose a “difficulty” setting. The choices are Arcade Mode or Tournament Mode. Arcade Mode is Zen Pinball as it’s always been. “Floaty” and “soft”, if you will. But Tournament Mode is their brand new physics model, presumably built to bring a sense of fidelity to these classic tables. And boy, does it feel different.
It feels so different that it doesn’t feel like Pinball FX anymore. It feels faster, and less forgiving, which is probably why Zen calls it a “difficulty” setting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s like playing a whole new game. Who could object to getting a whole new game? And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to play it. But if you do like it — which I really do — now you have four tables that play this cool new way, and 78 tables that don’t. Now you might find yourself wishing the 78 other tables would get their own Tournament Mode. Now you might find yourself understanding why people bitched all these years about “floaty” and “soft” physics. Really, it just means I have to make hard choices as I mess around with these new tables. Get used to the new physics? Or pretend they aren’t in there? There are separate leaderboards for each mode, and although part of me winces at leaderboards splitting off in so many different directions, it does give me more options to beat my pesky friends who play Pinball FX3.
But what’s most puzzling to me is that now I like these tables that I didn’t think I would like, and not necessarily because I actually, you know, like the tables themselves. I like how they play. I like Tournament Mode physics. I’m coming around to the actual tables. I’m sold on Getaway, which is fast and flashy and open and growls like a muscle car. It wants to move. The pinball whipping madly around the crazy racetrack at the top of the table will never get old. It also means I’ll never have to play V12 again. Have you tried that table lately? Ugh. Junk Yard and Fish Tales are kind of junky and weird, but it feels nice to play these old fashioned designs for a change. Medieval Madness, however, just feels superfluous, given that Zen already has a jokey generic fantasy table called Epic Quest. But you can’t play Epic Quest in Tournament Mode, so Medieval Madness has that going for it. This will all be a non-issue as soon as Zen releases more Williams tables, especially the real classics like Pin-bot or Bride of Pin-bot, which give that much more weight to the new physics. But please hurry, Zen! It’s a very confusing time for some of us fans.
Gunfingers! What better way for Peter Parker, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, to greet fellow New Yorkers on the street? A wave? A casual hello? Pow! It’s gunfingers! The universal salute everywhere of dorks trying too hard to look cool. It’s the perfect choice for the web slinger in Insomniac’s just-launched Marvel’s Spider-Man. Parker is a nerd suddenly granted superpowers and fame, so of course the kid uses gunfingers. The less said of the selfie button, the better.
I’m honestly about to barf. Like, sitting here with my head between my knees in a cold sweat. But I just couldn’t stop myself. I just couldn’t. I kept going even as I felt it balling up in the pit of my stomach and then rising up my gorge. I couldn’t stop.
The North American turkey. Staple of Thanksgiving dinner tables and renaissance fairs. In Far Cry 5, they are murderous foes capable of pecking and gobbling an adult human or mountain lion to death in seconds. They are the merciless ninjas of Montana. Beware! Beware the mighty turkey!
The indie game scene on Steam, once filled with rags to riches stories, has become a place for dreams to die. Mike Rose of No More Robots, told attendees at the 2018 Game Developers Conference that their wide-eyed optimism for success on Steam was an error. According to his data, the average game on Valve’s PC gaming service makes about $30,000 in sales in its first year. Sales decline from then on. For small studios with more than one person working a ton of hours to bring their indie vision to life, this is sobering news.
“A lot of people are coming to me saying things like ‘our game’s a bit like Limbo, and Limbo sold millions of copies.’ Oh god, that’s not how it works.”
The problem, of course, is an over-saturated platform. In 2017, over 6,000 games launched on Steam, and thus far 2018 is looking to double that figure. Rose’s advice for indie developers? Have a plan to sell on other platforms, and make your product stand out from the overcrowded space. Even then, Rose cautions indies to prepare for less-than-stellar sales.
This is the brig. It’s the jail in a naval vessel, used to hold prisoners like enemy combatants or disobedient sailors. In Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves, it’s an option that a ship’s crew can use to isolate troublemakers. It can also be used to troll players. If the ship votes to put you in the brig, you’ll pop behind bars and you’ll be stuck there until the crew decides to let you out or you log out and try a different group.
On a real ship, you’d appear before the captain and he’d snarl for his bosun to toss you in the brig. In Sea of Thieves, you just appear in the cell. Unlike just about every other activity in Sea of Thieves, there are no instructions on how to be a prisoner. There is no minigame. You are just trapped.
That’s how I wound up spending an hour in the brig during this past weekend’s beta. I fumbled around thinking there was some puzzle or activity I had to complete to break out, but that wasn’t the case at all. My sin was being a random swabbie instead of one of the cool kids.
Microsoft is bundling PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with the Xbox One X. The hot as fire battle royale multiplayer game just launched as an Xbox exclusive and racked up over 1 million players in 48 hours. That’s a million players without a demo version. To celebrate, Microsoft is offering the game as a free bonus to all Xbox One X buyers until the end of the year.
Despite some widely reported technical issues, it appears Battlegrounds will be as big of a hit on consoles as it is on the PC. That’s a lot of chicken dinners.