#124: Battle Realms, the RTS that frightened Blizzard

TODAY: Pokémon Sword & Shield beats Star Wars and dominates Japan — Star Wars everywhere, and especially in Roblox — Rediscover the RTS classic that frightened Blizzard

Top Story

Blizzard’s “empire is different” now

Founding members of Blizzard North who helped create Diablo were present at this week’s ExileCon, a fan convention in New Zealand dedicated to the Diablo-inspired free-to-play hack’n’slasher Path of Exile, and they gave a candid interview to PC Gamer.

According to Max Schaefer, there were about 180 employees at the plucky studio when they left for greener pastures, but things have changed dramatically: “There’s thousands now. The whole empire is different,” he said.

David Brevik added: “It’s not ‘sort of’ changed, it has completely changed.” The only founders left at Blizzard are Samwise Didier and Allan Adham, who Brevik still keeps in touch with.

“The old Blizzard is gone,” said Schaefer, noting that in the good old days “… Activision didn’t have any influence. At that point it was just Blizzard and then some anonymous corporate owner, Vivendi or whoever. That was it.” Now it’s a lumbering empire “that has to appease shareholders and all that sort of stuff.”

No easy way out of the Blitzchung controversy

Blizzard would eventually become a victim of its own success – not exactly an uncommon fate for entertainment companies who stumble across a way to print money. After WarCraft, Diablo and StarCraft all became huge successes, the once-innovative studio became a corporation bogged down in red tape: “Because of the structure of Blizzard now they think with their wallets first,” added Schaefer.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which of these is NOT a real ending to horror game Layers of Fear?

  • Painting endless flawed portraits of your dead wife
  • Painting pictures of your whole family then dying in a fire
  • Painting a picture of yourself so wonderful it gets hung in a museum
  • Painting a picture of the family dog, then getting killed by your dead wife

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Pokémon Sword & Shield sells over a million copies in Japan within 3 days

Japan is the ancestral homeland of the Pokémon, so it’s hardly a surprise that Pokémon Sword & Shield has sold like hot taiyaki. Combined retail and digital distribution sales totalled 1,364,544 copies in the first three days, beating Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which sold 1.23 million copies in its first week.

Rainbow Six Siege x Casa de Papel

Another week, another eyebrow-raising cross-promotion. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege will have another free weekend, and feature a slight tweak to Hostage mode matches on the Bank map: The hostage will be wearing the red suit and Dalí mask made famous by La Casa de Papel (known by the achingly poor translation Money Heist in English). The iconic outfit will also be available for Vigil and Hibana alongside other vanity gear. The free weekend lasts from November 21st to 25th.

Daily Fact

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl shares its dystopia with Half-Life

There’s a Half-Life 2 Easter egg hidden in the Wild Territory area in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. If you know where to look, you’ll discover the body of a man named Gordon Freeman. Judging by his PDA, the Half-Life hero had to trade his trusty crowbar for a can of meat while on his way to “some strange town in Russia” – presumably City 17 from Half-Life 2.

That’s not the only Valve-related Easter egg either: You’ll find a Desert Eagle named Big Ben near Freeman’s corpse, and unless that’s an inexplicable reference to the trusty London clock tower, it could be a cheeky nod to plus-sized Valve big cheese Gabe “Gaben” Newell. It could also be a nod to the way early S.T.A.L.K.E.R. prototypes used assets from Counter-Strike for placeholders!

Daily News

The Empire Strikes Roblox

Star Wars is everywhere these days, and is also invading every brandable media property you can stick a lightsaber, stormtrooper helmet or yoda mask on as the marketing machine behind Episode IX and The Mandalorian rumbles into hyperdrive. Now it’s Roblox’s turn to witness the marketing power of the fully operational Disney.

Time-limited cosmetic items like the ball-shaped droid BB-8, the unicycle-esque D-0, Rey’s staff and Kylo Ren’s helmet have appeared in the game, along with attractions like the ‘Galactic Speedway Creator Challenge’. Players are invited to build their own driftspeeders from scrap parts and compete in a racing event.

The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas December 19

“By the time you’ve perfected your driftspeeder, you’ll be a master of many important skills you need to start making your own Roblox games. You’ll also have earned exclusive prizes!” says the Roblox blog. Completing each chapter of this latest Creator Challenge will unlock exclusive items from until January 6th next year.

There’s a trailer showing off the kind of junk heaps you’ll be expected to build and then pilot, and it looks like a simpler and more customizable version of podracing – but with less sand people shooting at you and hopefully no Sebulba throwing wrenches into your works.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gets Pokémon Sword and Shield event

A new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Spirit event has just been announced, featuring Pokémon spirits from Pokémon Sword & Shield’s Galar region.

The event starts on November 22nd, and lasts for five days. Zacian & Zamazenta, Grookey, Scorbunny, & Sobble, Corviknight, and Morpeko will all show up for new Spirit Battles.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All, with a well-timed shot during a stun animation

Your opponents are possessed by these spirits, and you have to shoot your possessed opponent with a special gun to exorcise and capture spirits. It’s almost like it’s not a cynical marketing ploy!

Pokémon Sword & Shield was released last week, and proved that Pokémon are stronger than the Force by outselling Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, at least in the UK.

News Bits

Blair Witch coming to PlayStation 4 alongside bestest doggo DLC

Bloober Team has just announced that Blair Witch will appear on PlayStation 4, and that they’ll even throw in the Good Boy Pack DLC that bolsters the game’s canine content. The PlayStation 4 version will shaky-cam its way onto PSN on December 3rd, unless it gets lost in the woods first.

Battle Realms on Steam Early Access

Real-time strategy classic Battle Realms from 2001 is being re-released, and is now available on Steam Early Access. Most notable for scaring Blizzard into delaying WarCraft III, Battle Realms puts you in charge of training peasants into kung-fu powered killing machines, and the re-release includes the Winter of the Wolf expansion. Let’s hope it doesn’t force Blizzard into delaying WarCraft III Reforged!

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Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which of these is NOT a real ending to horror game Layers of Fear?

Answer: Painting a picture of the family dog, then getting killed by your dead wife!

Blair Witch is lurching towards PlayStation 4, so it’s a good time to reminisce about developer Bloober Team’s first horror game and its collection of weird alternate endings. Yup, all the wacky endings we listed are real except the one about the dog and getting killed by your wife. True, the ghost of your wife is trying to kill you and yes, you did set the dog on fire … but the dog’s not in the ending. So there!

Layers of Fear features three differente endings based on your actions and on what items you find on your playthrough. You can get stuck in an endless loop, die in a fire ooooor be incredibly selfish and be remembered for all eternity. Which one would you prefer?

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