Rundown (11/14-11/20) All Your Birthdays Are Garbage

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Wherein I discuss my pursuit to the grave, the glory of backwards compatibility, a game where you can play as a pig who can transform into rockets, Activision perpetuating evil from the very top, a cynical crossover clash, and a response to a most “Definitive” failure.

This past week was my birthday week, and now that I am 27, I’m officially at the age where birthdays mean nothing to me. And they will cease to mean anything substantial until I receive some senior benefits at 55, the ability to take money out of my IRA at age 59.5, and bigger senior benefits at age 65… Though I’m probably going to be dead before I get to experience any of those perks. 

Huh. Does that mean my life is halfway over? I guess it does, but truthfully, I don’t really mind. I’m a very morbid person when it comes to my own mortality, and I think the impetus dates back to my elementary school days. Growing up, I was constantly told I lacked the skills to participate in the ‘real world’ back then, and that messed up my perception of mortality. When I was 8, I thought I would be dead at 16. When I was 16, I thought I would be dead at 20. And when I was 20, I wanted to kill myself, but didn’t, ‘cos I’m a bitch.

In recent years, I’ve had delusions about growing into old age. But I have since rescinded those ideas after being reminded that if you’re so old you can’t control your bladder, you’re probably cool with dying in your sleep. Seriously, I pity anybody who needs to care for people who are so frail, weak, and old that they cannot do anything. I’m sure they’re constantly hounded with moral quandries about whether they should just murder this waste of resources. Because really, what does a fully retired, wheelchair-bound, semi-lucid 90-year-old do for society? Jack bupkis, that’s what. 

While I personally find their consoles to be the least worth owning due to the lack of any true exclusives nowadays, Xbox have been doing a great job of catering to their customers and users in recent years. The Xbox One was a farce out of the gate, but they have added more and more value to their console ecosystem over the past few years. Xbox 360 backwards compatibility announced in 2015, the Play Anywhere initiative announced in 2016, the debut of Xbox Game Pass in 2017, and their work on Xbox Cloud streaming. It has all made Xbox something of a market leader in my eyes and gives me the impression that Microsoft intends on supporting their current ecosystem as long as it is feasible. 

I think it is wonderful that people can play a few original Xbox games, a good chunk of Xbox 360 games, and every Xbox One game (that did not require Kinect), on an Xbox Series console, which you can (theoretically) buy for $300. And I think it is wonderful that customers can get access to a hefty catalog of games from all four systems, including (most) first-party titles for $10 a month. My only real bugbear with this approach was how there was a notable 2 year gap where Xbox added zero titles to their backwards compatibility list. But this past week, on the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox, they added another 76 titles. Ranging from curios that nobody really cared about, to genuinely great additions, and most importantly, games that otherwise are not readily available. 

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, Beautiful Katamari, NieR, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, both of the Otogi games by FromSoftware, Ridge Racer 6, Skate 2, TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect, Viva Piñata: Party Animals, and 3 Dead or Alive games. Sure, these are arguably all B-listers (except for NieR), but these are games that deserve to be preserved and made accessible. Not only that, but some of these titles can be played at higher resolutions and at higher frame rates, which probably makes some of these games feel like low-key remasters. 

The Xbox line of consoles is something that lost its identity throughout the latter half of the eighth generation. After they announced that all Xbox One games were coming to PC day-in-day, many asked why one should even bother with an Xbox One, when they can have access to all the same games with a PC. This made the Xbox One seem like something of a ‘pointless’ console, but with this, I was reminded of its true key feature. Its true killer app.

Not the first-party offerings, not Game Pass, not the sleek $300 ‘next gen’ price point. No. The killer app of the Xbox is its backwards compatibility. As no other console on the market lets players jump back three generations to play upscaled, enhanced, and overall better versions of them. They did not shove these games into a garbage emulator worse than what you could have found online in 2007. They did not stop after enhancing 54 titles over the span of 3 years. And they are not locking their back catalog behind a streaming/subscription service.

…Which makes it so incredibly frustrating that this is apparently the “final” addition to Backwards Compatibility. Meaning that Microsoft will not be adding any more titles to this list, and that thousands of titles are still locked behind aging hardware. On one hand, I understand that this process is a difficult one. Technicians need to go through these games, title by title, to improve and tweak things. On the other hand… this is Microsoft we are talking about. They have the capital and technology to do anything, and they can absolutely keep a program like this going until they have scrapped the literal bottom of the barrel.

That being said, in the event that they simply cannot emulate or add additional games on the Xbox One, couldn’t they just resume this program, but only target Xbox Series consoles? Because those… If you told me that the Xbox Series could not properly run 70% of all original Xbox and Xbox 360 games, I would not believe you. 

…Also, they said they were done adding games back in 2019… but this past week they added an extra 76. So I do not believe them when they say this is indeed the final update. And I won’t believe them for another… three years!

…Or perhaps this is simply the last wave of games that are going to be preserved through these ‘traditional’ means, and Xbox is looking into a better way to preserve their entire back catalog. I say this because Xbox head Phil Spencer recently commented on how there should be an industry-wide push for game preservation, and cites software-based emulation as the best way to achieve this. And what better way to stark this push than by introducing standards on Xbox and PC by creating a storefront where players can purchase old ROMs of existing games and use them in Xbox endorsed emulators. 

Considering the immense resources available to Microsoft, this is not a far-fetched goal, but as is the case with anything, the first step is to identify what you want to do, and the second step is to map out how you are going to do it, and the third step is actually doing it. They’ve got step one down, now they just need to go all in on two and three.

The Dragon Ball series has seen annualized video game releases since… the series first took off, really, which is pretty strange to think about. The fact that this manga and anime series has had such a consistent presence in the world of video games, and has probably seen more revenue from this medium than any other. However, most of the games tend to be within the spectrum of a brawler RPG to a genuine fighter, with the occasional card game or proper RPG. Which makes it all the more surprising to see something like Dragon Ball: The Breakers

Developed by Dimps, Dragon Ball: The Breakers is an asymmetrical survival game where a gaggle of 7 goofball doofuses from… the Pilaf saga, apparently, must survive as an eighth all-powerful antagonist from the series, dubbed the “Raider.” The Raider traverses a large environment. Where they change forms, amass power, and hunt out any and all survivors to achieve victory. Meanwhile, the 7 survivors must use weapons to delay the Raider, use vehicles to escape, and find the time machine to go to the past/future and avoid death. 

Honestly, this sounds more like a Dragon Ball themed mod for an existing asymmetrical survival game than it does an official product… and it kinda looks like it too. As the graphics are a touch basic with the lighting and shading. I would ask why, but the title is supporting 8 consecutive players and is coming out for the Switch in addition to the expected PS4, Xbox One, and PC. So naturally the graphics were going to take a hit. 

Jumping back to a darker topic from a few months ago, the investigation around Activision Blizzard still rages on. The Wall Street Journal recently put out an article stating that CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the sexual misconduct going on across Activision, and even perpetuated it. 

A female employee at Sledgehammer Games was raped by a coworker in 2016 and 2017. Activision reached an out of court settlement with this woman some months later. Despite being the CEO of the company, and aware of this incident, Kotick did not inform the board of directors about this matter. …Despite this being a serious criminal offense, that should have sparked a litany of reforms.

The article also states that over the years, Kotick has mistreated several women, but has always tried to settle these matters quickly and quietly. The nature of these mistreatments was not detailed, excluding one instance from 2006, where Kotick left a voicemail for one of his assistants, where he threatened to have her killed. 

This was just one of several articles that came out this past week and railed against Kotick for being a vile person, and the message is pretty clear. Kotick should be relieved of his position as promptly as possible, but unfortunately, the board of directors like him, so it is unlikely that he will leave. Because corporations are designed to allow people in power to stay in power.

Speaking of corporate scumminess, Tencent bought a minority stake in Polytonic Games, who are most easily described as ‘the Yooka Laylee folks.’ This is all a familiar story of a Chinese megacorp buying up part of a foreign game company for what I’m sure are assorted and justified business reasons. It is a genre of story so increasingly common that I am finding it increasingly harder to get mad about it. As always, I have nothing inherently against Chinese companies other than the fact that they are associated with China’s deplorable government, who I do not want to have influence over any industry, let alone one that I am so passionately invested in.

Over the past few weeks, there have been leaks pertaining to a Warner Bros. crossover platform fighter. Or to put things in layperson’s terms, a Smash Bros. game, but with Warner Bros. intellectual properties instead of Nintendo and friends. And this past week, the title was revealed as none other than MultiVersus. A free-to-play title with an eclectic line-up ranging from DC superheroes to Looney Toons to modern Cartoon Network characters to some lady from Game of Thrones. It is… a lot less artistically consistent than Smash’s roster, and makes for a fairly bizarre idea conceptually. But I am also tempted to shrug off this announcement with a ‘sure, why not?’

People like these platform fighters, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is done, so people are looking for new titles to get invested in. And this is a good way for Warner Bros. to milk their IP until maintenance becomes too expensive and the game is shut down, as it will be online only, given its free-to-play nature. Meaning that the game will almost assuredly be supported via some scummy monetization practices, including skins, a battle pass, and probably premium characters who are not always available, unless players purchase them outright.

All of which is questionable, as this game will naturally appeal to children. However, I suppose one needs to wait and see just how these monetization practices work when MultiVersus launches on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC sometime in 2022. Not Switch, because how could a game like this run on Switch?

After the launch of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, Rockstar was put into a position where they pretty much had to do some damage control. And, after a week of letting these issues percolate, they put up an announcement on their website with two major takeaways. 

The first is that they intend to update and improve The Definitive Edition over time, and correct “unexpected technical issues” that came to light after the games were released… Which is a load of bullcrap. Rockstar TESTED these games and the testers REPORTED these issues as part of the development process. I would bet good money that 90% of the issues that players encountered this past week were cataloged by Rockstar’s QA team. But management did not give the programmers and developers enough time to fix these issues, as they wanted to put out a product for the holidays.

The second takeaway… is actually a bit of good news. Rockstar is re-listing the PC versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and will even be offering these three titles as a bonus for players who purchase the PC version of The Definitive Edition through June 30, 2022. Meaning that it is no longer morally righteous to pirate the original versions of these games… But Rockstar is a garbage company content with releasing garbage, so go ahead and pirate away, I guess. It’s not like Rockstar needs the money for anything.

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