Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

Scene Investigators – An exciting new game from EQ Studios

Las Vegas developer EQ Studios has recently teased some details regarding an exciting upcoming project; Scene Investigators.

If the name EQ Studios rings a bell or two, it’s likely you picked up their previous title, The Painscreek Killings. An incredibly strong debut for the studio, The Painscreek Killings was a deeply stimulating murder mystery set in a deserted rural town. If you want to learn more about The Painscreek Killings, you can conveniently read our glowing review by clicking here.

Promising more mysterious murders, Scene Investigators takes players into the near future where, aided by future technology, a plethora of past cold cases can be meticulously reconstructed and re-examined. The reconstructed cases can be from any time or any place and each present a distinct set of challenges to overcome.

Much like The Painscreek Killings, Scene Investigators tests your lateral thinking and deductive reasoning, with players having to come to conclusions on their own to proceed. By the end of Scene Investigators, players should truly feel like a real detective.

Although information regarding the project is currently scarce, EQ Studios has already demonstrated a clear prowess when it comes to creating poignant digital experiences, and I am excited to see where they go next.

For the latest Scene Investigators news, visit the official site or stay tuned here at Arcadeberry!

Steam – The biggest issue facing the new beta and a potential solution

For those unaware, the Steam next major update has recently entered a beta state, giving eager users a much anticipated glimpse of the long overdue upcoming user library overhaul.

Steamlibrary.PNG
The new library hub

Although this new addition can be cynically attributed to Valve’s new attempts to rapidly modernise Steam‘s features in the wake of the rising popularity of the Epic Games Launcher – perhaps the only game launcher with the financial backing to topple Valve’s market monopoly – it is nevertheless certainly nice to see Steam with a long overdue fresh coat of paint.

Boasting a sleek design, smooth animations and one-of-a-kind automated library management features users have so far been delighted with the new update. If you fancy a guide on how to acquire the new update, simply click here!

Although the update has been applauded by many, there is still one major problem – one that proves to be quite the sticking point for users less than keen to update.

The issue stems from Valve’s change to a new way of presenting game: the new vertical box art. Despite conjuring up some warm nostalgic memories in those old enough to remember browsing rental games in Blockbuster, and being overall more visually appealing, it requires quite a bit of developer input to pull off.

Developers have been encouraged to upload vertical box art and banner images with their games’ media assets for some time now a problem arises when developers won’t. Despite the best efforts of Steam‘s algorithm to generate box-art for every game, using pre-existing banner images, the results are hardly amazing and really detract from the otherwise flawless presentation.

It’s fair enough to understand that with old games, tiny indie titles, or even games where developers no longer have the rights to the product, it is unreasonable to expect a box-art overhaul there are plenty of examples of companies that do have the resources to update assets but simply won’t.

Rockstar Games for example, haven’t bothered to update their Steam releases for years, leaving L.A. Noire and Grand Theft Auto IV in almost unplayable states, and have continued this trend here – with all their past titles lacking the new box-art.

Sonic.PNG

Worse still is when companies update some of their games, but fail to update others (as pictured above with the Sonic franchise). It creates a disjointed feeling and the effect that, through no fault of Valve‘s, the update was in some way rushed or is unfinished.

Whilst some people’s suggestions that Valve should hire an army of interns to sit down and manually create box-art for every single game ever released on the platform are clearly un-achievable, there is a genuinely pragmatic solution quite close at hand.

For some years now, Steam has allowed the creation and sharing of customised user content via the Steam Workshop and it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to have this extended for box-art. There is already a feature implemented to have users be able to create and upload their own box-art to their games locally, so why not expand this facility to downloading and sharing the work of others.

By allowing users to select and download their favourite Steam game box art, or perhaps even just large user-made collections of it, Valve would be able to effectively fix the biggest issue plaguing their latest creation without having to lift a finger.

Admittedly, it’s not the best solution, and is certainly open to abuse (although not more so than the already existing Steam Workshop), it is clear that something at least needs to be done about this problem before the library beta is released to the public; and I for one am very curious to see what this “something” will be.

Superliminal – The most exciting upcoming game that no-one seems to be talking about

Pillow Castle‘s upcoming puzzler Superliminal debuted at E3 this year and, ironically contrary to the meaning of its title appears to be completely outside of the gaming’s collective consciousness.

Superliminal is a bizarre take on the puzzle genre that first captured my interest when it debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Game Show under the far lengthier title Museum of Simulation Technology. Although just a proof of concept, the 2013 demo showcased some of the mind-melting potential the game’s perspective puzzles could present.

Almost 6 years later and things have definitely started to take shape in a new trailer which showcases the same excellent game-play structured around what seems to be a more narrative based experience newly clad in a fresh minimalist art-style.

The trailer reveals some more information on the game’s setting, some kind of dream therapy based treatment program, and presents the character of Dr. Glenn Pierce whose soothing Scottish tones will presumably accompany you throughout your surreal wanderings.

The flashes of blood drenched corridors shrouded in static towards the close of the trailer do cast Pierce’s presence in a more sinister light and highlights what could be an intriguing mystery surrounding his true motivations.

The trailer is currently sitting at around only 12,000 views on YouTube, which certainly seems unfairly low, given the booming popularity of other quirky puzzlers in the past. With 2019’s trend towards the ultra-profitable all-consuming “live-service” model for our games, it seems we need to try hard to nurture these seemingly dwindling independent creative titles.

If you want to help support a more artistic approach to gaming, you will be able to pick up a copy of Superliminal when it launches to the Epic Game Store later this year.

NBA 2K20 – The latest trailer reveals an online casino rather than a sports game

The latest trailer for 2K Games’ latest entry in their NBA 2K basketball series dropped as of a few days ago and has united series’ fans and non-sports gamers alike in a wave of collective disgust and condemnation.

The trailer, which you can watch above, showcases quite a lot of the new mechanics 2K is introducing to the franchise’s MyTEAM mode, none of which seem to have the faintest connection to the actual sport of basketball around which the series is allegedly centred.

Viewers are presented with a plethora of flashy slot machines, a ball-dropping mini-game based on the infamously addictive Japanese pachinko game and vibrant text emboldening words like “WIN!” and “TOKEN MANIA!”.

If the trailer wasn’t already reminiscent enough of dodgy YouTube gambling advertisements, eagle eyed viewers quickly spotted that in much of the blatantly staged webcam footage 2K uses throughout the trailer, which shows NBA community personalities supposedly rejoicing at their latest wins, the production team couldn’t even be bothered to turn the players’ controllers on!

Most egregious of all is the fact that despite NBA 2K20‘s apparent focus on gambling, the game received the “3+” age rating from PEGI in Europe and the “E – Everyone” age rating in the US. The low age rating combined with the game’s vibrant box art and the fact that sports games are generally enjoyed by a younger game demographic helps highlight what seems to be a thinly veiled predatory attempt by 2K Games to opportunistically exploit vulnerable children into haemorrhaging reams of money into their game.

This isn’t the first time 2K Games has been eager to fill their wallets at the expense of the consumer, with their recent decision to include unskippable advertisements for real life products before matches in their previous title 2K19 receiving a great deal of community backlash.

Unsurprisingly, it seems players don’t enjoy being force-fed ads in a game which they could’ve potentially spent upwards of £80 for a copy of.

The NBA series seems to be rapidly turning into a case study on how far a company can apologetically milk their player’s wallets dry of as much cash as humanly possible and, seeing how the game is still selling well in-spite of this, looks to be the tip of the hellish iceberg.

Max Payne – How writer Sam Lake’s face came to define one of the most iconic characters of a generation

Anyone who has even glimpsed gameplay of Remedy‘s Max Payne knows that face. The iconic look of a man having just eaten a lemon that appeared plastered over protagonist Max’s polygonic profile throughout your playtime. A facade so iconic it’s endured two console generations, a mobile port and even been poorly replicated in a Mark Wahlberg film. It’s a pretty perfect profile for a violent vigilante but did you know that this physiognomic phenomenon actually has an amusing anecdote attached.

The look of biting into a lemon more bitter than Max’s past

To understand the origins of Max’s mug it’s important to know something about the climate of game development way back in the mid to late 90s when Remedy‘s ideas for a new third-person shooter title first arose. In a world where the multi-million dollar budgets of your entertainment seem to increase year on year it’s hard to remember a time where game developers were not corporations with thousands upon thousands of employees but rather a small group of guys and gals on a hamstring budget trying to cobble together the best game they could.

A graph showcasing development budgets source: venturebeat.com

That’s not to say they didn’t do a good job. In fact, developers in the 90s with their miniscule budgets managed to make games that are a damn sight better than the titles today into which millions upon millions is poured. For a particularly relevant example, just look at Max Payne 3. Max Payne 3 cost over 115 Million US$ and although it is undeniably a great game, it just can’t compare to the first in the series accomplished with a mere 3 Million2.

The development of the first Max Payne was a very careful game of compromise. One of the biggest compromises was made with the cut scenes which, although intended to be rendered in-engine, became real life photographs filtered and set out in the now iconic comic-book style.

Whilst using photos is visually more impressive and far cheaper than rendered cut scenes it did open up the need for models to portray the characters. As the comic panels were static images, and had narration placed over the top of them, it allowed the studio to skip out on hiring professional actors. Why spend all that extra cash hiring someone to model stills when you can come up with a far more creative solution.

Enter the Remedy staff who, along with their friends, families, distant long lost relatives and pretty much anyone they could convince to come along with them, ended up becoming the game’s impromptu models. The game’s lead writer, Sam Lake, took the starring role as the titular hero and, looking at the end result, it was a match made in heaven.

A even lesser known is the fact the game’s villain, Nicole Horne, was Lake’s mother which puts a new and slightly uncomfortable spin on the hero-villain dynamic.

Although only a character model, with Max’s voice portrayed by the excellent James McCaffrey, Lake’s impact on the character is palpable. It’s safe to say that Max Payne just wouldn’t carry the same B film charm without him.

How useful is this information? Not very. I suppose it could save you quite a fright if you bumped into Lake while you’re holidaying in Finland and thought that your childhood videogames were somehow coming to life; perhaps as a twisted form of revenge for all those years you never cleaned the discs. No, more than anything this little story into Max Payne’s development highlights a sense of humanity that may have been lost in the modern age of game development – an age where games no longer come with anecdotes.


References:

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_video_games_to_develop
2https://www.gamespot.com/articles/remedy-talks-max-payne-1-and-max-payne-2/1100-6337795/