#24: Pokémon, Super Size Me!

TODAY: Game Freak has more than just Pokémon on their minds — Maximum Action puts you in the director chair and lead role of your own over-the-top action movies — Did you know Chinese prisoners farmed virtual currencies in MMOs?

Top Story

New Pokémon Sword and Shield trailer, Gigantamax teased

Whether you wield the Sword or the Shield in Game Freak’s new Pokémon game, your life as a Trainer is about to change big-time. Pokémon Sword and Shield introduces the new Gigantamaxing feature, super-sizing Pokémon to almost fill a Gym arena.

Those cute and already dangerous-looking Pokémon will grow to, well, gigantic proportions and have all-new defences and attacks to go with their more powerful forms. The latest trailer also gives us a glimpse at the new Gym Leaders as part of the Galar Pokémon League.

Bigger, bolder and … slightly less

It might be a bit confusing for some as Pokémon also has ‘dynamaxing’, which increases their size and makes them stronger too. The difference is that gigantamaxing also alters their form as well as size and strength. Pokémon Sword and Shield introduce new Pokémon for the region of Galar, but this has caused some controversy as the game’s Pokédex is trimming out hundreds of others.

Be sure to check out the new trailer from the Official Pokémon YouTube channel to watch the Gigantamaxing in action. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield releases for Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

What Digital Extremes game formed the basis for Warframe?

  • Unreal Tournament
  • Dark Sector
  • Pariah
  • Star Trek: The Game

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

News Bits

Amazon UK unmasks Arkham Collection, Rocksteady confirms

There’s been a leak from the Batcomputer – or just from Amazon UK, I suppose. Either way, Rocksteady confirms there’s a new Arkham Collection in the works and that it will release early September 2019 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The collection includes remastered versions of all the Arkham games and their DLC. We will get the Earth 2 Dark Knight skin worldwide as well.

Final Fantasy IX FMVs upscaled to 4K? Yes indeed

If you’d like to see those PlayStation-era FMV sequences from 2000’s Final Fantasy IX get a serious makeover in gorgeous 4K then you can feast your eyes on a YouTube video showcasing just that. It’s got no dialogue audio, but it has everything else. It’s upscaled using the dark tech wizardry of AI Gigapixel.

Daily Fact

There’s MMO gold in them thar labour camps

‘Gold farming’ is a familiar term to anyone who’s played any MMO seriously: It’s the practice of grinding away to earn virtual currency and then sell it to other players for real-world money. Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft featured a booming gold farming cottage industry catering to player looking for a shortcut to riches.

The practice was lucrative enough that China emerged as a ‘leader’ in the gold farming world. It turned out to be so profitable that authorities at Chinese hard labour camps have been known to make it mandatory for prisoners to put down their shovels and pickaxes, in favour of virtual swords and shields to go slay demons, bandits and probably a good number of murlocks. Good thing, because those murlocks had it coming.

In 2009, the Chinese government introduced laws against using virtual currencies to pay for real-world items or services – but not the other way around. There are still plenty of gold farming businesses, referred to as ‘gaming workshops’ or ‘play-money workshops’. As it turns out, the virtual world can be more lucrative than the real one at times.

Game Spotlight

Maximum Action – Max Payne meets Superhot

(New Blood Interactive – PC)

Now and again you run into a shooter that’s so innovative, so compelling, so well-designed that you can’t stop playing it and talk about it with awe to everyone you know. Games like Max Payne, Superhot, or GoldenEye. Other times, a shooter simply mixes parts of these great shooters together and sprinkles a bit of crazy on top for good measure. Maximum Action is the latter.

That’s not meant as criticism, either! Maximum Action eagerly mixes together ideas from a variety of great shooters like the ones mentioned earlier – and some less celebrated ones, like the underrated John Woo’s Stranglehold. The levels are styled after big action movies, and tasks you with making the most awesome sequence imaginable. Or die trying.

Lights, Camera, Death

Maximum Action is a first-person shooter that’s currently in Steam Early Access, so it’s still a bit rough around the edges – but the little taste we’ve had left us eager for more. There’s no story, nothing connecting the levels, and no characters apart from faceless goons. The idea is to get through the levels, killing all enemies in a variety of cool ways, and get out alive. Then you can watch a movie of your escapades – and try to improve!

Ignoring the tutorials, there are currently seven levels in the game, spread across a variety of locations like hospitals, jungles, rooftops, and the arctic – with every one feeling like a homage to a game or movie. The arctic, for example, feels very GoldenEye – right down to the silenced pistol you get as your first weapon (enemies can still hear it, but it sounds just like the one in the game, which is awesome).

The levels can be tough, since there aren’t too many medkits and no checkpoints – and there isn’t a massive amount of ammo either. Maximum Action emphasizes dual-wielding since, well, it’s cooler – but then you burn through ammo faster. If you run out, though, just perform a flying kick through a window. Going into slow-motion and doing a Max Payne-style dive is always jolly good fun too.

Bullet Time’s Up

In any case, you shouldn’t have too many problems once you get used to the game’s controls – at which point you’ll blow your way through the levels at a brisk pace. They’re designed for replay value and experimenting with different ways of taking down enemies, and this is just the first set of content available – but it only took us an hour to beat all seven levels.

That’s without properly replaying and perfecting any levels – but we feel like Maximum Action could do with a little more content to keep players coming back. More weapons, more melee attacks, new bonuses and unlockables, branching paths, hidden bonuses, these sorts of things – oh, and Bulletstorm-style scoring for particularly cool moves, like kicking a guy out a window, would be a good fit for Maximum Action.

Maximum Action is a great little game and a fantastically fun shooter – but it’s really just a demo right now, and needs to offer a lot more. Not just more levels and weapons, but more reason to get players to replay the levels in fun ways. When that happens though – we’ll be all over it, and ready to call Maximum Action one of the best games of the year.

Daily News

Game Freak wants to be more than ‘just that Pokémon studio’

Despite being the inventors of the billion-dollar Pokémon franchise, developer Game Freak would very much like to pursue projects that don’t feature Trainers or Pokéballs. To that end, they’ve started ‘Gear Project’, an initiative all about developing new intellectual property.

Game Freak is apparently split between Production Team 1 & 2, with the first team dedicated to the Gear Project. The second team remains focused on Pokémon, so fans don’t need to worry about their favourite studio walking away. In fact, they intend to use the new tricks they learn from Gear Project and bring it back to the Pokémon franchise. Developing new IP is the studio’s creative priority though, according to an interview with programmer and director Masayuki Onoue.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

“…it was a totally refreshing experience when I moved from Pokémon to Giga Wrecker. It’s like a paradigm shift,” Masayuki Onoue said. Giga Wrecker was released for PC in 2017. The Gear Project has freed the company to work on a wider range of platforms, with each team trading valuable experiences between them.

“Gear Project has helped me become more creative. I’ve now seen the whole process of creation all the way to marketing and selling the game to players. I can now bring that know-how back to the Pokémon team and try to create something different for Pokémon,” he continued. Game Freak is releasing three titles over the course of 2019; Giga Wrecker Alt, Pokémon Sword and Shield and Town (working title).

Bethesda ‘can’t expect everything to be Skyrim’

Pete Hines of Bethesda Softworks says they’re not dictating what their studios crate, and that they obviously can’t expect every game they publish to sell like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim because otherwise nothing would get greenlit. They like to experiment and find out if there’s a path to success that they can plot out.

The announcement of GhostWire Tokyo from Tango Gameworks, Deathloop from Arkane Studios and Bethesda’s own new IP Starfield means they aren’t solely relying on well-established franchises. “It’s not really mandated in either direction,” Pete Hines says in an interview. “It’s about: What do you want to make and what does it line up with?”

I used to be an adventurer…

“We don’t just say that everything gets a forecast of the Skyrim number, because then very few things are getting greenlit. It’s like: ‘What do you want to make? Who do we think the audience is? What do we think we can do?” Bethesda has also been giving huge attention to the Nintendo Switch, and apparently their Switch releases have brought new players to the console, according to Nintendo’s own analytics.

“I met a guy yesterday who said that the first things they bought on Switch were Doom, Wolfenstein and Skyrim because they are the sort of thing they wanted, and the fact they were on the Switch made them get a Switch,” said Hines. The company is also investing more in mobile platforms and even has its own streaming tech Orion, though Bethesda remains cautious about how viable it really is outside the US or European market.

News Bits

Earth Defense Force 5 out in July 2019 for PC

Stand to attention, private! Your enlistment in the EDF begins now, as Earth Defense Force 5 is heading for a PC release this month. It was just listed on Steam and for once the bugs in the game are intentional – and can be exterminated! Do Earth proud and squish these invaders. Would you like to know more? Alright. It’s out July 11, 2019.

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

What Digital Extremes title did Warframe grow out of?

Answer: Dark Sector!

Following this weekend’s TennoCon 2019 – the big convention entirely devoted to Warframe – we’re having a Digital Extremes week! Before the major (but gradual) success of Warframe, developer Digital Extremes worked on a lot of games. One of those was 2008’s Dark Sector, which was poorly received – but was the catalyst for Warframe.

Dark Sector was originally announced in 2000 and was supposed to offer “the intense action elements of Unreal Tournament with the scope and character evolution of a persistent online universe”, but the game didn’t work out and was retooled as a single-player shooter/stealth title. It sold poorly and Digital Extremes went back to work-for-hire, but eventually returned to the original Dark Sector concept and turned it into Warframe. Never throw away your old notes, guys.

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