5 Conclusions - 23/11/18
A regular look at gaming-related stories from the past week or so whereby conclusions are drawn from anything and everything. These may be incredibly well reasoned based on events from the week. Alternatively, they may be highly speculative, drawn from very little evidence. More likely, they will be somewhere in between.
Another week, another publisher shooting themselves in the foot. Or the same publisher, to be precise. When the Spyro Reignited Trilogy came out on Friday, it was soon apparent that there was something missing from it. Subtitles — that incredibly useful feature which helps the deaf and hard of hearing to enjoy games — were notably absent from Spyro's cutscenes.
Rather than apologising for the oversight and immediately pledging to rectify it, Activision went in entirely the opposite direction in a statement:
“When Toys For Bob set out to make an awesome game collection, there were certain decisions that needed to be made throughout the process. The team remained committed to keep the integrity and legacy of Spyro that fans remembered intact. The game was built from the ground up using a new engine for the team (Unreal 4), and was localized in languages that had not previously been attempted by the studio. While there’s no industry standard for subtitles, the studio and Activision care about the fans’ experience especially with respect to accessibility for people with different abilities, and will evaluate going forward.”
There is much to criticise here. Firstly, there is an industry standard as gaming accessibility specialist Ian Hamilton pointed out:
Secondly, it seems like this was a deliberate design decision by Activision, given the comments they've made. If so, this is simply inexcusable. Their attempt to use the development of a new engine as an excuse not to include subtitles throughout — and worse, implying that it was due to wanting to keep the new game as close to the original as possible — is simply ludicrous.
Hopefully their future "evaluation" will include how best to respond in future to correct criticism of their products by the disabled community, and we hope that a patch is included to add subtitles into the game sooner rather than later.
Conclusion Two: Winter is coming
Blizzard makes brilliant games. They do this when they want. What they release provides joy to millions the world over, makes many millions and the quality assurance is high — something rare in this day and age.
Activision is a successful publisher. They publish games all the time. What they release provides joy to millions the world over, makes many millions and the quality assurance is not a priority — output and release schedules are.
There are two differing models which are both successful in the world of gaming. Since 2007 both parties have been one, albeit functioning separately. It seems that, according to Kotaku, is changing, and as such, winter might be coming.
If Activision is trying to implement corporate practice at Blizzard, such as cost-saving, when the company has never operated that way, then it’s normal to expect push back to the change, and concerns. But here any change must be well-thought through and the risk mitigated, if not entirely eliminated. Surely the best way to eliminate that risk is to NOT make any changes to the way Blizzard operates? Perhaps, but then Activision is also massively successful, as mentioned above. On that basis who’s to say Blizzard can’t be changed, and become more successful and bring joy to more, more often? You have to hope and assume Activision is doing the right thing as otherwise when winter has come, there might be no Blizzard left.
Conclusion Three: You cannot escape the blockchain — Ethereum game is a PS4 first
Unless you live under a large rock, you’ve probably had exposure to the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency. If not, congratulations! Also, you probably won’t be reading this, as you will live under a large rock with – I assume – limited access to broadband or basic hygiene.
If you have heard of it, great news: there’s going to be even fewer places to avoid the technology when Plague Hunters, the first blockchain-based game from New York developer Arcade Distillery, launches on PS4.
The game is a free-to-play, single-player, turn-based strategy RPG. There will be some PvP elements, and players will be able to trade various in-game items, units, and weapons, all tethered to ERC-721 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.
The trailer looks remarkably similar to Darkest Dungeons, and it remains to be seen what sort of innovation blockchain will bring to PS4. Even so, this is an historic moment and possibly the catalyst for future games making use of the technology alongside cryptocurrency.
Conclusion Four: Even after a decade, Half-Life fans work faster than Valve
It’s long been known that time can be divided in a number of different ways. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks. However, scientists have finally proved the existence of “Valve Time”. A phenomena long-linked to the development process of Half Life: Episode 3, congratulations are therefore due to the Black Mesa team, a group of super-fans who are set to release their complete remake of the original Half-Life, which they have been working on for fourteen years according to the team themselves.
They’ve said it should be available some time in 2019, so unless Valve has something up its sleeve – other than filthy amounts of cash – it looks like the next instalment of Half-Life will be something of a prequel.
Development has taken so long in part because the team have completely remade the final section of the game set in the alien planetscape of Xen. Many fans of the original game always thought that the final chapter wasn’t quite up to scratch with the rest of the story, so rather than simply reskin the old levels, the team have created a “largely original work” that runs for around six hours.
The trailer looks pretty bonkers, and as an avid Half-Life fan I cannot wait to take up the iconic Freeman crowbar once again.
Conclusion Five: Forget LinkedIn - games are the new job directory
When you start a new job, you may be tempted to Google as much as you can about your colleagues and search sites like LinkedIn or Glass Door to surreptitiously stalk them to give yourself a conversational advantage at the water cooler. Not so Krzysztof Piatek, a footballer who recently signed for Serie A side Genoa and has been scoring goals all over the place.
After he was scouted at Polish team Cracovia doing the business on the field, a move to Italy was soon on the cards — but he had no idea who his teammates were, or anything about them. So he did what anyone in his position would do: he fired up the PlayStation and looked for them on a football game. Whether it was PES or FIFA is unclear, but he said that being an unknown gave him an advantage. In an interview with Corriere Della Sera he said:
"If they don’t know that I have scored 21 goals and scored in almost every game, maybe even the defenders won’t know it. Being a stranger at the bottom gave me an advantage. After I signed up, I turned on the PlayStation and looked for them there.”
It’s a unique way of learning about your co-workers, for sure. Imagine if LinkedIn had status bars for each of our personal stats?