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Gaming Roundup – Console Chaos

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, scalpers, working conditions and departures, plus all the latest releases.

PS5 and Xbox Series X Attracting Scalpers

The next generation of consoles is looking healthy all round. PS5 and Xbox Series X are proving extremely popular, with both Sony and Microsoft declaring them both to be the biggest launches in their histories. Which is certainly true based on much people are struggling to get hold of them. And a big part of why is because scalpers are taking even more advantage of the situation than usual.

The COVID-19 crisis is a contributor to the situation being worse than usual, as online retail has taken priority for people’s orders more than in-store purchases, but this has opened the supply chain up to issues with bot networks and proxies, making life even harder.

One particular scalper group here in the UK has been making headlines for just how abrasive they’re being about it, bragging about reselling almost 3,500 consoles for profit, in some cases charging at least double the RRP of the systems. They’re also charging subscriptions for access to their services, allowing people to pay anywhere between £30 to £400 so they too can buy up consoles in bulk to sell at a markup.

Retailers aren’t doing much to stop this, also not helped by Argos, and Amazon UK struggling to communicate their available stock and the latter has seen an epidemic of stolen systems, meaning legitimate UK-based PS5 owners are pretty rare at this point. There is one exception though. Very, the catalogue-based retail site, shut down an order of thousands of PS5 and Xbox units that the scalper group had bragged about securing but were only available due to a technical error.

This is set to be a persistent problem, and really, the only advice I have is to simply not give money to scalpers. The reason they continue to thrive is because people keep buying from them. And if you’re concerned about not being able to play the latest games this Christmas, just remember that both consoles do still lack a lot of true exclusive games, so there is still plenty coming out on current systems to keep you busy!

Square Enix Move Towards Work-From-Home Arrangements

Square Enix are set to be the first major games studio to offer a permanent work-from-home solution. The offer currently applies to their Japanese studios for now, but it’s possible that this could spread across the world if successful.

The move comes after the studio was forced to shift to home working in February as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now 80% of their staff have expressed a positive reaction to the shift to home working when surveyed. With this in mind, staff will be allowed to pick between predominantly home or office based, with a minimum of three days working in their chosen environment, with the remainder of the week free for them to choose where they wish to work.

It’s potentially a sign of things to come, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before other companies follow suit.

Departures

Some high profile departures have happened this past week. First up, Keiichiro Toyama, the director of the original Silent Hill and creator of Siren and, a personal favourite of mine, Gravity Rush, has left Sony Japan Studio. He will be forming a new studio, Bokeh Game Studio, along with other former colleagues, such as Junya Okura (Gravity Rush) and Kazunobu Sato (The Last Guardian, Puppeteer). Naturally, people are wondering if they’ll be planning a horror franchise in the vein of Silent Hill and Siren, but I’m hoping for something more colourful like Gravity Rush, especially as Siren wasn’t all that great in my opinion. Time will tell.

More notably, BioWare have now lost two major people. The first of these is Dragon Age executive producer Mark Darrah, who was in the process of leading the new Dragon Age project, which is still in early development. The second is general manager Casey Hudson, a long-term member of the team and the last holdout of classic BioWare staff. It’s not clear what their reasons for leaving are, but Anthem has turned the studio from a beloved RPG darling to…well…the developer of Anthem, so it’s unsurprising to see such major shifts. Whether the studio will survive this long term remains to be seen.

And now, over to Mat for the esports!

Alpha Sign-Ups Open for Project-V

Hey everyone, I’m back with the latest news in esports!

A new studio based in Dublin, Vela Games, has opened sign-ups for early alpha testing of its debut project.

The game, currently under working title “Project-V”, aims to reimagine multiplayer gaming with a brand-new genre they are coining “Multiplayer Online Co-Op” or “MOCO” for short. The genre is a unique blend of two different styles of multiplayer – the massively multiplayer online genre (like World of Warcraft”, and the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre like Dota 2 and League of Legends.

Set in a ‘science-fantasy’ universe it promises that it will feature an evolving narrative and settings. The gameplay combines the teamplay and skill of a MOBA with the adventure and narrative of an MMO dungeon raid and promises somewhere between PVE and PVP.

The project is being developed by Vela Games, a new studio based in Dublin. Founded by former Riot Games (Creator of League of Legends) and EA veterans the project has the expertise of a team with nearly 30 years of collective experience working at Riot Games on League of Legends.

So, can you play it? Not yet. However, while there is no official date for the closed alpha, they’re aiming for some time soon in 2021. They’ve also announced that anyone interested in trying the game can sign up over on their website and join the discord server for regular content, updates and the chance to be selected for the closed alpha when it arrives.

Personally, I’m interested to see how this plays out because I’m having a hard time picturing the concept. Blending genres does work. While the MOBA genre was technically born out of the RTS genre, the modern MOBA is arguably inspire by a lot of elements from MMOs already with the class system, roles, items, and team play of PVP and raids. I think the big thing to take away from this is not the genre blending (also, I’m not so keen on the MOCO thing either), but the changing narrative and landscape of the game world which will really separate the game from anything that has come before.

Either way, if anyone is going to successfully make a new genre, it’s the guys who were behind LoL which itself coined the “MOBA” term and pioneered the genre alongside Dota. Watch this space!

Ubisoft launched UK edition of Black Pro Mixer this month

Yep, Ubisoft has announced the first UK Black Game Pros Mixer for the UK this week. Ubisoft says the mission of The Black Game Pros Mixer is to generate and foster more representation and diversity in the broader video game industry, particularly for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) communities.

The online event will take place on Friday 11th December from 3pm to 6pm GMT. It’s hosted by co-founders Kurston Timothy, Development Tester at Ubisoft Toronto and Leon Winkler, Ubisoft Director of International Events. It features panels, keynotes and interviews with some of the UK games industry’s most successful black professionals.

The line-up includes talks on breaking into and staying in the games industry and how to promote diversity in the industry; Keynotes on data and the UK gaming industry and interviews.
The line-up of professionals Rosemary Buahin (Games Category Lead, Xbox UK and Ireland), Lauren Dillon (Sr. Account Director at Premier PR London); Rosemary Buahin (Games Category Lead, Xbox UK and Ireland), Lauren Dillon (Sr. Account Director at Premier PR London) and Adam Campbell (Director of product at Azoomee and founder of POC in Play).

The online event will take place on Friday 11th December from 3pm to 6pm GMT. You can grab your free ticket here.

I’m really excited for this. Firstly, as much as I my throw shade at Ubisoft for their reputative sandboxes, I must give them credit for their earnest work in encouraging diversity and equal opportunity within the industry. This is also good news for the UK, as it’s the first Black Pro Mixer to be held in Europe, and the first in the UK and gives an international spotlight to the likes of British talent like Mr Midas. I’ll be watching and I hope you will too!

New Releases

A surprisingly huge list of releases this week, considering it’s the first week of December. And of course, we have to start with the game everyone’s waiting for…Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm and Exercise. Yes, Nintendo have released another fitness game. It’s not as interesting as Ring Fit and has an instructor called Karen. There. I’ve mentioned it. Let’s move on.

 

In small indie releases, we have flight sim Project Wingman, top down Soulslike Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, Mars colonisation sim Per Aspera and troubled country sim Suzerain. Check out the trailers above to see if any of those look like your jam.

It’s also a good week for cartoony British-made multiplayer titles. Worms Rumble is the latest in the long-running Worms franchise, and this time it’s ditching the turn-based warfare in favour of real-time chaos. It’s also free this month with PlayStation Plus, if you fancy dipping in without a financial investment.

And also, releasing at last after being at every EGX in existence for as long as I can recall, it’s Phogs! It’s a co-op puzzle game where two people each control one end of a strange dog-like being – imagine old Nicktoon CatDog but the cat is also a dog – as they solve puzzles.

Two indie titles that are looking pretty stylish this week too, and were in the running for Game of the Week. El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is a spaghetti western inspired stealth title where you play a small child trying to find his mother in a desert town full of bandits. Looks like a fun concept and has a gorgeous art style.

Meanwhile, Haven is a sci-fi exploration game starring a couple fleeing from the law and hiding out on a strange alien world. Much of the game involves scratching out a living on this new world and battling off the hostile creatures you encounter. I’ve been curious about this one since playing the demo earlier in the year, which showed a fascinating world with a lot of mystery coupled with some of the most realistic writing of a couple I’ve seen in a game since Uncharted 4.

Twin Mirror is the second Dontnod game of the year, although if you’re expecting Life is Strange vibes here, you’re probably better off sticking with Tell Me Why from a few months ago. This one’s a detective title with more in common with old point and click adventures, and features a protagonist who solves mysteries by delving into his “mind palace” to figure out the clues. Some mixed reviews on this one, as Dontnod always seem to get when not doing Life is Strange, so might be worth researching this one a bit first.

The big release of the week is Immortals: Fenyx Rising, which is what happens when the developers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey decide to redo it but make it more like Breath of the Wild. A big open world game inspired by Greek mythology, complete with a cartoony art style and powers to unlock. Getting some decent reviews, this, but it also should be noted that this is a Ubisoft title, who did protect sexual predators for years, so best use some judgement on that before buying.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week for this week is Empire of Sin, from legendary developers Brenda and John Romero. It’s a crime syndicate management game, and I’m absolutely here for that concept. It’s 1920s Chicago, you’re a mob boss, go do crimes and get paid. That’s it.

There are also multiple layers of management in this game, from XCOM style combat to tycoon style property management, making this a pretty ambitious sim. And with a range of real-life mob bosses to choose from, including Al Capone himself, there are a number of ways to live out your crime lord fantasies.

It looks like a lot of fun, if a little rough around the edges at the moment, and it’s definitely caught my attention.

And that’s it for this week! We’ll be back next week with more from the world of gaming!

 

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