Sunday Bits

TODAY: There’s a quick recap of the week’s top news – we’re taking a look back at the classic strategy franchise that ended with Populous: The Beginning in this week’s Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

Fight, build and preach your way to godhood in Populous: The Beginning

It’s another Bullfrog Productions classic and this time it’s the 1998 real-time strategy Populous: The Beginning, which takes you from shaman to godhood if you play your tactics right. It was also the third entry in the Populous series and the first to use 3D graphics.

Populous: The Beginning somewhat straddles between strategy and god game as you’re not just building a force to knock down an opposition, but actually shaping a small society of villagers into a thriving town that worships you as a cult. It has the more traditional strategy base building elements of collecting resources, building new structures and planning defences. Your villagers however spawn overtime from homes so you don’t ‘build them’ but can assign them roles as warriors etc.

Our path to godhood takes place in a solar system where each new world we visit is a new map to conquer in our glorious name. We control the shaman of our tribe but there are plenty of rivals also looking for sweet divinity. As we start progressing you get access to new and more powerful abilities. Sometimes these are unlocked for good and are available from now on, and other times we get them limited in use or taken away as a special challenge or handicap.

As the name implies, ‘The Beginning’ is set before the original two Populous titles

Magic is a vital part of the game and you’ll end up using it in major battles and just to manipulate and deform the terrain. You can raise, lower and level the ground, which means the very earth itself can be used as a weapon or shield against a rival tribe. Create your own wall and then litter it with towers manned by firewarriors for your own ‘border control’. You could always just get your shaman into a balloon and have her hurl lighting at anything that moves — a favourite of mine.

Much of Populous: The Beginning’s appeal actually comes from its visual charms. Its art style is oddly endearing as you build up your little disposal armies of braves, warriors and preachers. It’s funny to watch sprite animations of a preacher starting to convert enemy warriors and braves only to get interrupted by a rival preacher who just runs over and starts wailing on him. Suddenly that ‘engaging sermon’ turns into a barroom brawl with plenty of exaggerated sound effects of the fight.

This was the first Populous designed without series creator Peter Molyneux

Each level in the game is a spherical world and some are almost puzzle like in their design to make us use our shaman’s powers to figure a way to reach and defeat a rival. This plays well into the game’s strategy as it means we can create choke points, but always be cautious about what the enemy is up to because they might just create a literal land bridge into your village. My rapid response lightning balloon shaman patrol should make short work of that though.

One thing you’ll never get out of your head playing Populous are the words spoken by the shaman when casting magic — I can hear her shouting them now. Spells range from fireballs and lightning to even creating static dangers like swamps that will kill anything moving inside it. As mentioned earlier you can also deform the terrain itself and there are even more catastrophic powers like volcanoes, meteors, tornadoes and winged demons that can be summoned to wreak absolute havoc.

Should you ever make it to godhood then you are in for a final showdown with all the rival tribes and shamans, but you are now floating loftily among the heavens with all mortal restrictions lifted. You have become a god and it’s time to show those pretenders just how wrathful you can be.

Where to get Populous: The Beginning today?

The necessary sacrifices have been made and the portents are good. You can buy Populous: The Beginning today straight from EA’s Origin store for very little, or through with includes the Undiscovered Worlds expansion adding an extended campaign of twelve more worlds.

Weekly Top Stories Recap

Squash the bugs and save the world

Developer Slitherine has teamed up with Sony Pictures for real-time strategy game Starship Troopers – Terran Command, scheduled to launch on PC next year.

“If you take one of the most iconic movies from the 90s and shape it into a strategy game of survival, that mixes classic real-time mechanics, tower defense and tactical deployment of units then you have ‘Starship Troopers – Terran Command’ in a nutshell,” said Slitherine’s Iain McNeil.

Would you like to know more?

The game is based on the 1997 Paul Verhoeven adaptation of the Robert A. Heinlein novel – famous for its cheerfully dystopian tone and unisex showers – and will feature a campaign mode where the story and missions “develop according to your choices and achievements on the battlefield.”

If you stick to Terran Command’s orders, you are rewarded with special units and abilities – but if you use your better judgement instead of following your superiors’ occasionally suicidal edicts, you can become a true hero of the federation.

“When creating this game, we aimed to capture the essence of the original movie and its universe,” added McNeil. Belgian developer The Aristocrats have been quietly toiling away on the game for nearly 2 years already, and with a bit of luck they will have squashed all the bugs in time for the game’s 2020 release.

Squash the bugs and save the world was featured in issue #132 of DailyBits.

Reggie Fils-Aimé talks about Nintendo’s diagnosis of Pre-Wii games industry

Former Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aimé has talked to about how Nintendo understood the games market and industry during the GameCube’s lifetime, and how they sought to disrupt the market with the Wii.

He said that: “[W]ith the Wii, it’s tough for people to remember, but back in the early 2000s, only about one out of every three people played video games. Also back then, the industry was stagnant and in key markets like Europe and Japan, software sales were actually in decline”.

“The company saw the stagnation of the industry as a result of too much complexity, too many sequels. [They saw] the same general game, but now it’s version five or six, the lack of innovation and the lack of fun.”

Only one in three played games in the 2000s

A lot has changed since Nintendo took a long, hard look at the business and decided to shake things up, including Nintendo’s own perspective on the industry: While the Switch is obviously innovative, it is hardly as radical as the Wii, and depends heavily on long-running Nintendo franchises like Zelda, Mario Kart and Smash Bros and most of their truly novel series like Super Mario Maker started Wii and Wii U.

The Wii was the first console since the 80s that managed to break out of the gamer stereotype and become a true family product, a feat both Sony and Microsoft has tried to emulate since. Yet Nintendo clearly understands how the market develops: While the Switch is no new Wii, it is arguably the most distinct of the current-gen consoles, and seems to strike a nice balance between family-friendly fun and living up to core-gamer expectations.

Reggie Fils-Aimé talks about Nintendo’s diagnosis of Pre-Wii games industry was featured in issue #133 of DailyBits.

PlayStation Portable and Vita likely Sony’s only handhelds as PlayStation turns 25

25 years has passed since the very first PlayStation burst onto the gaming scene and upended the old Nintendo and Sega rivalry as well as arguably burying competitors like Atari, 3DO and others under a sudden torrent of texture-mapped polygons, compact discs and memory cards.

Game Informer is marking the occasion with a huge feature about PlayStation, revealing amongst other tidbits that Sony was reluctant about entering the handheld market, and that the PlayStation Portable almost didn’t happen. Even after Nintendo successfully launched the Switch Lite without cannibalizing its flagship Switch, Sony seems reluctant to follow up the Vita.

The PSP only went ahead after “a lot of arm-twisting” from the marketing and sales side of the PlayStation business, according to former Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Andrew House.

Former chairman and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Ken Kutaragi was convinced that there would be a “convergence between all forms of media” in a single communications device – and that it would not be a PlayStation. In short, he predicted the rise of smart phones a few years before the iPhone launched.

PlayStation’s first handheld was actually the PocketStation, exclusive to Japan in 1999

As we all know, Sony did go ahead with the PSP in the end, and did pretty well – particularly in Japan. However, Nintendo DS still outsold the PSP by about 50 million units and the Vita fared even worse, selling an estimated 16 million units against 75 million 3DS units.

Will there be any more Sony handhelds? Current president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Jim Ryan says “clearly it’s a business that we’re no longer in now,” so it looks like PlayStation is portable no more.

PlayStation Portable and Vita likely Sony’s only handhelds as PlayStation turns 25 was featured in issue #134 of DailyBits.

Microsoft plans low-end, digital-only model of Project Scarlett

Microsoft is planning to offer a ‘low budget friendly’ version of its next Xbox console, with lower-end hardware and no optical drive.

The low-end, digital-only model is codenamed Lockhart, while the beefier version is called Anaconda – which seems to be the model Microsoft has been referring when discussing Project Scarlett.

Nothing is certain about the price and power difference between the two models, but the gap is supposed to be similar to that between the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S. Developers will presumably be expected to support both models, much like the different current-gen console models.

Will the Lockhart hold back dev ambitions for the Anaconda?

According to Kotaku, one developer said Lockhart was comparable to the PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of power, and is supposedly targeting 1440p at 60FPS, while Anaconda is aiming for 4K at 60FPS. Like the PlayStation 5, Project Scarlett is expected to launch late next year.

Microsoft plans low-end, digital-only model of Project Scarlett was featured in issue #135 of DailyBits.

Almost a dozen new games to be unveiled at The Game Awards

Prepare your body for a veritable deluge of game announcements at this year’s The Game Awards. According to executive producer Geoff Keighley, we can expect about 10 new titles to debut during the awards show.

The announcements include a brand-new story-driven game set in the League of Legends universe, as well as a closer look at real-time strategy Gears of War spin-off Gears Tactics – but not Resident Evil 3 Remake: “There are no plans (never were) to do anything with Resident Evil 3 at the show,” said Keighley.

“We have a bunch of brand new games being announced at the show – I think there are around 10 new games/projects being revealed if you want to count the things that no one has heard about yet,” according to Keighley. Mortal Kombat 11, Far Cry New Dawn, The Outer Worlds and Journey to the Savage Planet were announced at last year’s show.

The Game Awards began in December 2014

The Game Awards 2019 takes place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and starts at 5:30pm PT/8:30pm ET on December 12th, which is 1:30am GMT/2:30am CET on December 13th for Europeans.

Almost a dozen new games to be unveiled at The Game Awards was featured in issue #136 of DailyBits.

Weekly Console Bundle Winners

Today we’re happy to reveal the winner for the Xbox One X 1TB Jedi Fallen Order Bundle that we were giving away last week.

  • Swede Douglas / US

Congratulations to the winner, and thank you to everyone that entered into this giveaway. There will be another opportunity explored in tomorrow’s issue, so don’t miss it!

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