#14: Blizzard Consistantly Scraps 50% Of Its Products…

In this issue of DailyBits, we learn about Aperture Hand Lab, Valve’s new VR game that’s set in the Portal universe; find that Tim Sweeney of Epic Games is still going on about digital store exclusivity, and we’ve got the best gaming deals!

Top Story

Blizzard “pretty consistent” on canning 50 percent of projects

Just because a team at Blizzard Entertainment has gotten started on something doesn’t mean it’ll ever see the light of day. Former studio big cheese Mike Morhaime says he’s ‘done the math’ and confirms Blizzard has quite a high project mortality rate.

What’s the reason for this ruthless approach? It’s a mix of games not having a large enough market, becoming so expensive it wouldn’t break-even or not living up to Blizzard’s reputation for high quality. At least 14 projects have been slaughtered on the production floor.

It’s ready when it’s ready – or never

“I’ve gone back every few years and checked the math on that, and it’s pretty consistent,” Morhaime said at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona. “It’s like half the titles we work on never make it.” Projects that faced the axe include a first-person StarCraft shooter, and a sci-fi themed MMO called Titan. “There’s a saying that ‘perfect is the enemy of great’, because if you strive for perfection you’ll never ship. But I do think that there’s so much competition out there,” he added.

“We failed to control scope,” Morhaime said, explaining Titan’s demise. “It was very ambitious. It was a brand new universe, and it was going to be the next generation MMO that did all sorts of different things, it had different modes. We were sort of building two games in parallel, and it really struggled to come together.” The fall of Titan led to the rise of another goliath: Overwatch.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which of these is NOT one of The Ancients from the Lovecraft-inspired Eternal Darkness?

  • Ulyaoth
  • Cthygonnaar
  • Xel’lotath
  • Mantorok

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

News Bits

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for Switch getting fixed

The performance woes plaguing the Switch version of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is 505 Games’ highest priority. They’re “immediately shifting resources to improve performance and stability” for Switch. These problems emerged hot on the heels of a rather nasty launch day bug that could force players on Xbox One and PS4 to have to restart their campaigns. No one said battling the demons of hell would be easy!

Age of Mythology sequel might be more than just a myth

Microsoft will be reading the portents for Age of Mythology to see what future has in store for it after Age of Empires’ Definitive Editions and Age of Empires 4 get sorted out. Age of Mythology was originally released in October 2002 by Ensemble Studios, and its 2014 Extended Edition received an expansion in January 2016 called Tale of the Dragon.

Daily Fact

Will Wright designed a war zone shoot ‘em up before his Sims legacy

The man who would change the industry with the gargantuan Sims franchise actually started out making a shoot ‘em up set in a war zone: Raid on Bungeling Bay was Will Wright’s first published title as designer, released for the Commodore 64 back in 1984. It eventually got ported to the MSX in 1985 and Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987.

It’s a 2D top down shooter where you pilot a helicopter launched from an aircraft carrier and carry out bombing raids on six factories across a small planet occupied by the Bungeling Empire. You had to hold out against escalating counter-attacks from turret emplacements, fighter jets, anti-air missiles and even a battleship.

If you failed to destroy the Bungeling Empire’s infrastructure while protecting the aircraft carrier, an invasion force would be launched towards Earth. It was an early glimpse at Will Wright’s ideas for what would become SimCity: The factories you needed to destroy would develop over time to counter the player’s attacks, growing more technologically advanced and increasing their production.

Will Wright released an editor for the game and discovered players quite enjoyed building stuff too. He went on to research urban planning to develop the idea further, and the rest is history…

Daily Giveaway

Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love (PC)

Time for another giveaway from your pals at Dailybits! Are you a fan of funny point-and-click adventures like Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and the Deponia series? Well, there’s a new one out now – comedy spy thriller Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love – and we’ve got a Steam code to give out every day this week to one lucky winner on our active reader list!

“Take a look behind Irony Curtain in this satirical point-and-click inspired by the best works of LucasArts and Daedalic Entertainment! Experience the totalitarian Matryoshka through the eyes of Evan – a low-ranking, goofy journalist involuntarily pulled right into the middle of an espionage stand-off between two powers. Jump into the wacky spy adventure, uncover secrets of the bizarre communist country (and the powerful capitalist empire!), witness a story full of unpredictable twists and turns, and discover the true agenda of the mysterious Supreme Leader!”

Daily News

Aperture Hand Lab gets rather handsy in VR

Valve has made a game! Well, okay – they published a game, but it was made for them by Cloudhead Games! It’s called Aperture Hand Lab and it’s a single-player adventure. You’ll get to experience the “high fidelity virtual reality of your own hands like never before.”

You’ll be grabbing, shaking and waving in the hand-focused “non-judgmental virtual world” of Aperture Hand Lab. Naturally you’ll need a suitable virtual reality headset, which according to the official Steam store page are the HTC Vive and their own Valve Index. Given you’ll be moving your arms around so much it’s designed to be played at room-scale and not just sitting down.

This triple-blind hand study is for science… you monster

Like any good, loyal and compliant robot test subject you’ll be thrust into a number of scientific tests. So important is the integrity of the test that not even Aperture is entirely sure what’s going on. “…nobody involved will have any idea why anyone is doing anything.” Portal’s trademark humour has definitely not diminished over time. You’ll be communicating in-game through hand gestures – for science.

Aperture Labs is no stranger to weird off-the-wall science. Valve used the Portal universe to help newcomers to virtual reality headgear get set up and ready to play VR games through Steam. Valve already has some VR mini-games in Aperture Labs but now there’s a full blown single-player adventure. Aperture Hand Lab is available right now on PC through Steam. High five!

Epic Games Store exclusivity “the only strategy” to change status quo

Tim Sweeney of Epic Games has once again defended their aggressive pursuit of Epic Games Store exclusivity deals. Their dealing and wheeling has upset a lot of PC gamers who would prefer a wider range of stores, but Sweeney thinks the ‘ends justify the means’.

In a Twitter thread, the Epic Games CEO claims the exclusivity deals are all about changing the “70/30 status quo”, referring to Valve Corporation’s Steam platform and its revenue split with publishers and developers. He says this strategy will cause change on “a large enough scale to permanently affect the whole game industry.”

It has certainly made Epic Games Store rather notorious, and the strategy certainly seems to be driving adoption of their store and sales for the games on it. However, exclusivity has always been a sore point for gamers – though mostly a concern on games consoles. Platform-holders frequently buy timed or permanent exclusivity for major titles and franchises, or simply acquire studios to create exclusive first-party content.

Nice revenue split you got there, it’d be a shame if…

Sweeney seems to dismiss most critics as “dedicated Steam gamers,” despite Steam users being likely to use Ubisoft’s uPlay, EA’s Origin and GOG Galaxy. Despite their efforts, none of Steam’s competitors “seem to have reached 5% of Steam’s scale.”

Part of the resistance to Epic Games Store can be explained by its paltry feature set compared to Steam’s rich ecosystem, which has had years to refine its features and iron out problems. For example, Epic Games Store doesn’t support a shopping basket for buying more than one item at a time, which caused fraud protection measures to stop customer shopping sprees during a recent store-wide sale.

But Sweeney thinks it’ll all be worth it if Epic “succeeds in building a second major storefront for PC games with an 88/12 revenue split, or even just leads other stores to significantly improve their terms, the result will be a major wave of reinvestment in game development and a lowering of costs.”

This “passes the test of ultimately benefiting gamers,” concluded the Epic Games CEO.

Weekly Deals

What are ya buyin’?

Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week marks start of the Steam Summer Sale, as well as a few nice deals from high street retailers. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has also launched, applying the Pokémon GO format to the Wizarding World. The temperature is creeping up across Europe and the UK, so the heat is on for some sweet deals!

Harry Potter Wizards: Unite (iOS/Android) Free @ App Store/Google Play/Samsung Store

Classic Mini NES (Nintendo) £23.97 @ Curry’s/PC World

Resident Evil 1, 2 & 3 Bundle (PSP/PS Vita/PS3) £5.99 @ PlayStation Store

Just Cause 3 (PC) £1.79 @ Steam

Far Cry 5 Gold Edition (PS4/Xbox One) £17.99 @ Argos

Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC) £5.99 @ Steam

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled + Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy OR Spyro Reignited (PS4/Xbox One) £44.99 @ GAME

We’ve included some excellent titles in our deals section this week, so now is the perfect time to expand your ever-growing backlog of quality games. We’re especially impressed with GAME’s CTR bundles with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. These titles have been praised for nostalgic vibes and authentic feel hailing back to the good, old PS1 days. Grab some friends and challenge them to a few rounds!

News Bits

Astral Chain could be a trilogy if links prove strong

PlatinumGames is laying it out there: more sales for Astral Chain means more sequels. The Nintendo Switch exclusive from Nier: Automata’s Takahisa Taura and Bayonetta’s Hideki Kamiya is launching on August 30, 2019. What’s it got to offer? There’s a futuristic city, dimensional gates, alien creatures, a special task force of The Ark police, and a combat system that sees you controlling two characters at once.

Super Mario Maker 2 reviews making the rounds

  • VGC (Score 5/5) – “Mario Maker 2 offers a fun and more dynamic package than the original game. A surprising and enjoyable Mario classic in the making, with plenty to offer creators and non-creators alike.”
  • Vandal (Score 92/100) – (Spanish) “If you have a Nintendo Switch, do not think twice and give it a chance, since we are before what is undoubtedly a new essential in your catalog.”
  • Gameinformer (Score 8.75/10) – “Mario Maker 2 is not a radical reinvention of the original, but it earns the “2” in its title with a great story mode, worthwhile additions to the creation toolset, and co-op.”
  • Digitally Downloaded (Score 4.5/5) – “I really wanted to see a bigger improvement from the original Super Mario Maker to this sequel. The features that Nintendo has added in are nice, but with only one additional game environment to play around with in Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo is underselling the own rich heritage that it has to work with.”
  • TheSixthAxis (Score 8/10) – “Super Mario Maker 2 is all that the original was and more. The Story Mode feels like a proper campaign, demoing all of the old and new feature and barmy possibilities found in the intuitive level creator. It’s a shame that it features some typical Nintendo online stumbles, but it shouldn’t be long before that’s forgotten in the face of the boundless creativity of the Super Mario Maker community.”
  • Nintendo Life (Score 10/10) – “Put in as simple a manner as possible, this is likely to be the last 2D Mario game you’ll need. It’s Super Mario Maker but with more of everything that made the original so phenomenal. Enemies, themes, game styles, gizmos, powerups, the Story Mode having an actual story, multiplayer, the list of additional gubbins is truly massive when you take a step back.”
  • IGN (Score 9.5) – “Super Mario Maker 2 does nearly everything better than its already excellent predecessor, keeping the charm of a Mario game while introducing some incredible new ideas.”

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which of these is NOT one of The Ancients from the Lovecraft-inspired Eternal Darkness?

Answer: Cthygonnaar!

We’re having a bit of a Cthulhu kick here at Dailybits thanks to the release of Lovecraft-inspired The Sinking City this week, and this quiz is inspired by possibly the greatest game inspired by the Lovecraft mythos: 2002’s Eternal Darkness by Silicon Knights, which has inexplicably never been re-released since its launch on GameCube. Featuring a fantastic story, multiple characters across different time periods, and truly chilling sanity effects, it was a memorable, unmatched horror experience.

Can you remember all the Lovecraftian gods? The Ancients were the game’s Old Ones, and they were Ulyaoth, Xel’lotath, Mantorok, and Chattur’gha. You could follow one of them in a playthrough, and once you did three separate playthroughs you’d encounter the true ending. As for Cthygonnaar, he’s the alternate name for Cthulhu in The Sinking City!

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