Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Games Roundup!
This week, Paradox, Tripwire and Lego’s new Mario set are all in the news!
Paradox Interactive Allegations
Following stories about Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard regarding mistreatment of workers, another company has now emerged with negative allegations. However, pitchforks may not need to be brought out in this case based on the company’s response, but be wary all the same.
The latest news concerns Paradox Interactive, the Swedish developer and publisher responsible for games like Cities Skylines, Crusader Kings and Mount & Blade, as well as the rights holders to the World of Darkness TTRPG franchise. A recent employee survey was conducted by two Swedish unions found that 44% of the employees who took part in the survey had experienced mistreatment at the company, a percentage that increased when looking at just the female respondents.
The survey alleges “offensive treatment” and a “culture of silence” when it comes to dealing with complaints. While no specific allegations have been made, it’s yet another story in an industry that continues to be unsafe for women. Right before this news emerged, CEO Ebba Ljungerud left the company, although Paradox emphasise the departure had nothing to do with the survey.
However, unlike other companies we’ve heard about, Paradox have been quick to promise a full investigation, one aided by an external company and, seemingly, the unions who conducted the survey. Here’s hoping they handle this better than Activision have been.
Tripwire CEO Trips Out
In an example of another small publisher making employees feel unsafe, Tripwire Interactive have also been in the news this week. Tripwire are best known for the recently released Chivalry 2, last year’s shark game Maneater, and horror shooter Killing Floor, and this week their CEO put the company in disrepute.
Following the news in the US of Texas’ decision to ban abortion across the state, to the horror of women’s rights organisations, CEO John Gibson tweeted his support for it and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it. This was met with outcry, with criticism from across the industry. This included partners Shipwright Studios, who made the decision to close all contracts with the company.
However, the rest of Tripwire’s management moved fast, and Gibson was swiftly let go, replaced with vice-president Alan Wilson, who has pledged to discuss the matter with staff and address any concerns they may have.
Positive Company Cultures
If all this makes the games industry look like a terrible place to work, then let’s counter that with a story about Young Horses. They are a small US studio best known for Octodad and the more recent Bugsnax.
Following a trial run earlier this year, they announced this week that they would be permanently moving to a 4-day week, allowing staff to feel more refreshed and more productive. The statement from president Phil Tibitoski stated as much, that it would benefit both staff and the company as a whole.
He did also acknowledge that the small team did help implement this quickly (Young Horses only have 8 staff), but did press larger teams to take the necessary steps to do the same.
Meanwhile, Dontnod, developers of the first two Life is Strange games and last year’s Tell Me Why, have confirmed a switch to fully remote options, based on an internal survey that 87% of staff would appreciate flexible options. Staff will now be offered full work-from-home options or the option to work in the office full-time with remote days available.
This also allows them to expand their hiring pool, as they’ll now be accepting applications from anywhere in France or Quebec for their Paris and Montreal offices respectively.
More of this please.
Lego Super Mario 64
Lego has announced another collaboration with Nintendo to be released next month – the Super Mario 64 Question Block.
Encased in a giant question mark block, the set opens up to reveal three Lego recreations of iconic Mario 64 levels including Bob-Omb Battlefield, Lethal Lava Land and Cool, Cool Mountain. The set also comes with tiny figures of Mario, Peach, King Bob-Omb and others.
It will also interact with the Mario and Luigi figures previously released, allowing players to find 10 hidden stars.
It’s a very nice set, but be warned, it’s going to set you back a crisp £159.
In new releases this week, Sonic the Hedgehog returns in Sonic Colours Ultimate (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One), a remaster of 2010’s Wii exclusive Sonic Colours. One of the better Sonic games out there, this sees the blue blur heading to Eggman’s space theme park to save some aliens. Be warned, however, the Switch version does appear to be struggling with performance issues at present, although this doesn’t seem to be the case with other versions.
In smaller releases, Dice Legacy (PC) is a dice-based survival city builder set on a ringworld. F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch (PlayStation) is a Metroidvania starring a rabbit with a giant fist fighting against oppression. Dream Cycle (PC) is the surprise release of the recently announced game from Tomb Raider creator Toby Gard, combining magic, Lovecraft and, yes, TR-style adventure. And Kraken Academy (PC) is a high school RPG with time loops and a Kraken mentor which looks utterly bizarre.
The Artful Escape (PC, Xbox) is another indie darling from Annapurna Interactive. Starring a young musician living in the shadow of his famous uncle, it’s a surreal platformer that sees him travelling the world to find a new identity that will make him stand out. There’s a lot of buzz around this one, with some sites even calling it their game of the year so far. High praise indeed.
Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual (Oculus) is the return of Sam & Max, beloved protagonists of a series of LucasArts point and click adventures back in the day. But this time they’re back in VR form.
WarioWare: Get It Together! (Switch) is the return of Nintendo’s microgame series, where Wario and friends entertain you with a series of bizarre minigames. This time you control the cast directly, using their unique abilities to find unique ways to beat each microgame.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt (PC) is not the Bloodlines 2 you’re looking for. Instead, this is a free-to-play battle royale set in the World of Darkness universe. Choose your clan and do battle in the streets in a way that feels like it betrays the Masquerade of the title, but who am I to judge?
Tales of Arise (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is the latest in Bandai Namco’s Tales series of JRPGs. It tells a tale of two neighbouring planets, and the people who set out to forge a new future for both worlds. The art style draws inspiration from watercolour paintings, while a bunch of new mechanics should keep long term Tales fans happy.
Indie Game of the Week
Lost in Random (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is this week’s Indie Game of the Week, the latest from EA’s Originals programme, an indie promotional programme that allows devs to retain their rights and profits that previously brought us A Way Out and Unravel. Yes, it counts as indie.
Lost in Random is an action adventure set in world ruled by a cruel queen who decides everyone’s fates with the roll of a die. You play as a girl named Even, whose sister, Odd, is taken from the family on her twelfth birthday. A year later, Even picks up on a signal and sets out to get her sister back.
This looks gorgeous, with a Tim Burton esque art style heavily based around dice. Expect plenty of fantastical characters and world-bending powers as you journey across six realms of Random. I’m excited to see how this one turns out.
Game of the Week
Life is Strange: True Colours (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is this week’s overall Game of the Week. The latest in Square Enix’s teens-with-powers franchise is the second title from Before the Storm developers Deck Nine, with series creators Dontnod off elsewhere working on new projects.
This title stars Alex Chen, a girl living in a small town who discovers she has the superpower of extreme empathy, able to see the emotional auras of people around her, and the ability to reach into the source of that emotion.
Expect plenty of angst, plenty of chill times with friends and a lot of supernatural drama. I enjoyed Life is Strange 1 and 2, so hopefully this lives up to the expectations set by those two.
And that’s it for this week! I’ll be back next week with more from the world of gaming!