5 Conclusions: 29/06/18

June 29, 2018

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.

Conclusion One: Telltale find Unity under new CEO Pete Hawley

Telltale games are a darling of gamers and critics alike, or at least those which released in 2012 or soon thereafter, are. The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and more are beloved for their storytelling, their choices and the narrative the gamer builds for themselves. More recent releases have felt stale, unchanged versus the format put in place six years ago. Telltale, perhaps, agreed. The founder and CEO, Kevin Bruner, left in 2017 and has been replaced by Pete Hawley who has made some big changes in the company.

The biggest change for gamers is perhaps the news that Telltale is using a new engine for games post-The Walking Dead: The Final Season, says Variety. This can only be good news at it should allow the developers to change the game they make. We’ll have a different looking suite of games, perhaps with different quick time events, more choice that has an impact beyond character X remembering this, or that. Perhaps it will enable real innovation from Telltale for the first time since 2012, and allow them to tell brilliant stories in new and exciting ways. Alongside the engine change is a partnership with netflix, and the likelihood that Stranger Things will be the first Unity-based game to come from the stable. Expect really cool 80s-inspired fun and frolics with real emotion, impact and branching story choices.

Conclusion Two: Time to cash in your physical copy of Fortnite

Online auctions are notable for the most bizarre things people place value in, and if you’re a videogame collector it’s likely you’ll have a fair idea of what is and isn’t worth buying, and its relative rarity and worth. Yet these are primarily games that have an associated cost to buying them initially. Not so recently, as it appears physical copies of Fortnite — a game which is free to download and play — has been selling on eBay for hundreds of pounds.

Why? Simple: the disc is no longer in print. Instead, the developers are focusing on digital downloads only, and this “scarcity” generates its own hype train, inflating the cost of a copy beyond its retail price of...well...zero. Fortnite itself is now the most successful free to play game of all time, making $318 million in May alone. That’s one month. So if you do happen to have a hard copy and it’s in great condition (and better still, sealed), you could fetch £300+ for it. You could hold on and see if the value will increase over time, but we think the ubiquity of the game won’t lend itself to big gains in the long run — take the money now, and run.

Conclusion Three: Always keep your cards close to your chest

One of the most disappointing aspects of this year’s E3 was the lack of any new details from Square Enix about the games its working on, in particular Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Now it seems there may be a reason for that: they announced it too soon.

In an interview with Multiplayer.it, director Tetsuyo Nomura regrets having to make the game’s development public all the way back in 2015. The reason he gave? To prevent leaks and rumours coming out before the game was officially announced.

We’ve yet to see anything more, despite three E3s coming and going since that first trailer was shown to overwhelming excitement three years ago. Perhaps with the lacklustre remake of Secret of Mana getting stung by critics, Nomura is conscious of ensuring that any future news about the RPG remake is seen positively, and only when it is ready. However, it seems that a company the size of Square Enix simply doesn’t have the means of containing information about their projects, and the damage control they employed may have caused more grumbling amongst patient fans than they expected. CD PROJEKT RED had the right idea when it came to Cyberpunk 2077 — no matter what people demand, conclude or assume, say nothing until you’re ready. It will be better for you in the long run.

Conclusion Four: Developers 1 - Trolls 0

The latest patch from Blizzard’s multiplayer hit Overwatch has made great strides in weeding out the antisocial players who make normal gamers’ lives a misery. With the introduction of a new endorsement system, you’ll now get given points for things like calling shots, chatting nicely and not playing like an arse. As your team endorses you, a badge next to your handle identifies your endorsement level — the higher it is, the nicer a player you are considered to be by the community. This is combined with the improved reporting system which lets you report nastier players to Blizzard, and a new group system which lets you accurately find people who use microphones, are suitable for specific hero roles and — most importantly — gamers who have reached a minimum endorsement level.

Essentially, it’s a trifecta of goodies to actively encourage people to play better together. If someone starts griefing on players, they’ll soon realise that their low endorsement rating will shut them out of matches. Conversely, if you work together as a team, congratulate each other and play in a sporting way, your social currency will soar. Since you cannot endorse your friends, it encourages strangers to play nicely. The new systems have proved very popular with players so far — other developers are likely to take note, as the more pleasant a gaming experience a player has, the longer they’re going to carry on playing the studio’s game.

Conclusion Five: Fortnite didn’t copy PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

At least, this seems to be Bluehole’s conclusion after the PUBG developer dropped its lawsuit against Fortnite’s Epic Games this week. After Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode was released (and subsequently went stratospheric as mentioned above), Bluehole levelled all manner of copyright accusations against their competitor, culminating in legal action.

Now though, according to Bloomberg, it seems that the suit which was filed in January against Epic has been pulled by PUBG Corp. with no explanation, nor any confirmation whether a settlement was reached. Neither party has publicly commented, but the two companies are entwined in various ways — PUBG is built on Epic’s Unreal Engine, while the huge corporation Tencent owns a stake in both of them.

Wrapping up the lawsuit therefore makes sense, but the real question is why it was brought in the first place. Accusing another developer of copying a game mode is a frankly unsustainable position, and if PUBG has lost ground because Fortnite has utilised all of its skills and resources to turn a lacklustre initial free-to-play release into a global success, then Bluehole should be looking a little closer to home for the reason — not least a PUBG experience which has barely evolved in the last year — rather than resorting to litigation to try and stop the competition.

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Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.