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Gaming Roundup – Who Watches the Watch Dogs?

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, more not-E3 expos, the Lego NES, increased opportunities in esports and all the latest releases!

Ubisoft Forward

In the midst of a turbulent time for Ubisoft, where numerous key players within the company have been accused of sexual assault, the company showed off their first Ubisoft Forward presentation. It was, of course, a presentation designed to replace E3 this year, but it was difficult to drum up much enthusiasm for the event what with all the allegations and whatnot.

Not that there was a lot covered in the actual show. Watch Dogs Legion got a 29th October release date, and the concept of multiple procedurally generated characters is looking flimsier than before. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is out on 17th November and looks a lot like Odyssey with Vikings. The presentation also featured the term “massive assaults” which, under the circumstances, was some horribly unfortunate wording. And finally, Far Cry 6 was revealed, featuring Better Call Saul’s Giancarlo Esposito as the main villain. Everything still looks like a Ubisoft game. Kind of underwhelming, honestly.

However, it should not be forgotten that all of this comes during a time where multiple Ubisoft employees have been accused of sexual assault. From here on out the story is going to be detailing abuse of a sexual nature, so please skip ahead to the next story if this is uncomfortable for you.

The French newspaper, Libération, released an article mere days before the presentation (translated in a tweet thread here) detailing behaviour including distribution of pornography in the office, drugging unsuspecting employees, and a toxic working environment. HR are accused of covering up reported cases on behalf of management.

Serge Hascoët, chief creative director at the company, is named extensively in the reports, citing a management style focused on “crushing” others with misogyny and homophobia common in office interactions. Among other accusations, it details an incident where he described an imaginary sexual assault on a colleague who’d annoyed him, saying it would “open her mind”. His actions also encouraged behaviour that made female employees uncomfortable, such as cornering them in elevators.

Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, did not come across well in this report either. It is alleged that he turned a blind eye to this behaviour as long as those responsible continued to meet their targets and bring in money for the company.

Prior to Ubisoft Forward’s broadcast, multiple high-profile figures at Ubisoft resigned, and Ubisoft made a public statement (PDF). Hascoët is among them, along with head of Canadian studios Yannis Mallat, over failing to curb the worst of the behaviours in the Canadian studios, and HR lead Cécile Cornet, over her role in covering up reported abuses. This follows the departure of Maxime Béland, Tommy Francois, Andrien Gbinigie and Ashraf Ismail over direct allegations against them.

Ubisoft have pledged to improve their reporting practices and work to better themselves over this, but it’s currently looking like some serious changes need to be made before it can be believed to be a safe place to work.

But hey, they also announced some new video games, so all’s well now, right? Hm.

Devolverland Expo

The same weekend, in a presentation less wrapped up in executive controversy and more wrapped up in gore, profanity and a shamelessly 80s theme song was Devolver Digital’s Devolver Direct. Not only did it shamelessly swipe Nintendo’s branding but also featuring only 14 minutes of actual game announcements in a 45-minute presentation. And for once, that’s fine, because this is Devolver Digital, who always take viewers for a ride in their presentations.

In between the game announcements was a deranged marketing director determined to build hype by announcing games that will never exist, a secret project concocted by “The Architect” (aka omnipresent games hype man Geoff Keighley) and a special appearance from My Uncle at Nintendo, who had some shocking reveals about what Tom Nook’s been up to.

Their actual announcements included:

  • Shadow Warrior 3 got announced and gameplay was shown, and it’s looking like a big, brash and cartoony Doom with more wisecracking. It’s out next year.
  • Floppy Takeshi’s Castle style battle royale Fall Guys has a release date, and will be out 4th August for Steam and PS4 (announced with help from PlayStation’s Shuhei Yoshida, who looked slightly confused about being told to talk about cannibalism for some reason)
  • Stealth platformer Carrion, where you play as an all-consuming alien mass of flesh, was revealed to be out next week for PC, Xbox and Switch, as announced by the carrion beast itself along with Phil Spencer (the Xbox one, not the Location, Location, Location one, obviously)
  • Olija was revealed. It’s a retro-inspired 2D platformer slash-em-up coming to Steam and Switch sometime this year.
  • Over the top FPS Serious Sam 4 got a new trailer. It’s coming to Steam and Stadia in August.

It all ended with the reveal of Devolverland Expo, a free game available on Steam right now where you can explore a closed and dilapidated E3 show floor, because of course. I would report what it’s like, but my laptop crashed trying to run it. Which, honestly, was an unintentional punchline by itself.

Oh, Devolver. Never change.

Deadly Premonition 2 Fixes Coming

Last week’s Game of the Week, Deadly Premonition 2, has caught some flak for issues with the game. While the game has received middling reviews due to its inevitable low budget charm (its predecessor had the same reaction too), there are some more serious issues.

First of all, the game’s frame rate is considered to be atrocious to many. There is often slowdown in the open world and frame drops all over the place. Even for DP2’s b-movie charm, this is too much for some people. So publisher Rising Star Games have pledged to fix these problems, although no timeframe has been given yet.

On a more serious note, director Swery65 personally addressed criticism directed at the game over its depiction of trans people. There is apparently a trans character that characters repeatedly misgender and refer to with the incorrect name, and trans players have been upset by this. This is especially jarring because Swery’s previous title, The Missing, is generally considered to feature sympathetic trans representation. Swery has expressed disappointment at the reaction, and has pledged to fix this particular issue too.

The Lego NES is Real, For Some Reason

Not satisfied with just the Lego Mario set, Nintendo and Lego will be combining their powers once more to make a to-scale Lego version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, better known as the NES. It will come with a Lego cartridge of Super Mario Bros, a Lego recreation of the game itself, and a Lego retro TV for the game to be displayed on.

The Lego Mario (sold separately) can also be plugged into the TV to provide sound effects, which is quite cute.

It’s all very Lego and very Nintendo, and while there’s definitely some fun novelty to it, I’m not sure I’d ever want to buy it. Especially as it’s over £200. But hey, it looks cool, I guess!

And now, over to Mat with the esports!

Esports News With Mat Lovell

Thanks Leigh!

I’ve got some exciting UK-based esports news this week for you. First up, Coventry University has announced a strategic partnership with the Asian Electronic Sports Federation. This partnership is to “enhance” the institution’s expertise in “a growing area of Sport Management”. The partnership will primarily focus on research collaboration and providing support for students enrolled on Sport Management and related courses with work opportunities in a “dynamic new industry”.

This is exciting news for UK esports for a few reasons. Mainly, it reflects a growing understanding and acknowledgement of esports as an industry. However, the key bit of info here is that the Uni is thinking bigger and taking steps to proactively promote esports opportunities to students on multiple courses where skills are transferable, rather than catering exclusively for the few already engaged and aware of the industry with something like a degree in esports. This not only has the potential to widen appeal of esports and careers within, it also helps bring further diversity and equality to the fledgling industry, which is currently expanding at a rapid rate.

Next up in related news, The Association for Continuing Education in Esports (ACES), a group of university academics from across the UK, has announced its industry advisory board. ACES was established in October last year and strives to be the voice for the education, research and safeguarding of esports; as well as providing a platform to connect the esports industry to academia.

Again, this is great news for esports in the UK. While we do have UKIE (UK Games and Interactive Entertainment Industry) as a trading body, the establishment of a consortium like this helps the UK to create and refine practices, pathways and education within and around UK esports. Simply put, ACES, like Coventry Uni’s partnership, signals a shift towards affirmative action in growing and refining the UK esports industry through education.

Back over to you Leigh!

Additional News Roundup

Thanks, Mat! And now, here’s some other quick news that’s happened in the past week.

  • Games Done Quick have announced their summer schedule. The event will be taking place from 16th-23rd August and will be entirely digital. Here is the full schedule for all your speedrunning goodness: https://gamesdonequick.com/schedule
  • If you’d like to get a feel for Marvel’s Avengers from Crystal Dynamics before release, there will be three beta weekends next month, although you have to register to try and get on board.
  • Despite delays on other systems, Crytek have confirmed that Crysis Remastered will still launch on 23rd July for the Switch. But only Switch. The delay still applies to other systems.
  • A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros has become the most expensive game of all time, sold at auction for $114,000
  • Nintendo bizarrely made the choice to advertise a new WayForward-developed Bakugan game, based on the anime of the same name, on the end of a Paper Mario presentation.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming to the Windows Store and Xbox One in August, features a 10-disc (!) physical edition, and if you want to have a real, authentic Heathrow experience (I mean, obviously you want that), you’ll need to fork out £110 for the premium deluxe edition
  • An anime adaptation of Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma is coming to Netflix in September
  • Tom Holland briefly had the internet believing the Young Nathan Drake movie had entered production, thanks to an Instagram post (Sony have since confirmed it has not yet entered production)
  • Speaking of actors who’ve played superheroes posting things on Instagram, Henry Cavill built a gaming PC and the internet was mesmerised

New Releases

In new releases this week, a couple of high-profile ports. First up, the criminally overrated Death Stranding gets a PC release. If you like games about Norman Reedus falling over, antimatter ghosts and extremely inconvenient Amazon deliveries, please, knock yourself out. I will continue to be massively underwhelmed, as I’ve detailed elsewhere on the internet.

There’s also Warhammer 40k: Mechanicus for consoles. I know literally nothing about Warhammer but it got rave reviews on other systems, so if you’re looking for a solid tactical game set in the Warhammer universe and don’t own a gaming PC, then you’re in luck.

In small indie releases, Neon Abyss is a roguelike shooter for PC (Steam and GOG), PS4, Switch and Xbox One (including Game Pass). REZ PLZ, for Steam, Switch and Xbox One, is a co-op platformer starring two wizards with resurrection powers, and sacrificing a player to proceed is part of the adventure. Radical Rabbit Stew is a puzzle game about bashing bunnies into pots available for Steam, PS4, Switch and Xbox One.

We Should Talk is a game about conversation. It’s a short narrative game that’s pretty much all dialogue trees, allowing the player to navigate difficult conversations to see if they can make their relationships last the night. Or wreck it all with the worst responses. I’m not your dad, do what you like. It’s on Steam, Switch and Xbox One.

It’s the battle of the farming games this week, as there are two waiting for your enjoyment. First there’s Ooblets, for the Epic Games Store (Early Access) and Xbox One (Game Preview). It’s a cross between Pokémon and Harvest Moon, and the devs courted controversy last year when their Epic exclusivity announcement attracted criticism that the developer didn’t handle all that well. The game itself looks fine and cute, but many reviews are suggesting it might be a little too simple.

If you’d prefer something closer to the original Harvest Moon, then there kinda sorta is an actual Harvest Moon game out this week! Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was released for Switch and Steam. A remake of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town on the GBA, the original was considered a fan favourite by many, and is now being brought back for a new audience.

A few years back, social media got flooded with influencers proclaiming that Superhot was the most innovative shooter they’d played in years. And now, Superhot: Mind Control Delete is out for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a DLC episode that expanded into a full sequel release, and brings more time-bending shooter action in the vein of the original. And best of all, if you bought the original, you can get this sequel totally free!

Games of the Week

This week I’m giving the spotlight to two major releases: Ghost of Tsushima for the PS4 and Paper Mario: The Origami King for the Switch.

Ghost of Tsushima is the latest game from Sucker Punch Productions, developers of the Infamous and Sly Cooper franchises. It places the player into the shoes of Jin Sakai, a samurai facing off against Mongol invasion into Japan. Battle using samurai tactics or become the dishonourable ghost through stealth tactics. It’s generally being considered the feudal Japan Assassin’s Creed that so many have been after for so long, and it looks stunning.

Paper Mario: The Origami King is the latest in Nintendo’s Mario RPG-lite franchise. The Origami King sees the Mushroom Kingdom invaded by origami figures who appear to have creepily replaced Princess Peach. The Origami King promises more of the funny, charming and engaging fun the series is known for, even if it isn’t quite the full-blown JRPG that Thousand-Year Door fans are eager to play. Plus this one’s got visuals that make me think of Tearaway, so that’s a plus.

Basically, if you have a PS4, Ghost of Tsushima is your Game of the Week. If you have a Switch, then it’s Paper Mario. If you have both, you get both! Nice how that works out. (Sorry, Xbox players, but Drake Hollow was considered too but then got delayed.)

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