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Gaming Roundup – Caught in a Blizzard

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, politics, PlayStation 5, precognition and all the latest releases!

BLIZZARD VS HONG KONG

The gaming world got dragged kicking and screaming into the complex world of international politics this week. Following the recent Hearthstone Grandmasters Season 2 Asia-Pacific tournament, winner Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai interrupted the interview with some strong expressions of support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. This wouldn’t be the first time that someone has used their platform to express political views in this way, so this by itself wouldn’t have warranted a lot of news beyond highlighting the ongoing Chinese situation.

However, Hearthstone is owned by Blizzard, and this was an official tournament. And as Blizzard are partly owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, Blizzard got scared that the incident would lead to a backlash from the Chinese market. In response, they rescinded Blitzchung’s prize money, banned him from the game, and sacked the two presenters on the stream at the time. While the reason provided was due to violation of rules in his contract, an official post on Chinese social media made it clear that this was appeasement to the Chinese government.

The community, who are generally supportive of the Hong Kong protests, reacted with anger. There’s a feeling now that Blizzard are more interested in protecting their monetary interests in China over values such as freedom of speech and democracy. Employees staged a walkout and covered up company values carved in the courtyard such as “Every Voice Matters” and “Think Globally” as a statement that Blizzard aren’t honouring those values with their decision.

The backlash has continued for days, with boycotts called and possible disruption at Blizzcon, mere weeks from now. The Blizzard subreddit went down, and the Hearthstone subreddit became full of people stating their decisions to close their accounts. Users reported issues with closing their accounts, with all authentication methods down (although this appears to be a glitch due to high traffic rather than something more sinister).

Elsewhere, the Hong Kong subreddit features a post encouraging users to turn Overwatch hero Mei into a Hong Kong protest icon, in the hopes of getting the game banned in China, similar to the situation with Winnie the Pooh. College tournaments protested in their own ways. Popular streamer and host Brian Kibler has cut ties with Blizzard, vowing not to work with them again over this.

Other companies capitalised on the situation. Rival card game Gods Unchained made an offer to pay Blitzchung his prize money and invited him to join their tournaments and were seemingly met with a cyberattack in response. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney made it clear that players of their games would not be banned for expressing political views. Even politicians have got involved.

Needless to say, this is a story that goes much further than just a streamer banned from a game. This has international political implications, and it looks like it may be harder to shake than Blizzard may hope.

SURPRISE! THE PS5 WILL BE CALLED PS5

In happier news, the PlayStation 5 will be called PlayStation 5 and will be out by the end of next year. You probably already figured these things out, but Sony have confirmed them now so you can stop worrying.

But also, they’ve revealed some details about the new controller. The DualShock 5 (unconfirmed but almost guaranteed name) will feature haptic feedback. To translate this from the jargon, this means a more advanced form of rumble, sort of like the Switch has, where rumble will be felt in different parts of the controller. For instance, driving half on grass and half on the road in Gran Turismo would cause half the controller to rumble from the rough terrain, while the other half remains steady.

The controller will also contain adaptive triggers. Again, to translate from the jargon, this means L2 and R2 buttons that will affect actions differently depending on how hard or soft you press the button. The PS2 face buttons had this functionality but few games used it, such as the Metal Gear series. Quite how this would be implemented across the board remains to be seen, however.

There aren’t many more details right now, but Sony do still have a full year to build up the hype and information, so be patient for now.

SWITCH REMAINS A TINY JUGGERNAUT

The Nintendo Switch hype train continues unimpeded. Recent sales figures from Nintendo have stated that sales in Europe are up 30% on last year, and total EU sales have reached 10 million, bringing the worldwide total to 37m. By contrast, the Xbox One has sold an estimated 43m units since its launch, and has had a four-year headstart on Nintendo’s system, suggesting the Switch may lurch ahead by Christmas. The PS4 is, of course, still way out in front, with 100m units sold.

It’s not a surprise the Switch is doing so well, however. Since launch, Nintendo have had a consistent first-party library, with big names constantly on the horizon. This year alone has seen the releases of Yoshi’s Crafted World, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2 and Link’s Awakening. Not to mention partnerships with Brace Yourself Games and Platinum, resulting in Cadence of Hyrule and Astral Chain. And on top of that, there’s still Luigi’s Mansion and Pokémon to come before the year is out. Plus a strong support for indies is bringing small developers to the platform in droves, providing them with the perfect platform for small pick up and play titles like Untitled Goose Game.

The Switch is doing brilliantly, and it’s awesome to see. Long may it reign.

PSYCHIC STADIA

Google Stadia marketing has gone from bafflingly awful to just plain baffling this week. One of the key obstacles for Google in getting Stadia off the ground is tackling that pesky lag that comes with online streaming. Not everyone has high speed Internet, and physical distance from the servers would also play a part. It’s a tricky problem with no easy solution.

However, Google have found a solution! As with everything else Google does, it comes down to algorithms. And now they’re claiming they’ll be able to develop an algorithm that will predict what button you plan to press and press it in advance, so it’s almost as if you’re pressing it in real time!

Of course, anyone who’s ever used predictive text, or even seen how useless YouTube’s algorithms are, knows that this is a terrible idea. Effectively this will be streaming a game that plays itself, that tries to second guess everything a player does. So expect gaming on Stadia to be a lot of jumping when you intended on shooting, because Google doesn’t have a bunch of psychics floating in a pool like in Minority Report. At least, I assume they don’t.

So yeah, Google are claiming they can read your mind now. Which isn’t sinister at all.

MAN RAIDS VALVE OFFICES WITH A WHEELIE BIN

Last month, police in Bellevue, Washington charged a 32-year-old man with robbery, based on multiple raids on Valve’s offices.

The incidents happened in 2018, where Shawn Shaputis, the master thief, snuck into Valve’s offices through a stairwell and a “non-functioning door” and swiped goods in storage for conventions and other displays. A series of raids led to the theft of $42,000 (approx. £34,315) in software and equipment, which he wheeled out to his car in a wheelie bin.

Shaputis was known to police due to a chase involving a stolen FedEx van, so when he tried to sell the stolen games to GameStop, he was caught on camera and investigated. The sale of the 43 games amounted to a haul of $336 (£275). And now Shaputis is facing some serious jail time, if he turns up to his hearing.

The moral of the story here is simple: don’t sell your stolen goods to GameStop, because the real crime here is what they pay for second-hand games.

NEW RELEASES

Ah yes, it truly is October. I say this because there are 12 games of note out this week. TWELVE. Let’s get through all this.

Let’s start with some smaller titles. The Trine series continues in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince [(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch). If you like post-apocalyptic space adventures, there’s Deliver Us the Moon (PC, with upcoming PS4 and Switch releases). Want more down-to-earth and more strategic post-apocalyptic action, preferably with complex spidery land-ships? Try out Last Oasis (PC)! And then there’s Pine (PC, Switch), which is one of them survival games set in a beautiful natural world.

It’s a good week for people who are into fast-paced 2D side-scrolling action. First up is Valfaris on PC and Switch, with PS4 and Xbox One versions coming soon. It’s a loud, brash shooter with a heavy metal soundtrack and a lot of Contra-style action.

Then, incidentally, if you’re that way inclined, there’s the extraordinarily nice Killer Queen Black, released for PC and Switch. It pits two teams of bug people against each other in a 2D arena and has the potential to absolutely drive you wild. There are three different victory conditions, one of which involves a giant snail, and that’s an invitation you can’t decline. Recommended at the price (or so I hear).

Racing fans will be happy with GRID [PC, PS4, XBO], which is the latest in Codemasters’ racing series. It’s essentially a reboot of Race Driver: Grid from 2008 and promises a back-to-basics experience after the last game was considered to be a little too bloated. It’s got a new AI system that creates nemeses out of rivals if you jostle and bash into them too much, which sounds pretty neat.

Developers of indie fighting game Skullgirls have a new title this week in the form of Indivisible (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch). The game is about a girl named Anja who discovers she has special powers when her village is attacked, and sets out on a quest to save the world with the help of Incarnations, characters she can absorb and call upon for help. It looks like an excellent blend of action RPG and Metroidvania, with combat drawing on the devs’ fighting game experience. It’s all wrapped up in a witty script and South Asian inspired aesthetics.

Those ex-Rare chaps Playtonic have a second Yooka-Laylee game out this week too. Yooka-Laylee & The Impossible Lair (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) shifts the action to a 2.5D perspective, but still features the same charm and love that made the first game so appealing, while the shift to side-scrolling promises to help alleviate some of the first game’s issues. It’s been getting some good reviews, so worth a look, I’d say.

One intriguing game this week is The Bradwell Conspiracy (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), which is a narrative-driven puzzle adventure featuring voice work from Jonathan Ross. Set in a near-future Stonehenge Museum where an eccentric billionaire is set to unveil his “Clean Water Initiative”, before everything explodes, leaving you and one other survivor to try and figure your way out. I love a good mystery puzzler, so this could be very interesting.

Over on PS4, there’s Sony’s latest title, Concrete Genie, which is a rather pretty looking game about painting. You play as a boy named Ash in a dark, desolate town of Denska, who discovers the ability to paint creatures onto walls thanks to an encounter with a genie. Much of the game focuses on exploration and motion-based painting mechanics, where you craft friends to assist in your adventure. It looks very sweet and seems to be getting some good reviews.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Game of the Week this is John Wick Hex, based on the popular film series with Keanu “Breathtaking” Reeves. And it’s not an FPS or a Platinum-style action game, but instead a strategy game. It’s best described as XCOM meets Superhot, where you plan your actions one by one, and get the chance to watch all your moves combined into one fluid action scene at the end of a level.

It seems like an odd choice, until you remember how John Wick’s perception of the world is described in the second movie by antagonist Santino D’Antonio. The game represents that calculated, strategizing focus that Wick exhibits as an assassin, and as such, a strategy game that lets you make precise decisions is a perfect choice. It’s got the brilliant Mike Bithell behind it too, which makes the game an even more exciting prospect.

No confirmation if you can kill a room full of guys with a pencil though. Although here’s hoping.

And that’s it for this week! See you soon with more news and releases!


Find Leigh on Twitter at @TheCheapFerret and on YouTube at Bobthepetferret


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