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Gaming Roundup – HANGRY

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, we’ll be looking at data leaks, exclusivity deals, hangry hamsters and all the latest releases!

ESA LEAK CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

Outside of attempts to distract from the causes of gun violence in the US by blaming video games (which I will not be covering to contribute to said distraction), the biggest story in gaming this week comes from the ESA. The Entertainment Software Association is the industry body for video games, looking after industry interests, overseeing the ESRB for rating games, and organising E3 every year.

Turns out they’ve also been very good at leaking data. Last weekend it emerged that the personal details of roughly 2,000 attendees of E3 2019 were revealed to the Internet. Emails, phone numbers, addresses and other personal information was all leaked. But this was no ordinary data breach. This was a spreadsheet, placed on their website, on a public page in a download link. Yes, that’s right. Journalists, influencers and other media all had their data leaked through a simple click of a button.

The ESA have yet to respond in a significant manner. No individual affected by this has been contacted directly, and the social media accounts for both the ESA and E3 have remained silent over this. A statement has been issued which talked vague sentiments about making security a priority. Information has emerged that they may have also leaked previous years’ attendees too, which raises some serious concerns about what the hell they’re doing over there.

Of course, this opens the ESA up to some hefty legal issues. Being an American body, it’s likely we’ll see some class-action lawsuits from US-based attendees. But a significant portion of that list is likely European too, which opens them up to GDPR laws as well. The document is down now, but it’s not clear what the ESA are doing to correct it right now.

CONSOLES WANT LOOTBOX TRANSPARENCY

Another major story this week – the push back against lootboxes and microtransactions begins! All the platform holders have confirmed that they will require full odds of lootbox drop rates to be published for everything placed on their platform. That’s Xbox, PlayStation and Switch all requiring percentages before a game can be released for the platform.

It’s a small push, as the lootboxes will still be allowed to exist, but this may be the beginning of a wider push-back, taking it one step at a time. And while it’s the consoles right now, the ESA statement suggests “other ESA members are considering a disclosure” which could suggest PC storefronts may also require this disclosure.

This may also explain the surprise announcement from Psyonix that Rocket League would be dropping lootboxes from its game. The announcement was sudden and lacking detail, but its timing along with this ESA statement is suspicious and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re connected.

OOBLETS FACING EPIC CRITICISM

I have a big release list of upcoming games, and a lot of these games are indies. Any time a fun-looking indie game catches my attention, it goes on the list, and quite a few of these I assign a prospective Game of the Week nod to almost immediately. One of these contenders, Ooblets, will now longer be considered, or indeed covered beyond this news, due to the controversy surrounding it this week.

Ooblets is being made by a two-person team on a limited budget. They recently moved house based on a recent devblog. And much of their financial assistance was coming from Double Fine, who were bought out by Microsoft and subsequently dropped their support. Cue Epic Games offering a decent sum of money, promising some financial security for the project and the duo behind it. While Epic is a controversial platform, this is one of those times an exclusivity deal makes sense. It’s respectable for a small team who need the finances.

What’s less respectable is how the team have handled their announcement. If the above had been their announcement, it’s doubtful they’d have had the blowback they’ve received, but instead they went further and decided to tackle Epic’s controversial image in the process. And so the problems began.

In their blog entry, the devs went immediately on the defensive, writing sarcastic and jokey comments about people’s attitudes towards EGS. While this wasn’t too far off their typical brand, it rubbed many people the wrong way. By being a little too snarky and making their message a little too close to “we got our money, so leave if you don’t like it” it’s seen many get disappointed and put out. This includes some of their Patreon supporters, particularly those in foreign countries whose currency EGS doesn’t support at present. These concerns have been dismissed as “entitlement” by the devs, and the whole situation blew up.

This is sad news for a game that looked sweet and silly. I hope that the devs do take some time away, focus on the game itself for now and avoid the reactions, and come back in a more positive way. If they do, I look forward to awarding them that Game of the Week in whatever week they release, but I don’t feel too hopeful of that right now.

Sadly, while it’s acceptable for some players to feel disappointed by their messaging, what’s much less acceptable is the level of abuse thrown at the devs. Hurtful, antisemitic remarks and death threats have been banded about, and that’s not how these things should be handled. While their announcement was poorly handled, they do not deserve abuse of any kind. And I hope that no one reading this sends those kinds of messages. If you do, please stop following us. You can feel upset by an announcement without resorting to abusing the people making the games. Which is why I’ve tried to be careful and respectful while expressing my own disappointment here (and I hope I succeeded!).

HANGRY HANGRY HAMSTERS

If you want another game about collecting small creatures, then there is of course a new Pokémon coming out. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it at some point. Anyway, there were more announcements this week. While there are new gameplay mechanics and such, I want to focus on the new Pokémon because that’s where the real fun is.

They announced Galarian forms of Pokémon. Just like Sun and Moon had Alolan Pokémon, who were regional variations on existing mons, Galarian Pokémon are previous gen creatures given a good old British makeover. Most notably is Weezing, whose smog aesthetic has been taken further, giving him a stovepipe hat that’s also literally a stovepipe, and a glorious smog moustache worthy of the fanciest Victorian chap.

Then there’s the Zigzagoon line. The default version is based on a raccoon, which we don’t have in the UK. Know what we do have though? Badgers. So this evolutionary line has been given a new badger-style colouring, and angry red eyes. It’s also gained another evolution, which looks like a member of Kiss if the band was made up of badgers.

And finally, there’s Morpeko, a hamster Pokémon that looks like a cross between Pikachu and the little plastic container you get inside a Kinder egg. It’s a rodent with electricity in its cheeks, but to distinguish it from their mascot, this little fella gets hungry. Sometimes so hungry he gets furious and becomes a dark type. And honestly, you know what? Same.

In other Pokémon news, a Pokémon Center store will be opening in Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush later this year. Sadly this won’t be a permanent fixture, as they’re opening this just to promote the release of Sword and Shield. They did a similar event back with the release of X and Y, where they opened a store in Paris to celebrate that game’s Franco-inspired region. So naturally, Galar, or Britain as we call it, is getting one for its game too. It’ll be open from 18th October to 15th November.

HERE COME SOME NEW CHALLENGERS

It was EVO over the weekend, which means fighting game announcements! Although admittedly both of these games are from Bandai Namco.

Tekken 7 first. They’ve announced the return of Zafina, an Egyptian mystic with a flexible fighting style returning from Tekken 6. Her trailer suggests new moves from her channelling powers from the previous game’s main villain. Then there’s Leroy Smith, a brand new character that’s reminding many of mid-80s martial arts flick The Last Dragon. He’s a dreadlocked old man from the Bronx who learned martial arts to escape gang violence and he looks amazing.

One character who isn’t coming to Tekken 7 is Metal Gear’s Solid Snake. During the tournament a video appeared on screen briefly showing Snake talking to Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada and saying, “that was some good ass Tekken.” Now, while this seems like it was a setup for a surprise character reveal, the organisers at EVO have clarified that it was just a joke image for the show’s audience that got misinterpreted. You’d think they’d know what that sort of image would do but guess not.

Over in Soul Calibur, we see the return of the Greek mythology inspired Cassandra, who first appeared in Soul Calibur II. In a surprise announcement Haohmaru from the Samurai Shodown series will also be showing up, adding another guest character alongside The Witcher’s Geralt and Nier: Automata’s 2B.

NEW RELEASES

In new releases this week, we have Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC, PS4, XBO). It’s the latest in the Age of Wonders series of strategy games, and this time it’s gone into space with a new sci-fi setting. It looks set to maintain the typical Age of Wonders gameplay, only now you’re fighting as factions within the Star Union. Getting some mixed reviews, but could be worth a look.

Then there’s Metal Wolf Chaos XD (PC, PS4, XBO) from Devolver Digital and Dark Souls developers FromSoftware. It’s not quite what you’d expect from FromSoft, however. This is a localised re-release of a formerly Japan-only Xbox exclusive from 2004. You play as the US president who is battling against a military coup led by his vice president, using mechs. Yes, mechs. This looks absolutely insane, so could be worth taking a look if it sounds up your alley.

And finally, in a surprise release, Journey came out on iOS devices this week. The former PlayStation exclusive title has been a critical darling since its release in 2012, so it’s good to see it get a wider audience.

GAME OF THE WEEK

But my Game of the Week this week is Gibbous (PC), a new point-and-click adventure from a small dev from Transylvania. Yes, really. Gibbous is about a librarian, Buzz Kerwan, who discovers the Necronomicon and gives his cat, Kitteh, the ability to talk. Kitteh isn’t particularly pleased about this and wants the damage corrected, so they team up with a detective to figure out how to reverse the effects. And maybe find out what’s going on with all the creepy cults that have shown up around town in the process.

Gibbous looks like a fun old school adventure game, and the fact that its Lovecraftian horror is coming from a developer based in the actual Transylvania is a bonus. Go check it out!

And that’s it for this week! Thanks for joining me, and I’ll be back next with more of the latest in gaming news and releases!