Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?
Which of these games was NOT announced at E3 2019?
- Blair Witch
- Watch_Dogs Legion
- Ghostwire: Tokyo
- Contra: Rogue Corps
The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!
DOTA Underlords now on Steam for Battle Pass owners
Yet another mod turns pro! Auto Chess – a modern re-imagining of a game so old it feels silly to call it a classic – will see an official standalone release featuring DOTA heroes called DOTA Underlords.
Right now DOTA 2 Battle Pass owners can enjoy the preview version, before it eventually goes into a wider open beta that’s free for all on Steam. Checkmate.
Fans buy billboard (and beer) to say “Thank you Hello Games”
A GoFundMe campaign has allowed grateful fans to buy a billboard spot outside the Hello Games office in the UK for a big ‘Thank you Hello Games’ from the community.
The indie studio came under intense scrutiny after their rather ambitious game No Man’s Sky failed to live up to the ever-so-slightly exaggerated hype, but Hello Games kept working hard to build new features and content to meet fan expectations. The ‘ad’ will go up August 12.
Thank Pizza for Pac-Man
Those waka-waka days are courtesy of a pizza. Toru Iwatani got the idea for Pac-Man, which was originally called ‘Puck Man’ in Japan, because he took a slice of pizza and the shape left behind gave him the inspiration. Presumably he was also tired of eating pills while being chased by ghosts through a dark maze.
Interestingly he designed Pac-Man on purpose to attract women to play it. Most other games featured violent themes and aimed squarely for a male audience, but Pac-Man’s cute design was supposed to make it an ideal couple’s game at arcades and perfect for dates.
The original Pac-Man arcade game never had a proper ending, but did feature what became known as a ‘kill screen’ when reaching level 256. An integer overflow would cause the game to simply freak out and garble the right side of the screen, making it impossible to clear the stage and progress to the next level.
Today you can play Pac-Man for free just by typing Pac-Man into Google, and you’ll get a special PAC-MAN Doodle version of the beloved classic, with Google spelled out across the much wider maze.
Quote of the Week
Nintendo Comments On Employees’ Work-Life Balance And ‘Crunch’
A hot topic in game development discourse these days is ‘crunch’, a euphemism for developers working themselves half to death in a final push to finish a game. Crunch typically manifests as huge amounts of overtime, and developers are often expected to work late and during weekends.
While this phenomenon is hardly news (older readers may remember the ‘ea_spouse’ controversy of 2004) and has always been common throughout the industry, it has gained visibility after significant numbers of workers at large game development studios has revealed how crunch affects their personal health and well-being.
In an interview with IGN this week, Nintendo of America President, Doug Bowser, commented on crunch and the delay of the new Animal Crossing installment.
“The crunch point is an interesting one,”…“For us, one of our key tenets is that we bring smiles to people’s faces, and we talk about that all the time. It’s our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance.” “One of those examples is, we will not bring a game to market before it’s ready. We just talked about one example [in Animal Crossing’s delay]. It’s really important that we have that balance in our world. It’s actually something we’re proud of.”
Seems like Nintendo is less crunchy than the rest of the business! Animal Crossing: New Horizons is now scheduled to release on March 20th 2020, a little later than the original 2019 launch date. In this week’s Nintendo Direct, Nintendo’s Deputy General Manager, Yoshiaki Koizumi, stated that the title had been delayed “to ensure the game is the best it can be.”. This perfectly demonstrates Nintendo’s dedication to ensuring quality without working its staff into the ground in the process.
No-one likes to hear that an anticipated title has been delayed, but the majority of the gaming community has responded positively to Nintendo’s comments on crunch and the subsequent Animal Crossing delay. Many fans agree about the importance of staff being treated fairly and have called for more developers to ease up on the crunch.
In addition to wanting a healthy work-life balance for the dev team, many have expressed that they’d rather wait a bit than be let down by rushed games — a particular concern for Pokémon fans following an announcement that the upcoming Pokémon Sword & Shield will feature only Pokémon native to the new Galar region.
We hope to see more open and transparent conversation about crunch in the future. The last few years have revealed a lot more about what goes on behind the scenes at major game developers, including the often shocking work conditions faced by development teams. A better work-life balance can only be a good thing — after all, a happy and healthy development team will most likely make better games!
Pokémon Sword and Shield upsets fans – a real kick in the Pokédex
While the new Pokémon Sword and Shield certainly brings fancy new features, there’s one particular change that Trainers aren’t so thrilled about: A major pruning of the Pokédex, the compendium of all the Pokémon you can catch in a game.
Sword and Shield replaces the usual nation-wide Pokédex with a more limited regional one. That puts paid to an idea as old as the series itself, namely importing your Pokédex from other games in the series to complete your collection.
Producer Junichi Masuda explains that the development team could only handle the new Pokémon in the Galar region because of all-new, high-fidelity graphics with more and better animations. Over time, the Pokémon bestiary has grown to include over 800 species, and they would all need new art and animation to sit comfortably alongside the new Galar species.
‘Gotta catch some of ’em’
“…now that they’re on the Nintendo Switch, we’re creating it with much higher fidelity with higher quality animations. But even more than that, it’s coming down to the battle system. We’re making sure we can keep everything balanced and give all the Pokemon that appear in the games a chance to shine,” Producer Junichi Masuda told USGamer.
“We knew at some point we weren’t going to be able to indefinitely keep supporting all of the Pokemon,” he continued. And so the Pokédex shrunk! Sword & Shield will still feature a collection of classic, fan-favorite Pokémon – just not all of them!
Pokémon Sword and Shield release for Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019.
Shenmue 3 exclusivity fallout continues, Ys Net will “assess” situation
There is big backer trouble in little Ys Net with the announcement that the PC version of Shenmue 3 will be exclusive to the Epic Games Store. A considerable number of Kickstarter backers are demanding refunds, since they were expecting a Steam release at launch.
Ys Net made it clear they would not honour requests for refunds, prompting a crisis of trust among fans. As the backlash grows, they might come to reconsider that stance, with latest word being that Ys will be ‘assessing the situation’ once they are back from E3.
Deep Silver in Epic trouble, fans not Shenmused
“We want to make sure that the Backers are aware that we are listening to their concerns. We kindly ask all our fans to have some patience, we are currently at E3 demoing the game and need to get back to our respective offices to assess the situation and together find a way forward to justify the trust you placed in us,” Ys Net told Kickstarter backers.
Shenmue 3’s successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $6.3 million from almost 70,000 backers. Without that kind of fan support there probably wouldn’t be any Shenmue 3, no Deep Silver publishing deal and certainly no Epic Game Store exclusivity deal.
Shenmue 3 is scheduled to release on PC and PlayStation 4 on August 27, 2019.
Phantasy Star Online 2 will “end up on all platforms”
Microsoft really wanted SEGA ‘back on their stage’ this E3, and bagging Phantasy Star Online 2 as a PC and Xbox One exclusive seems to have accomplished just that.
Phil Spencer himself admitted that the game will arrive on ‘other platforms’ eventually, so it’s just a timed exclusive for North America. Right now there are no explicit plans to launch in Europe, or other territories. Phantasy Star Online 2 has been available in Japan since July 2012.
All your exclusivity are belong to us
It arrived first on PC in Japan, before appearing on PS Vita in February 2013, and eventually PS4 in April 2016. It was also ported to iOS and Android in April and May 2014, and finally founds its way to Nintendo Switch in April 2018 – but never crossed any oceans until now.
“Yes, it will end up on all platforms,” Phil Spencer told Giant Bombcast. “The point was to have SEGA on our stage since it’s been a while.”
That probably means there will be a PlayStation 4 release in North America, and probably Switch as well, but that old workhorse PS Vita is less likely to feel the love. We will just have to wait and see if a European release is on the cards.