5 Conclusions - 31/08/18
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.
Conclusion One: Cyberpunk 2077 - the game to end all games
CD Projekt RED has a lot to live up to. The Witcher 3 was one of the best games of the last generation, but since then they have been quietly crafting a neo-futuristic sci-fi RPG with only the odd cryptic Twitter post here and there to liven up the last three years. Until now.
Yesterday, the Polish outfit released a colossal forty-eight minute gameplay demo of Cyberpunk 2077, and we’re incredibly excited. Note - the following video contains swearing, nudity and violence.
There is so much here that we love. The aesthetic feels closer to the technological roughness of Blade Runner than the cleaner environments of Deus Ex while the first-person perspective is a surprise after spending so long looking over Geralt’s shoulder. However, this provides a more immersive experience, and though the combat spews numbers from successful bullet hits like Borderlands there are far deeper RPG mechanics at work here. Clothing doesn’t just increase your armour but your street cred, used to unlock new areas. Your character has a fluid class system that can be modified in game, and the game’s lore permeates throughout Night City, a smorgasbord of neon and sleaze free from loading screens. Tailored electronic adverts line the bustling streets as every single citizen goes about their business — incredibly, each of them has their own day/night activity cycle.
We haven’t even touched on the guns, vehicles, multiple routes through quests and the ability to jack into characters to infect them with viruses which, among other uses, prevent them from using their own weapons. The scope here is dizzying, and though we’re a while away from release (2019 at the earliest), it already feels like the kind of title Deus Ex: Mankind Divided would love to have been. It’s mature, simultaneously beautiful and grimy, and with the studio’s pedigree and attention to detail it’s undoubtedly going to be a must-buy when it launches.
Conclusion Two: Microtransactions are bad enough to be regulated now
PEGI, or Pan European Game Information, has been around since 2003 as a way of guiding people who make purchase decisions on games towards titles appropriate for those who will be playing. Initially with age ratings similar to those seen on films for years previous, further descriptors have been added over time.
Now, in a world in which microtransactions are here, largely derided, and often problematic, there will be something to indicate these are part of the game when a piece of gaming software is purchased in the physical world — a similar thing is already in place for digital purchases.
This move can only be welcomed, as anything which provides more information to those who choose to use them is clearly helpful. The question is, will it do anything to curb the acceptance of microtransactions, or eliminate the few, but very real, problems caused by such things?
Conclusion Three: Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups are back, baby!
In the 80s and 90s, alongside the classic beat ‘em ups we know and love a serious amount today (Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat) there were fighting games where you got to beat people up, walk towards the right and beat some more up. Double Dragon is a classic of the age, but Final Fight and Streets of Rage are perhaps the ones people these days choose to remember most fondly.
Quite possibly because memories haven’t been destroyed by a horrific reboot. Unless this latest news turns about to be a portent of doom, that is.
You see, under licence from Sega, Lizardcube is making a fourth Streets of Rage game, or its third sequel. I have every reason to believe that given its heritage, and the fact Sega is still involved, that this will be nothing less than heroically superb and on that basis, side-scrolling beat ‘em ups will be big once again. Hopefully it means we’ll get some more Mike Haggar in a new Final Fight...
Conclusion Four: Gaming has a long way to go to stamp out misogyny
And we’re not just talking about gamers. While there are certainly male players who are simply sleazy teenage boys making horrific comments to women from behind the security of a monitor, there is also an argument that the industry itself needs to get itself in order and start leading by example. That means developers, publishers and anyone involved in getting a game to release - not just those playing it. This week, Riot Games who created the global eSports phenomenon League of Legends was forced to apologise after Kotaku revealed the “bro culture” which led to female employees being discriminated against. Women were subjected to far more scrutiny during interviews, had their ideas dismissed (while those exact same ideas when presented by male colleagues were lauded), were unlikely to reach higher positions in the company, and were subjected to sexist language and abuse.
Riot Games have since updated their site to reflect what they claim are new values around diversity and inclusion, but they are likely just one of many male-heavy game studios with this problem, and it has taken a public expose to force them to make these changes. If we want gamers to respect each other regardless of gender, sexuality or background, then each and every business in the gaming industry needs to take a hard look at their corporate structure, ethics and values and ask themselves if they really are a welcoming place to work.
Conclusion Five: Microsoft will launch VR in the next generation
VR is having a tough time. The high cost of entry, space requirements, potential for motion sickness and annoying wires have all combined to make VR one of those peripherals that most people love once they start using it, but not as many feel it's worth the investment. While Sony's PSVR has come some way to bring the cost down to a more reasonable price and Vive and Oculus will be removing wires in later releases, Microsoft have stayed pretty quiet about the medium.
However, as CNET reports, that doesn't mean they weren't seriously considering releasing a competitive headset themselves. It seems that they'd been mulling it over since 2012, but after a deal with Facebook around the Oculus fell through and Windows 10's Mixed Reality platform was met with a lukewarm reception, they decided to hold fire. Gamer appetite may be there, but the physical practicalities and cost mean that investment is a risky option at this stage. Our bet: Microsoft will let the other players do all of the work, stumble over the hurdles and make the investment. Then, once the next generation rolls around, if the framework for VR has progressed enough to make it a feasible option in the home entertainment arena, Microsoft will jump on the bandwagon and launch a headset of its own.