Rundown (1/17-1/23) Strife Stifler!

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Wherein I discuss the stifling of political strife, the highs and lows of a grand village, corroborated creative conflicts, the vanishing of a vision, and another cool cat giving into the corporate machine.

These past four years it’s been hard to avoid the churning tides of bad political news that have cropped up in the United States. And after a genuinely turbulent half-decade, the ruling powers have shifted hands, some terrible policies have been thrown in the garbage, and things are looking good for the United States. Sure, it’s not as good as it could or should be, but welcome to reality, you precious winter child. Things have always sucked, things will always suck, and while there is a galaxy-sized cornucopia of things wrong with human society and the world, we should celebrate when things get better and when they suck less. 

In general, I’d hope that this would lead to less political discourse, but sadly that will not happen, as the political climate of the United States is so divided between four major groups. Those who want to oppress and retain the ways of yore, people who want society to advance socially and economically, those who claim to be neutral or apolitical but are willing to rub elbows with white supremacists, and those led astray by the honeyed lies of the elite.

Historically, issues like this were solved via genocides and strict political regimes, but I honestly don’t think modern first world countries like the United States are necessarily capable of that. Despite how much some people want Civil War 2: Those Who Bleed White, this is likely going to be a slow culture war that will be drawn out over years, if not decades. But for now… I’m just going to hide under my “fuck off politics” rock until I need to vote again. Though knowing my luck, I’m going to be dragged out from under that rock in a month or two.

Anyway, bonk that bismark, time for video games, something that ultimately brings me joy, instead of sorrow and disdain. And the biggest morsel of news this past week was probably Capcom’s Resident Evil Showcase, a 15 minute announcement stream for the upcoming Resident Evil VIII: Village, or just Resident Evil Village, and some other drips and drabs

Starting of course with Resident Evil Village, it looks about how I expected it to after the announcement. It’s another first-person Resident Evil title with a different environment and general vibe compared to prior games, keeping the series moving forward without alienating anyone. It is also quite impressive regarding its sheer graphical fidelity, but something about the overall art direction irks me. The game mostly takes place in an overcast, snow-swept, and dingy town and inside a massive mansion only illuminated by stray snippets of sunshine and the weak light of candles and flame. 

This makes sense given the setting, and both are strongly effective horror environments, but I am a diehard stickler when it comes to a good color palette, and when I look at these environments, I cannot help but imagine what they would look like with a greater variety of hues or more saturated tones.

I get that this would take away from the horror and dread the developers want these environments to evoke. But when you are boasting such impressive graphics technology, I think doing this is a disservice when they could craft a more spectacular or vibrant environment. Because when looking at this gameplay, I can only truly fixate and focus on tiny details and not the environment at large, because beyond the details, the environments aren’t particularly stimulating, or easy on the eyes. Maybe it’s just my vision deteriorating, but I don’t enjoy looking at dimly lit objects and level geometry like this, or squinting to make out certain details because of poor lighting.

Which is a shame, because I do like the more supernatural approach to antagonist designs. From the ghoulish zombies in the catacombs to the ogre-ish creatures who wield giant hammers, or the crazed villagers who give me more of a beastman vibe from what I could glimpse. But the absolute best of these antagonists is easily the tall women dressed in slender silk dresses who can appear as swarms of insects. 

Insect swarms are common, relatable, yet unnerving, as they can overwhelm a person with their mobility, size, and sheer numbers. And the decision to make the persistent threat a series of intimidating yet refined-looking women gives the enemies a greater sense of sophistication and class than they would if they were just some hulking brute. The series has pretty much dried that well with Mister X and Nemesis.

And I would also be remiss if I didn’t give Capcom at least a modest golf clap for the main antagonist of the game, Lady Dimitrescu. An 8-foot-tall vampire lady with a spiffy hat, white dress, and a classy cleavage window. It is such a simple design in many respects, but it has everything it needs to blow up on social media. A striking appearance that will inspire artists to draw fan art of her, and a fetishistic appeal, which will inspire horny people to talk about how they want her to step on their pee-pees.

Despite my gripes with the lighting and colors, the game looks good, and Resident Evil Village is set to release for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on May 7, 2021. Where it will be eligible for the two cross-generation upgrade programs, which is always a nice bonus, but it’s not the only one.

Those who buy Resident Evil Village will also get a license for yet another Resident Evil multiplayer game, Resident Evil Re;Verse. A multiplayer deathmatch title that pits various recycled characters from the recent slate of Resident Evil titles against each other in repurposed locations. Only a brief snippet was shown, and it looks like a project by a small team who was told to adapt the gameplay of Resident Evil 2 (2019) and Resident Evil 3 (2020) into a frantic shooter, and it does not look particularly good. The resolution in the gameplay shown was remarkably low, animations looked jittery, and the title as a whole looks to be yet another in a long line of attempts to make an action-heavy Resident Evil game. Which, as sales data will indicate, nobody actually wants.

These two announcements alone would have given the Resident Evil fanbase plenty to be hyped about, but the day after this announcement, Video Games Chronicle reported an update on the development of the as-of-yet unannounced Resident Evil 4 remake. According to the publication’s sources, the project was originally headed by the recently formed M-Two, a Capcom affiliated and funded studio that served as the lead developer on Resident Evil 3 (2020). However, upon performing an annual review of the title, Capcom has moved the production of the game over to its Division 1, the internal team behind most Resident Evil titles. 

The reason for this is allegedly the differing priorities between Capcom’s higher-ups and M-Two. After the less glowing reception of Resident Evil 3 (2020), which deviated significantly from the original 1999 release, M-Two wanted their Resident Evil 4 remake to be more of a direct recreation. But Capcom wanted the project to have more unique elements, take creative liberties, and not strictly follow the blueprint of Resident Evil 4. Similar to how Resident Evil 2 (2019) did not strictly follow the design of the original 1998 release. Also, for the record, the biggest difference between the RE2 remake and the RE3 remake was that RE2 added things and RE3 took them away. 

This sort of partway development reboot is apparently not uncommon within Capcom, and I actually think it’s part of the reason they have been able to churn out so many high-quality titles over recent years. It’s outlandishly difficult to make a AAA game, requires excellent project management, and when you have hundreds of people working on one thing, it is best to pump the brakes periodically and restart development if things are heading in a bad direction. It’s far more preferable to toiling away at a dud, wasting resources, and buying into the sunk cost fallacy, like many studios have done in the past.

Vicarious Visions is a persistent little studio that spent most of its existence toiling away with handheld ports and licensed games, putting out myriad titles of varying quality before being relegated to a Skylanders support studio. In recent years, however, they recently proved themselves to be an exceedingly capable developer after putting out Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Both of which established them as an excellent studio, capable of luxuriously remaking classic titles. But instead of letting them do what they have been doing, or giving them the opportunity to make a new original title, like their sister developer, Toys for Bob, Activision had other ideas for the studio.

No, they did not close them down— even Activision isn’t that stupid— but they merged Vicarious Visions into Blizzard Entertainment, turning them into a support team for another company, and a company that still garners a level of dislike and disdain from the community at large. I won’t comment on their dwindling reputation over the past decade, but the bottom line is that a studio people have steadily grown attached to because they put out well-regarded and successful titles is no longer going to have creative control over its projects.

However, there is an upside to this announcement, as, according to a Bloomberg report by Jason Schrier, Vicarious Visions’ first priority as a part of Blizzard will apparently be a remake of Diablo II, dubbed Diablo II: Resurrected. This title was originally going to be developed by the team behind Warcraft III: Reforged, at least until the game released and people discovered that it was the worst high-profile remaster since 2012’s Silent Hill HD Collection, completely crapping on the legacy of a beloved title. As to be expected, this was due to a lot of miscommunication, a rushed development cycle, and so forth and so on. Issues common in game development, but Vicarious Visions has proven themselves to overcome.

So the bad news is that a studio will no longer be given its own identity, but the good news is that we will probably see a very good, if not an excellent remake of Diablo II. Which is something PC game likers have been craving for about a decade. Here’s hoping Activision doesn’t cripple the project with some garbage like invasive DRM or microtransactions. But knowing them and the clout of Diablo… they‘ll probably find some way to ruin it.

Speaking of things getting ruined, Klei Entertainment has been one of those quiet successful studios for a while. They carved out a name for themselves back when indie games could reasonably earn success just by being on a console storefront or Steam and have only grown in the ensuing years, boasting a modest size and a regular release schedule of well-regarded titles. However, Klei seemingly could not maintain themselves in the ever-growing volatile market of video games and have agreed to sell a majority stake in their company to Tencent.

On one hand, I do not chagrin any small studio for accepting an acquisition or investment, as it is hard to make it in this industry, and if I were running a studio, I would do anything possible to keep my team together. On the other hand, Tencent will probably become a massive issue in the future, and I don’t like seeing them exert influence over the games industry. It is concerning when they acquire minority stakes in companies like PlatinumGames and Marvelous, but that does not give them any true control over the companies. Only significant influence.

When they acquire a majority stake in a company, however, then that company is part of Tencent. They might be hands-off, but they are the ultimate decision-maker in the company, have a right to exert influence on projects, and can force developers to remove ‘objectionable’ content from their games. It’s not a problem yet, it might never be, but I still don’t want to financially support a company that has sold itself to Tencent out of principle. 

Header image comes from Shippuu Tokunin Hayate ~Ingoku ni Otsu Kedakaki Ninkon~ or Elite Gale Ninja Hayate ~Noble Shinobi Spirit Falling into Lewd Hell~ by Kouji. Because when I lack a header image, I turn to Kouji… And hentai comics in general. They’re a great source of art that I can mangle into something presentable using my garbo image manipulating skills. Seriously, look at the header image and its lousy attempts at getting rid of aliased white fragments.

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