Rundown (1/21-1/27) Notorious Nebulous Nonsense

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Over the past few days I have been playing Black Desert Online after it was available during a free weekend on Steam. I had known of the game for several years, and was curious to see how it fared, but then I was reminded that MMORPGs are some of the last intuitive games on the market, containing so many mechanics and subsystems that are thrust onto the player. With trade routes, housing, four types of glorified crafting, and all of this tedious nebulous rubbish that exist on top of an interesting action RPG that has an interesting fixation on grinding knowledge on enemies, skills, and even people. It is an odd little title that really could be something novel, if only it did not belong to a genre notorious for its nebulous nonsense. Also, it’s controller support leaves a lot to be desired.

Back in 2017 when Microsoft launched the Xbox Game Pass, pretty much everyone acknowledged that this was a very good and rather pro-consumer deal that allowed people to play a wide variety of games for a reasonable monthly $10 fee. However, Microsoft recently announced their intentions to sweeten the deal by announcing their intentions to “release all new Xbox One exclusive games from Microsoft Studios into Xbox Game Pass on the same date as their global release.” This is rather… shockingly generous of the publisher, as it is enabling players to effectively play through every major exclusive release on Xbox One along with over a hundred other games for a $120 annual fee, about as much as two AAA titles at launch. It is certainly a positive move, though I cannot help but cynically view this as a desperate marketing ploy after the Xbox One started looking like the third place console after the Switch dominated holiday sales.

Recently, a Kotaku article came out detailing some behind the scenes details on Bioware’s upcoming game, Anthem, an RPG project that, likely due to EA’s hand, has been positioned to be a lifestyle game in a similar vein to Activision’s Destiny. Once more due to EA’s desire to get a persistent lifestyle shooter on the market, the game is set to release in Q1 2019 at the latest, for the sake of EA’s faceless investors. Because of this, the majority of Bioware has been put on this project, with only small teams working on a new Dragon Age and The Old Republic, and due to the massive amount of money that is being invested into this game, the future of Bioware largely rests on this project.

I am bringing this up mostly for historical purposes, as I have a feeling that EA will be, well, EA. The sort of company that popularized loot boxes in the eyes of world governments, and caused enough of a tizzy for Disney themselves to demand their removal from Star Wars Battlefront II (2017). Now they are working on a game in a similar vein to Destiny, whose latest release with Destiny 2 has been sent into the publicity toilet as Activision continued to pull Bungie’s hand in order to actively worsen the game in order to obtain additional revenue via microtransactions. Somehow I find it difficult for a situation like this to not result in a game that is marred by corporate meddling and the closure of at least one Bioware studio due to a launch that failed to meet expectations. In fact, I might actually prefer that ending over any other.

In lighter news, famed early Sega programmer, and former producer of the Sonic The Hedgehog series, Yuji Naka, has reportedly left his small independent studio of Prose and joined Square Enix. No real details about the how and why this transition was made were given, but presumably Square Enix is interested in a new IP of some sort that this talented developer has to offer. Hopefully things go well for him and it does not wind up being a big old mess like Rodea The Sky Soldier, a Wii game developed by Naka that had to be shelved due to its lack of a publisher and was eventually released as a pack-in with a Wii U version made by another company, which was vastly inferior and completely different.

A few weeks ago, the cult classic RPG maker adventure game Yume Nikki appeared on Steam, while a teaser began, foretelling the unveiling of a successor to the 2004 title. That successor, Yume Nikki: Dream Diary, turned out to be a 3D remake of the original game, and is due out on February 23rd. While only a few screenshot shave been shown, I am rather curious to see how this game will go about improving on the original, especially seeing as how, as I will point out in my review on January 31st, the original has some issues and is, well, kind of boring. Still, few ideas are not worth giving another go at, and hopefully Kadokawa Games and Playism manage to put together something a bit more substantial.

Independent Swedish game developers Image & Form Games, the people behind the Steamworld series, and Zoink games, developers of Stick It to The Man, Zombie Vikings, and the upcoming Fe have recently announced the formation of Thunderful. A parent company owned by Bergsala Holding that will supply both studios, which will retain their independence, with additional and shared resources. What is really curious about this formation is Bergsala themselves, who serve as a distributor of Nintendo products in Nordic region. While the immediate effects of this new partnership are not obvious, this could very possibly lead to something interesting in a few years. Such as, I don’t know, the two studios collaborating on doing something with a Nintendo IP. Possibly, maybe.

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