Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 21/06/19

June 21, 2019

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: E3 wasn’t just about Keanu, amazingly

E3 happened last week but the reverberations are unsurprisingly still being felt. What is surprising though, is that it’s not just about Keanu, although you’d be forgiven for drawing that conclusion.

No. Incredibly, apparently people were tweeting about other games and moments, according to some analysis performed by The Hollywood Reporter. The number one moment of E3 if we take the Twittersphere as canon, was Nintendo’s Direct presentation. Obviously this will have been driven by the reveal of a Breath of the Wild sequel towards the end. Who doesn’t go totally agog at anything Zelda? Keanu had the most breathtaking moment, and number two overall, too.

In terms of games, the one people seem to be talking about most is the rather exciting remake of Final Fantasy VII. Square Enix looks to have some good future business actually, given their Avengers game came in at number five as well. Making up the top five most exciting games are Cyberpunk 2077, Breath of the Wild 2 and Animal Crossing.

In summary, if Twitter is your metric platform, and tweets your metric of choice, then Square Enix, Nintendo and Keanu are the big winners of E3, even removed from the event itself.

Conclusion Two: TV and filmmakers will eventually get it right

It’s been a busy week on the game-to-other-media front. First up, there was a leak from Japan of the new trailer for Monster Hunter, a film based on the game of the same name. Plot-wise, we can’t really see where this one is going. But there’s some CGI of a Diablos which looks pretty cool and history has taught us that filmgoers love seeing CGI stuff get smashed up, so we expect this will do pretty well worldwide even if it is garbage.

Back now to the US. The film series of Resident Evil wrapped up in 2017 after fifteen years and roughly 419 sequels (give or take), and, much like its antagonists, it seems that studios aren’t willing to let the horror franchise die. Netflix is reportedly writing a TV series based loosely on the game. Deadline believes that the new show will contain everything you know and love about Resident Evil as well as taking a deeper look into the Umbrella Corporation and its development of the virus which ultimately led to Milla Jovovich being forced to shoot guns at things for a decade and a half. With Netflix’s support, the series may actually turn out to be something watchable. And if not, there’s a potential reboot of the Resident Evil film series also in the works with a brand new cast. Why? We can think of 1.2 billion reasons.

Gaming has always been given short shrift when it comes to TV and film, but with Uncharted also on the cards, 2020 might be the year where some of the shit being thrown at the screen actually starts to stick.

Conclusion Three: Amazon might sell games, but it’s struggling to make them

Amazon Game Studios has been developing games for over seven years. In that time, it’s released seven games from its in-house team and while it’s fair to say that none of them set the world alight, some of them were just awful. It looks like their proprietary engine Lumberyard — on which The Grand Tour Game was built — is one of the main causes of concern for the development staff, especially since its multiplayer sports brawler Breakaway was cancelled in 2018.

So it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to learn that some of the studio’s employees — numbering in the “dozens” according to Kotaku — are being laid off. The affected staff will have two months to find a new position within the company, or be handed severance and ushered out of the building.

Amazon has obviously tried to put a positive spin on this, at least from a business perspective, by stating it was reorganising its departments ahead of upcoming releases Crucible and New World. “These moves are the result of regular business planning cycles where we align resources to match evolving, long-range priorities,” an Amazon spokesman said, hoping that readers would fall asleep before parsing the meaning of the sentence. “We’re working closely with all employees affected by these changes to assist them in finding new roles within Amazon.”

Perhaps those roles could include expanding the games its factory staff have available to compete with each other in monotonous warehouse jobs? The studio needs a big win if it wants to be taken seriously within the industry, and soon.

Conclusion Four: Time for Beta Protocol, then?

Alpha Protocol is perhaps the finest RPG that nobody ever played. Released in 2010, developed by Obsidian of Fallout: New Vegas fame and published by Sega, you got to play the role of a globe-trotting spy, travelling to various corners of the world, doing Mission Impossible-type things involving espionage, guns and sex. It was bloody brilliant, with multiple paths through the game and eminently replayable.

Yet nobody played it and as such nothing has been done to create a sequel. Yet.

The game has come to the fore in news this week as it abruptly disappeared from Steam because of musical licensing rights expiring, according to Eurogamer. This often happens and if the game didn’t sell in the first place why would Sega relicense funky tunes to not sell more copies of a nine-year old game? It wouldn’t.

Sega does still own the IP, however. As such they should make a sequel, or let somebody else do it — perhaps the way Nintendo took the Bayonetta mantle when Sega didn’t have the hunger to do anything itself? I’m sure Obsidian will be up for it, especially when they kick Outer Worlds out of the park later this year. Personally, I want a beta protocol and then a gamma one pretty soon after, at least. It’s time for the world to get a second go at a spy RPG.

Conclusion Five: Anthem may yet be saved

It's had a tempestuous journey and is still battling to stay relevant after an appalling launch, but Anthem is here to stay — at least for the time being. In a candid interview with Game Daily, EA's CEO Andrew Wilson admits that the game simply didn't come together in the way the company expected. Part of this, he believes, is due to there being two different kinds of players with expectations about what a BioWare game should contain.

“One was traditional BioWare story driven content," he explained, "and the other was this action-adventure type content. About the 30 or 40 hour mark they really had to come together and start working in on the elder game."

It is this jarring clash of two different game experiences which didn't hang together in Anthem, resulting in something that satisfied neither party. Wilson continues, "The promise was we can play together, and that's not working very well. 'Oh, by the way I'm used to 100 hours of BioWare story, and that’s not what I got.’ Or, ‘I expected that this game would have meaningfully advanced the action component that we'd seen in games like Destiny before, and I don't feel like it has.’”

So, what does EA plan to do with the game now? Wilson is optimistic. "The teams at BioWare will continue to come to work every day and listen to their players old and new and seek to deliver on the promises they've made to those players," he said. "That's what you're seeing with Anthem today."

Does that mean the studio won't be ditching the game at all? “If we believed that at the very core the world wasn't compelling people, if we believed at the very core that the characters weren’t compelling for people, or the Javelin suits weren't compelling, or traversing the world and participating in the world wasn't compelling then provided we hadn't made promises to our players... we might not invest further."

But they have made promises and it sounds like they are planning to deliver on them. It just depends whether EA's investors are going to be as patient. BioWare's future, like many of the studios EA ultimately closed, hangs in the balance. I, for one, hope that they stick around — if only to deliver Dragon Age 4 and remind people what a decent RPG series looks like.

You can subscribe to Jump Chat Roll on your favourite podcast players including:

Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this podcast, and if there are any topics you'd like to hear us tackle in future episodes!

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.