Fantasy Flight Interactive’s First Game

Fantasy Flight Interactive, the new developer under Fantasy Flight Games, announced its first game: The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game. This will be a digitization of the 2011 card game produced by its parent company. There’s a lengthy post about the title, along with some thoughts from designer Caleb Grace.

Teaser trailer is below.

 

Death Stranding Game Awards 2017 Trailer

A new Death Stranding trailer was released last night at The Game Awards. It’s as bizarre as you can imagine.  Here it is in full.

We’re starting to see some hints of gameplay elements in there. Looks like some sort of stealth horror survival game? With hefty amounts of surrealism. Perhaps Kojima is finally going to come up with a concept that surpasses Metal Gear Solid 2 in terms of weirdness. I welcome this.

I assume there will be analysis to go over in the coming days (YongYea is good for that). I have high hopes for the inaugural title for Kojima Productions in its standalone era. Let’s cross our fingers that it delivers.

Bitcoin payments discontinued on Steam

Bitcoin, the rising cryptocurrency, will no longer be accepted on Steam, according to Valve. From Coindesk:

Now, as of Dec. 6, the company will no longer accept payments in the cryptocurrency due to a mixture of high fees and volatility in the price of bitcoin. Specifically, the company pointed to elevated payment costs in recent months for its customers, who can use the Steam platform to purchase and play a variety of games.

Valve goes onto to say that bitcoin transaction fees are currently somewhere around $20, vs. $0.20 when the company originally started accepted bitcoin. If you’ve been following the developments in the cryptocurrency world, as I write this bitcoin is about $15,240 per coin. The price was $12,475 when Coindesk published its article.

Exciting times in the alternate finance world. Most likely Valve will accept some form of crypto-payments in the future when the use models solidify.

Against the Loot Boxes

Chris Cobb posted a thoughtful entry about game monetization strategies, and in particular loot boxes. From his blog:

Regarding microtransactions, content can either be purchased directly or through randomized content packs known as loot boxes. When content can be purchased directly, it is much easier to evaluate the value of the transaction. Randomized content is more difficult to assess because the player must purchase the content before knowing what she will get. Loot boxes frequently contain content of different rarities, such that highly sought after content is very unlikely to appear. In addition, even within the same rarity tier, some content is considered more valuable based on its popularity or strength in the context of the game. Some regions such as China requires developers to publish the probability distribution of their loot boxes, which significantly increases transparency. It doesn’t however address the difference in desirability for content of equal rarity, but is clearly a step in the right direction.

He covers the basics of monetization strategies that have become commonplace for developers. That’s worth a read if you’re not familiar with the topic. He goes on to compare Hearthstone and Battlefront II; the latter in a far less favorable light. As you can imagine.

Cobb uses behavioral psychology as a framework for evaluating the impact of these different models. I’m not overly familiar with this approach, but on the surface, it seems to make sense. An intriguing topic, one I will revisit in the future when I have more time to review.

VR Adoption Continues Apace

Manufacturers shipped a million VR headsets in the third quarter, according to news outlets. From a Canalys report:

Virtual reality headset shipments are showing no signs of slowing, as the quarterly total exceeded 1 million units for the first time in Q3 2017. Sony took the lead, shipping more than 490,000 PlayStation VR (PS VR) sets in Q3. It was followed by Oculus, which shipped 210,000 of its Rift headsets. HTC took third place, shipping 160,000 Vive VR units. Collectively, Sony, Oculus and HTC made up 86% of the total market in Q3 2017

The hardware is still too expensive in my opinion, but it’s hard to deny that VR peripherals are gaining considerable traction. It looks like Sony is reigning supreme at the moment, and that’s not surprising. Compared to the Vive and Oculus Rift, it has strong brand recognition, cheaper to get into, and only has one configuration to choose from. Buy a PS4 Pro and a PS VR headset and you’re good to go. The other brands, on the other hand, not so much.

Still waiting for that killer app that makes VR indispensable. I have a hunch it’s not going to come from the game world. There have been interesting games to be sure, but nothing that smashes the large-scale adoption barrier.

Marvel Heroes ends, Gazillion Shutters

Last week, Kotaku and Gamasutra had the story that Disney had severed ties with Gazillion, ending Marvel Heroes support. The company then abruptly closed, laying off most (if not all) employees right before Thanksgiving. From a few embedded tweets in the Gamasutra piece, it appeared that the now ex-employees weren’t receiving any severance. So, hoping for the best for all those affected, right during the holiday season. In the meantime, I’m archiving links to the site. For posterity and all.

  • Main site: http://archive.is/Vf24I
  • Management Team: http://archive.is/pLMYA
  • Board: http://archive.is/tWq1m

There’s a familiar face on the board of directors page. So this what Tom Kalinske has been doing.

Square Enix to Announce Major Release in 2018

Square Enix hints that it will announce some major titles at some point between April and E3 2018. Dualshockers speculates:

Square Enix is often known for keeping the release dates of its biggest games under wraps for a long time, often defying expectations of fans that wait for those announcements at this or that event or trade show. Yet, some are coming in the next few months according to President and CEO Yosuke Matsuda.

The long promised Kingdom Hearts 3 is a likely candidate, as is the Final Fantasy VII remake. Square Enix also signaled support for Nintendo Switch. Still, with about five months to go before the window opens for these announcements, I’m crossing my fingers we’ll get some news before then.

KOTOR Postmortem

Gamasutra recently posted a flashback article from their excellent developer postmortem series; this time its KOTOR. Knights of the Old Republic was the first game that gave me true “Xbox Envy” back in 2003. I had a PS2 and a GameCube, and more than enough to keep me busy. When I finally got an Xbox in 2004, KOTOR was one of the first games I bought. In fact it’s still a keystone for me when I start to dabble in RPG designs.

An interesting tidbit from the post:

Demonstrating the first playable version of the game at E3 2002 uncovered one of our biggest hurdles in the combat system’s development: the graphics and camera angle made the game look so much like an action title that people didn’t intuitively play it in a turnbased manner. Novice players wanted to mash buttons and twirl the thumbsticks during battle, breaking the combat system and making the game look extremely awkward. The interface’s discrete character control enabled players to disrupt their current attack by moving or accidentally selecting a container while attempting to engage the enemy.

This is well worth the read if you’re interested in one of the better RPGs that came out in the 15 years. And of course, if you’re interested in the process of making RPGs.

RIP Hiromi Tsuru

Sad news from the Far East: voice actress Hiromi Tsuru has passed away at age 58. Too young, in my opinion. She had many voice roles in anime and games (particularly Dragon Ball Z). She was also the voice of Dr. Naomi Hunter in the Japanese dub versions of Metal Gear Solid. Condolences to her family, friends and fans.

In her honor, here’s a pivotal scene between Naomi and Snake from Metal Gear Solid in the Japanese dub.

 

EA Battlefront 2 Fiasco

By now most of you have probably heard about the lootbox/pay2win/gouging fest planned for Battlefront 2 and the backlash that saw EA pull the plug on micro transactions. NPR posted a write up in its “must read” section a few days ago. Worth a read if you want to get up to speed on it all quickly. From the article:

Some players granted a preview of the company’s new Star Wars game unleashed a torrent of backlash online this week over extra charges to unlock more content — beyond the game’s $60-$80 retail price. While these types of in-game purchases aren’t new to the industry, it’s EA’s response that’s drawn the most ire from gamers.

EA’s response was nothing if not predictable. It’s true that the industry has long come up with clever ways around that $60 price tag. This is what happens when development costs rocket up over a decade. But I find the characterization here that gamers mostly complained because of their poor community management. Most showed ire over the barefaced, outrageous fleecing that the game’s leveling system characterized.

I bought the first Battlefront and found it to be fairly average. I far more enjoyed Pandemic’s original Battlefront series. And even that wasn’t as great as it could have been. The Star Wars license still seems like a license to print money, leave it to EA to fumble that badly.

The fact is, Disney had to step in and tell EA to turn off micro transactions for now. That should tell you all you need to know about EA management.