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Gaming Roundup – Cybercrunch 2077

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, CDPR and EA are being naughty, Sony and Microsoft are having a bad time, Nintendo break the internet, and a few new games came out too.

Cybercrunch 2077

As Cyberpunk 2077 enters its final stretch in order to meet its November release, a leaked email has emerged from studio head Adam Badowski instructing employees to work six-day weeks until launch.

The problem with this is that CD Projekt Red have gone on record in the past to decry crunch time on a project and stated that they’d never do it for Cyberpunk. And now they’re doing it for Cyberpunk. The extra day of work will be paid, but this is down to Polish labour laws more than CDPR’s own generosity. And it still leaves workers with only one day a week not spent at work.

Badowski has acknowledged that CDPR have shunned crunch in the past, at least publicly, and he’s willing to take the backlash personally. He claims there’s no “other possible means of navigating the situation” but it’s unclear how true this is as he does not go into detail on this point.

Crunch has been a growing concern for the AAA games industry for a while now, with Rockstar and Naughty Dog among the companies panned recently for long hours and mistreatment of workers. CDPR are often seen as the “good guys” of the industry, but it’s possible this latest news might change that view for some.

EA Selling Gambling to Children

FIFA Ultimate Team is possibly the games industry’s shadiest form of microtransaction. Netting EA $716m in revenue in 2020, FIFA Ultimate Team is a lootbox system that encourages players to buy packs of players to try and find the players they want on their team. There are no real methods of knowing what players you will get, so you are encouraged to keep buying packs until you find who you want.

It is, essentially, gambling. In a game that’s rated 3 by PEGI. And is partly why the UK government is ham-handedly trying to absorb lootboxes into existing gambling laws (which could hopefully reduce them to games rated 18 only if not banning them entirely).

Adding to the shadiness this week is a Smyths catalogue that has emerged featuring adverts actively encouraging players to purchase packs in the game. Smyths is a national toy shop chain here in the UK and therefore the catalogue tends to be popular with children. So in summary, EA are advertising a gambling mechanic, with real money being spent, to children.

Naturally, there’s been a backlash, and EA have been forced to backtrack. They have stated they will be looking to remove the ads. But the question does remain, would EA have done this if the backlash hadn’t happened? Or would they have happily let the ads keep running?

EA, could you just…not?

Next-Gen Console Pre-Orders are Terrible

Looking to get a PS5 or an Xbox Series S/X? Well you and everyone else, as evidenced by how much of a mess pre-orders have been so far.

Both ShopTo in the UK, and Amazon seemingly in multiple places, have admitted they will not be able to fulfil all pre-orders at launch due to stock issues. Argos has had its own issues. And GAME are sold out online, requiring a trip to a physical shop to place a pre-order. And this goes for both the PS5 and the Xbox, so both companies are handling this about as well as each other. This is despite Microsoft mocking Sony for their handling of the issue, only to then go and have the same issues.

Scalpers are, of course, out in full force, with some systems going for £900-1,000. Which is insane.

No doubt some of this has happened due to Covid-related production delays, but it’s still a mess, and further helps me feel good about holding off on next-gen for now.

But Hey! They Have Free Stuff!

Back on their current systems, Sony and Nintendo have announced their latest free games.

PlayStation Plus subscribers will be getting access to Dontnod’s bloodsucking adventure Vampyr, which is convenient because just the other day I was wondering if I should play that at some point, and Need for Speed: Payback, for those who, uh…have a need for speed.

Over on Game Pass, Forza Motorsport 7 and new indie RPG Ikenfell are coming to console and PC (which is handy because I’d like to play Ikenfell), while Doom Eternal and Brutal Legend are coming to console and Drake Hollow is coming to PC after its console release earlier this year.

Game with Gold (which is apparently still a thing) is getting Maid of Sker, Costume Quest (two appropriate choices for the month!), and the absolutely “essential” Slayaway Camp and Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.

EA Play has also been confirmed to arrive on Game Pass for Ultimate or PC subscribers alongside the launch of the Series X in November.

Smash Bros Breaks the Internet

Minecraft Steve is coming to Smash Bros.

No, that’s not a joke. That’s legitimately an announcement that was made this week. It sounds like a meme that’s gotten out of hand, but the next DLC fighter for Nintendo’s unstoppable crossover juggernaut is Steve (and Alex) from Minecraft. You know, the real juggernaut, ie. the best-selling game ever made.

After Banjo-Kazooie, that makes this the second Microsoft-owned franchise to show up in Smash Bros, and that’s just crazy to think about. If this brings some other MS representation with it, I would like to see something Ori related please thank you.

The announcement was so shocking that it broke the internet. Both Twitter and Reddit saw outages as gamers everywhere flooded the sites to scream their reaction. Thankfully, most people seem quite pleased, what with Minecraft being so popular and all. Of course there are detractors, but it’s undeniable that Smash Bros getting the biggest game in the world on its roster is a big deal.

More specific details on the character will be revealed over the weekend.

And now, over to the esports with Mat!

Host of UK talent amongst Esports Awards 2020 finalists

Thanks Leigh! This week it’s all about drama and excitement on the esports scene!

Last week I spoke about the Esports Awards 2020 moving online with more news on the finalists pending. Well, finalists for this year’s event were revealed this Wednesday and I’m delighted to say that a host of UK talent is represented in both the pro and on-air (broadcast/shoutcast/journalism) finalists.

Among the UK talent is pro FIFA gamer Tekkz (Esports Console Player of the Year), Fortnite player Benjyfishy (PC Player of the Year), Vedius and HenryG (Esports Colour Caster of the Year), and Dota 2’s ODPixel (Esports Play By Play Caster of the Year) and more.

Similarly, UK-based Esports Insider and Dexerto are up for Esports Coverage Website of the Year, while Hitmarker Jobs has been nominated for Esports Support Agency of the Year.
Journalist of the Year includes UK nominees Adam Fitch and Richard Lewis (both recently joining Dexerto) and Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields. And Katy Eyre has been nominated in the Esports Photographer of the Year category.

As I’ve said before, this is awesome news as it elevates the legitimacy of the UK Esports scene both domestically and internationally. As a marketing geek, I’m also really chuffed to see UK shout casters and media in the mix!

Credit to Esports News for this one as I couldn’t find any information on the official site. Check out the full list from this article here: https://esports-news.co.uk/2020/09/30/uk-talent-among-esports-awards-2020-finalists/

CS:GO Coaches Banned for Bug Abuse

Valve drama! A total of 37 coaches involved in Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) teams have been banned under accusations of abusing a bug in the latest version of the game. CS:GO’s competitive scene spans two-decades long (that’s longer than some of it’s pro players have been alive by the way, just to make me feel old).

Recently it came to light that there was a major bug in the latest version which allowed coaches who oversee teams of gamers during competitive matches to get an unrestricted view of certain parts of the game’s maps. This meant they could see above the fog of war and know what other teams were up to, feeding that information back to their teams – a big advantage.

However, where the drama lies is in the actual banning. On the one hand, some are seeing this as coaches who should know better making a mockery of the trust-based system competitive esports is built on, particular in larger scenes like CS: GO where we’re talking prize pools over £1m. Normally, if a team spots a glitch, they are expected to report it, so even if they don’t use it, knowing about it and not reporting it suggests intent to use.

On the other hand, in the case of FaZe Clan, they are arguing against the ban saying their coach, Robert Dahlstrom, who claims he found the bug during a competitive match in 2017 and tried to report it.

It’s a difficult one when it comes to bug and glitch abuse in competitive matches, especially when it’s a Valve game. Valve are notorious for being difficult to contact at the best of times so it’s not out of the question that some of these coaches who were aware of it didn’t take advantage. Anyway, it’s still early doors so we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Thanks for that, Mat. And now you’re back with me, Leigh, for the releases.

New Releases

There have been a lot of releases lately, and that’s only going to get worse with the release of the next-gen systems, but this week it’s VERY quiet. But pretty much every release is a big one, so that balances it out.

First up, Genshin Impact is the anime Breath of the Wild with gacha mechanics the PS4 has been crying out for (and PC and mobile, which it’s also available for). Or so I hear. I don’t really know a lot about this one beyond that, but a lot of people are going nuts for this one right now, so might be worth a look if you like anime and/or open world fantasy games.

The big release of the week is Star Wars: Squadrons for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a big, bold space combat game similar to the classic X-Wing games, and building on the space combat from Battlefront 2, since it’s made by the same team as that game’s campaign. However, unlike Battlefront 2, the game promises no microtransactions and is instead a complete experience. Shaping up to be a good one, so Star Wars die-hards (ie. the rest of the GB team) should be happy.

Game of the Week

But I’m massively indifferent to Star Wars, so the big release that’s caught my eye and made Game of the Week is Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. So while the other guys go off and play spaceships, I’m more interested in a marsupial in jeans.

As you could probably tell from the 4 in the title, this is a direct sequel to the original Naughty Dog trilogy of the 90s (and the N-Sane Trilogy), and seemingly jettisoning every game released since from canon. Crash 4 is looking like a lot of fun from the gameplay I’ve seen. Lots of diverse locations, the same fluid platforming as the classic titles, and a range of playable characters, including Crash’s sister Coco, main villain Neo Cortex and flamethrower-toting Dingodile.

I’ve not been excited to see a new Crash game since 2000’s Crash Bash but I’m excited for this one. And since the developer for this worked on the N-Sane Trilogy, there’s a good chance this one will follow the design philosophies that made the original games so great. Here’s hoping I won’t be disappointed like I was with Crash Bash.

And that’s it for this week! I’ll see you again with more news and releases!