Wherein I discuss an erotic discovery, a tiny building block in an acquisition empire, the failings of Saints Row 5, another vaporware revival, a re-remake that isn’t much of a remake, and inflation.
Last week, I mentioned how Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra is “probably the horniest thing I have ever written.” The reason I said that has less to do with what happens in the story, and more to do with the erotic undercurrents of its setting and characters. In fact, writing the first two chapters earlier this past week made me more aroused than I have ever been in my entire life.
For me, arousal is a bit of a… strange thing, so let me give you a bit of a history lesson. Back before I started HRT in June 2016, the only thing that made me aroused was some form of TSF content, but rarely anything that was overtly sexual. Sex scenes never did anything for me, and the stuff that made me ‘frisky’ tended to be TG Captions, simplistically written TG writings, and TG artwork.
A few months before I started HRT, I stopped masturbating with any regularity, typically only doing it once a month, and I’m pretty sure I went a full year without doing once I started HRT. The initial reason why I did this was because I thought that masturbation had something to do with testosterone production, which… it doesn’t. When on HRT, you can masturbate as much as you want, no frets and no worries. The second reason is that my sexuality was ‘soft-reseted’ after I started HRT, and I just was not aroused by much of anything.
I eventually realized that this was because the window of stuff that I found arousing had drifted somewhere along the line, and I began craving things a touch more specific. I still am not 100% sure on what that is, as arousal is something I often need to coax out of me with stimulation. However, I stumbled onto an erotic oil well with Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra. It is an irreversible body swap story involving family and friends who love each other dearly. Where everybody is ultimately happy in their new bodies and roles, making them their own and accepting that this is who they will be for the rest of their lives.
No animosity, no anger, no mental alterations, everybody winds up getting closer than ever before. There is no guilt over the swap, no attempts to switch back, and everybody embraces their newfound sexiness!
Now, I like all of that stuff, but writing this story concept, bringing it to life with these characters, and even thinking about it right now… nothing in my life has made me this aroused. I’m talking about constant erections, like I’m freaking 14 again, and my boyshorts getting soaked with pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum).
You see, HRT does a lot of stuff, and that includes increasing the amount of pre-cum that someone generates. The hormones are telling your body to get wet when aroused. I know that to a lot of transwomen and trans-buddies, this is common knowledge. But… I didn’t know this was a thing until I saw transparent goop sticking from my underwear when going to the bathroom.
Now, did I like it? I mean, yeah. I felt the happy chemicals pumping into my brain, and there was a certain euphoria in seeing myself get ‘wet.’ In discovering something new that HRT had done to my body. However… I also got so aroused that I wound up hurting myself.
For the past… almost 5 years, I have been wearing a gaff for about 12 hours a day. From when I got dressed in the morning to when I showered at night. At home and when going outside. In wearing my gaffs, my testicles are stuffed into their canal, and probably helped in limiting my arousal. However… it is a bad idea to wear a gaff when you’re at home and getting aroused for hours on end. Soreness and irritation followed. I stopped wearing a gaff for 2.5 days while I recovered. And I reminded myself that balls really are just the worst.
They’re overly tender, floppy, grossly large, and not the least bit sexy. Literally every bad term that can be applied to breasts (saggy, wrinkled, loose) can be applied to balls, except there is no such thing as a good pair of balls. They all look bad, and they look even worse when covered with hairs. Which I hoped would be removed by electrolysis, but… NOPE! They’re still freaking there!
So, um, it is cool that I found something that got me off, but… boy am I looking forward to my bottom surgery… sometime next year. It would’ve been this year, but the clinic has been processing my paperwork for five bloody months now and didn’t tell me that one of my letters needed to be resigned. Ugh!
Continuing their pursuit of becoming a mid-sized publisher, TinyBuild went on another acquisition stint— about a year and a half after the last one. This time, TinyBuild bought several intellectual properties from their partner, Bossa Studios, including Surgeon Simulator, I am Fish and I am Bread. The reason for this has to do with Bossa switching its focus to “co-op PvE” prototypes, leaving them unable to develop games using these IPs. Rather than loaning them out however, they opted to sell them to TinyBuild for a crisp $3 million upfront and additional goodies down the line.
This is a rather strange move, as you typically do not see smaller studios sell off their IP while they work on new ventures, but I suppose Bossa is aiming to become a very different studio. Why are they making this shift? Well, it likely has to do with the $30 million investment round led by NetEase back in 2019.
In a more traditional move, mentioned in the same article, TinyBuild also spent $5.4 million to buy the Russian studio Konfa Games (Despotism 3k and Depot’s Game). The Russian connection made me raise an eyebrow considering the war still brewing there, but the studio’s staff will be relocated to Belgrad, Serbia. I did not know they had offices in Serbia and… how will that relocation even work? I remember hearing murmurs about travel bans for Russians, but would an EU country even be able to hire Russians in an acquisition like this? I suppose that’s something TinyBuild’s lawyers have already gone through, and the details do not need to be public knowledge. But that whole move sounds like a logistical nightmare.
That was the only proper acquisition news that happened this week. But on Friday morning, after I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning working on the 2021/2022 financials for a crypto company, I spied this story. USA Today, via GLHF sources, reported a rumor that Amazon intends on buying Electronic Arts. This was quickly disputed by CNBC’s David Faber, and the story was shortly cast aside as a fake bit of news.
However, it is all but certain that someone will buy EA, and I have a gut feeling it will happen before the end of the year. Back in May, they were discussing an acquisition with several big media companies, including Disney, Apple, Amazon, and NBCUniversal. But at this point, it’s anyone’s guess where the discussions are and who is willing to put in a bid for the gaming giant.
The first non-acquisition story I want to talk about is how the 2022 Saints Row reboot came out this past week and was met with a mostly mixed reception. I have not talked about the series much in recent years, but I consider Saints Row 2 to be one of my top ten favorite games of all time.
It was ultimately grounded urban sandbox with its share of more emotional and serious moments, but was peppered with a level of farce and humor throughout. It was a tonal balance that was both a product of its time, being developed in the mid-2000s and a desire to stand out from the competition, without going too far in the other direction.
It was simultaneously a game that was relishing in the commodified gangsta aesthetic popular of its era and one with the confidence to be silly. To let you travel around town in a buggy while setting everything on fire, spray poop over garish displays of capitalism, and cosplay as a cop to get mad cash while chainsawing up pirates. All for fortune, respect, and infinite ammo…
But I think what I loved the most about it was how its world felt so realized. There was an underground shopping mall, a college campus, financial district, ghettos, a marina right next to a cave that was used for, like, one mission. It built upon the foundation and world of the first game and I truly believe that one could spend days lost in its streets and not see everything.
Not in the sense that there was so much land to cover, but in the sense that there was so much to admire and enjoy about every location. It was an open world where every location felt like a place worth visiting. A concept that has… generally been lost as open worlds got bigger, broader, and less personal. As they became places that players commute through, checking off marks on the map, rather than something smaller and more personable.
I say that Saints Row 2 pulled this off, as I would argue that was not the case for Saints Row: The Third, Saints Row IV, and Gat out of Hell. None of these games were bad. In fact, I loved Saints Row IV as well. However, they all felt limited in some respect, while SR2 felt like it did everything it wanted to and has… more variety. There were demolition derby and fight club modes. They were both pretty jank, but they were fun and made Stillwater feel like more of a late capitalist shithole.
Anyway, this whole dichotomy is why I was interested in seeing how the reboot balanced things and… it sounds like it just doesn’t. I think it is the result of different people having different ideas about what the series did well, which games should be seen as the baseline for this reboot, and what the series should be in the modern day. In the process… I think they kind of miss the mark.
I have not played or purchased the game, but based on an hour of footage I watched, it feels like something went wrong at some point. Not necessarily with the gameplay— that looks largely iterative of SR3, but everything around it. The previous Saints Row games were positioned as stories about taking things over and enacting revenge upon others. SR2 was about reclaiming the town the boss once controlled. 3 was about seeking revenge against people who stole the boss’s assets and killed a long-standing main character. 4 was about kicking alien butt and saving the world. But 2022 is more about a group of petty criminal friends trying to make ends meet and eventually achieve first generation wealth.
This is a subtle difference that I think trickles down to a lot of the creative and narrative decisions here. The way the game begins with the protagonist being a grunt for the military industrial complex before robbing a loan place with their three buddies. The choice to emphasize the accumulation of capital instead of respect. And the strange emphasis on replicating hollywood-style action set pieces that seem to mainly act as turret sections.
It honestly reminds me a bit of Mass Effect Andromeda, in that it is doing the things it should do, but not always for the right reason or with the right… affect. Or in other words, I get the impression that this was a game made mostly by people who worked on Agents of Mayhem and not the prior Saints Row games. Which, considering how staff has moved at Volition over the years, might be the case.
…Now I’m just worrying that the Saints Row 2 updated PC release might never come out. It was announced three years ago, the main developer passed away in 2021, and while it is supposedly still in development, it probably won’t come out for a while, due to marketing reasons.
This week was home to Gamescom, so there were several new titles announced or shown off in more detail, and I have… four I would like to talk about.
Lords of the Fallen 2 is one of those modern vaporware titles that has been squatting in the walls of my mind for approximately four years at this point. Released in October 2014, Lords of the Fallen was pretty much the first AAA soulslike game to hit the market after the success of Dark Souls. While criticized, it did well enough for the publisher, CI Games, to announce a sequel in December 2014.
However, the sequel lingered in the conceptual phase for over two years while the original developer, Deck13, was working on The Surge. This eventually led publisher CI Games to drop Deck13 as the developer for the project and bring on Defiant Studios in June 2018. An engagement that… lasted until May 2019, when Defiant was dropped and the project was ‘homeless’ once again. In September 2020, CI Games founded Hexworks, a studio set to create fantasy action RPGs, and put them in charge of Lords of the Fallen 2.
Two years later, CI Games hit up Gamescom with a multi-million-dollar CG announcement trailer for Lords of the Fallen 2. …Except that name simply does not work for the modern generation, so they renamed the game to The Lords of the Fallen. Because if it was good enough for The Final Destination and The Fast and the Furious, then I guess it is good enough for CI Games.
This was a CG trailer, so I have nothing to say about the content of the game itself, as it might be in the conceptual stage for all I know. However, they are saying that it will come out in 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless, it would be nice just to see this game finally come out.
Next up, in a move that I find to be lowkey hilarious, this showcase also featured the announcement of the next game from Deck13, developers of the original Lords of the Fallen… and it’s called Atlas Fallen. Just… how?
Anyway, this was looking to be another 3 minute CG trailer for a game coming to PS5, Xbox Series, and PC in 2023. However, it ended with a snippet of gameplay that showed off what the game could (potentially) look like, and it is doing some nifty stuff.
While I’m usually not a fan of deserts, the desolate and sand-wrenched post-apocalyptic-looking world looks more compelling than I anticipated based on the dreary CG. The combat looks less soulslike than Deck13’s prior titles and reminds me more of God Eater with the giant weapons and granter monsters. It gives the game a more distinct sense of style, which is further emphasized by the inclusion of sand skidding. There’s just something inherently cool about sliding down a desert like that, using the terrain to your advantage, and incorporating a sense of verticality in a typically flat environment.
Atlas Fallen is set to release for for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC in 2023
Next up we have… wait, should I have talked about the first soulslike game immediately before talking about another soulslike game? But then I would need to open with Atlas Fallen and… screw it, let’s just talk about Lies of P. While first shown with an alpha gameplay demo in 2021, this is the first I’d seen of this title and… it sure reminds me of Bloodborne. Now, I do not mean that as an insult— But it is hard for me to not think of that game when presented with Lies of P’s dilapidated late 1800s setting, general user interface, and fast action combat against crazed freaks and imposing monsters.
I would ask why this is, but the answer is probably that this game was made by people who really loved Bloodborne. People who found the game inspiring and, seven years later, are in the midst of making a game like that but with their own ideas and vision. And their effort shows with the production values, world design, and general flow of its combat system. However… I also find it a bit funny that this is the second game to fall under the category of ‘Bloodborne but with robots’ after Steelrising started being trotted out to various events.
I will admit that seeing Bloodborne inspire games like this makes me feel like I missed out on something by not playing the retroactive GOTY of 2015. I mean, I already felt that way. Hell, I dedicated hundreds of words to talking about the game in The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan. A game that I honestly would probably only play to keep my trans street cred, as trans girls love Bloodborne. That’s just a fact.
…What was I talking about again? Oh, right! Lies of P is set to come out for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC in 2013.
Next up, we have another remake from Forever Entertainment. A publisher who is probably best known for their okay Panzer Dragoon remake, Panzer Dragoon: Remake, and their… kind of bad The House of the Dead remake, The House of the Dead: Remake. Most of the issues noted with their remakes have been more presentational and aesthetical, although the THotD remake did have a litany of minor mechanical shortcomings. I could go into it, but I would just be paraphrasing the points that were excellently illustrated in this video by IdolismJ.
One of the first remakes ever announced by Forever Entertainment was a remake of Fear Effect, Fear Effect Reinvented. For those not aware, Fear Effect was a highly regarded PS1 title that had quite a few things going for it. It attempted to evolve the fixed-camera-angle shooting gameplay of Resident Evil into something more action-oriented. It was one of the earliest adopters of cel-shading, giving the game a striking and colorful look. Following the success of Metal Gear Solid, the title attempted to tell an engaging and cinematic story with oodles of cutscenes. And it was also had a sexy Asian lady protagonist, who got naked at some points, giving it the sex appeal of Tomb Raider.
Or in other words, the developers tried to take some of the biggest PS1 titles at the time, and mashed them up into a game that I think is regarded as a cult classic. I say think because I don’t believe I have ever heard anybody talk about this game in detail.
Regardless, the remake was announced in August 2017, and was last publicly previewed at Paris Games Week in 2018. Four screenshots were released by official social media channels, and the game was available for people to demo. But the only video that I found showing this demo was a French video with under 4,000 views showing off-screen gameplay.
At this point, the game was looking to be a pretty faithful recreation of the original. With colorful 3D models, detailed 2D backdrops remade from the ground-up, and what looked to be faithful gameplay. Meaning it looked like it had some of that built-in PS1 jankiness.
After this, news on the game went silent, and the official Twitter account claimed that the project was being ‘reinvented’ in October 2019. Afterwards, they began posting environmental and character concept art, which was an odd move for a game that was already fully playable and presumably near the end of development… right?
Well, it was, but things changed at some point in late 2018 or 2019. Fear Effect Reinvented was being developed by Sushee, a small French studio also responsible for 2018’s Fear Effect Sedna. An isometric strategy title that was met with a largely negative reception. Things seemed to be going fine on the project during late 2018, so what happened? I did some light sleuthing and deduced that Sushee’s Twitter page has been dormant since November 2018 and their website went down sometime in April or May 2019.
What does this mean? Well… I think it means that Fear Effect Reinvented was quietly canceled and Sushee closed its doors. Because active game developers don’t just let their websites expire like that.
Okay, but what about the concept art? What was that all about? Well, looking back, that implied that development restarted, likely with a new developer, and this past week, Fear Effect Reinvented was re-revealed, this time developed by MegaPixel Studios. The folks behind Panzer Dragoon: Remake and The House of the Dead: Remake. Except, instead of looking like a one-to-one recreation like what Sushee was doing, the game… It looks like what I imagine a Fear Effect game would look like if it came out in 2010.
Instead of reprising the fixed camera angles, the game is now a cover-based third-person shooter. It ditches one of the boldest cel-shaded approaches of its era for something more visually similar to Borderlands with its general colors and aesthetics. And despite only about 20% of the original game taking place in a futuristic city, the trailer only showed the city and… Which also looks bad.
It is this ugly gray-teal color scheme that was popular at the turn of the decade. While, like any color scheme, there is a time and a place for this, it really does not mesh all too well with what is ultimately an action game set in a cyberpunk world. If you make cyberpunk look dull and lifeless without also looking grungy, you probably made a mistake somewhere.
Now, I would not really mind this if this was just a new game in the Fear Effect series. But the fact that they had a faithful remake of the title, canned it, and then produced a game that looks almost nothing like the original in terms of perspective or aesthetics is… garbage. I would have some hope about the game working out a few kinks as it gets further through its development timeline. Unfortunately, the trailer ends by ominously stating that Fear Effect Reinvented is “coming sooner than you think.”
So I imagine that it will just come out, give people the wrong idea about what this series was like, and possibly kill it off forever. Why did it have to be this way? Well, this is a Forever Entertainment project, and I think Fear Effect is owned by Embracer now that the Eidos/Crystal Dynamics deal has closed. However, I would blame Square Enix for this. They owned the IP during the bulk of this game’s development, and they had the final say with big creative decisions like this. That might be harsh, but over the years, I have learned that, when in doubt, blame Square Enix.
Moving onto one tangentially scummy story to an actually scummy story, let’s talk about A Space for the Unbound. A story-driven adventure game with gorgeous sprite art, set in late 90s rural Indonesia. Right as the game was nearing its late 2022 release window, the developers and PC publisher put out a statement regarding their western console publisher, PQube games.
In short, PQube used the fact that A Space for the Unbound was being developed by a group of Indonesian developers to secure a diversity grant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. PQube was supposed to give this entire grant to the companies making the game, Mojiken and Toge Productions, but they intentionally withheld these funds. In March 2022, the developers learned of these funds and the fact that they were withheld. When they asked PQube to distribute the funds that were rightfully theirs, PQube used the funds as leverage to increase their revenue share.
Or in other words, PQube stole a diversity grant for a group of developers in a third world country and used it to extract more money from them.
The developers of ASFTU are urging people not to boycott, review bomb, or do anything to otherwise hurt PQube games, because that hurts the developers behind these titles. This is a very mature approach in this situation… but if what they are saying is true, then PQube is responsible for one of the worst stories I have seen this past year. PQube, naturally, is saying that this is not the case, and that they have been supportive of the developer. So, without seeing more receipts, who are you going to believe? A mid-size British company or a tiny Indonesian company? I say the tiny Indonesian company.
…And not just because I get more Indonesian traffic than UK traffic. Which still surprises me. I will NEVER understand why Nigma Box‘s number two country is Indonesia… If you’re reading this and from Indonesia, let me know!
With the current economic climate, I believe that we will see a lot more games adopt the $70 launch price. The value of the US dollar and many other currencies have been plummeting this past year thanks to ‘post-COVID’ inflation. Games are transitioning over to a new console generation with a smaller user base, thus leading to fewer sales at launch. And video game development is simply getting more expensive as publishers keep pushing for better graphics and bigger fidelities.
On that note, I was also not especially surprised to hear that the PlayStation 5 was going to experience a price hike in several regions. Europe, UK, China, Australia, Mexico, Canada, but not the United States, likely because PlayStation is a US company at this point. This price increase was not crazy, with the highest increase being about 13%, but this still makes an already expensive piece of gaming hardware even more expensive… Assuming you can find one.
Now, the more bitter and status quo affirming response to this news is that if you think this price hike is too high, you should not buy the system, but I find that to be a pretty bad argument. The video game industry is one of generational hardware, and games are nearing a paradigm shift away from the older ecosystems of PS4 and Xbox One to PS5 and Xbox Series. So, if one is invested in console gaming, they will need to upgrade to new hardware relatively soon if they want to stay current with the medium.
The other argument is that if someone dislikes this move, then they should switch to PC or Xbox instead. While this is a reasonable response, the gaming industry is becoming one where people are increasingly locked into manufacturer specific ecosystems. Backwards compatibility and digital libraries make it harder to justify one’s transition from these three platforms. Because while one can make the switch, they cannot bring their libraries with them.
There should be a way to transfer licenses for extensively identical games between the major gaming platforms. But there is a long list of reasons why that will never happen. Almost all of which stem from how that would be giving the customer too much power and freedom, which the corporations profiting off of these ecosystems do not want.
To clarify something I mentioned in the Rundown Preamble Ramble (which is the official name of the first section), I do not find VD-SE to be horny because of the sex scenes or any of that crap. In fact, to me, that is the least arousing part of the story. This dichotomy actually reminds me of a comic by Nefurious_Skull that compares what people imagine horny artists are like and the reality. Except for me, it’s more like this:
If you are asking why I am like this, the answer is I just am. I’m ace, autistic, trans, and weird. What do you want?
…Also, I could not find an active social account for Nefurious_Skull, also known as Mx Bones, because they were apparently caught up in some child-related controversy a while ago. I never followed them, nor do I know much of anything about them. I just saved this comic after someone retweeted it. Because liking and RT-ing is for anti-preservationists who wish to appease the capitalist overlords.
Gosh, my brain is just moving a mile a minute this week. It must be the reawakening of the glands… Or the sleep deprivation.
Header image comes from chapter 2 of Dengeki Exchange (Electric Exchanger) by Neriwasabi.
Dengeki Exchange is a 1992 TSF comic that is about a pervert who turns into a girl when electrified and turns back into a dude when he has sex. Only two chapters have been translated into English, but it is a cute little hyperactive date rapist ecchi comic that I think is technically a Ranma parody. However, what really speaks to me is how there are another eight chapters and, just glancing at the raws, it looks utterly WILD! I’m pretty sure it becomes a video game isekai story where the protagonist’s personality splits into two, and… I just want to read this full story so I can ‘plagiarize’ it. Just like I did with RCT-024 Act 1.
…Should I contact Exos Subs (assuming they are still active) to commission them to do the other eight chapters? I mean, there are worse things I could do with my money… like drop $90 on Rance games I will probably never play… which I just did!
This Post Has 2 Comments
Hello! Reader from Indonesia here, I’ve just recently discovered your blog (2 months ago or so, was really busy that time so I couldn’t leave a reply) through my friend and I could say that I enjoy the reviews and other stuff that you make, keep up the good work! It’s also quite devastating to see the tragedy of Indonesian gaming industry especially with the company behind Infectonator (used to play it a lot back then, R.I.P. flash era).
It is always lovely to hear from readers halfway across the world. Thank you for reading Nigma Box, and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what I have to offer! :D
Yes, hearing such a small studio undergo such hardships is immensely upsetting, and I wish the best for Mojiken and Toge. They were put in a crappy position, and I can only hope that cooler heads prevail.