QuakeCon’s passed, and Gamescom lies ahead. You’re in the eye of the news storm. Frightened? Don’t be. The Weekly Wrap is here to tell you what it all means. And give you a hug. If you want one.
What happened: Dark times, as prophesied by a strange tome known as “a calendar.” The summer game drought turned July into a retail release wasteland, creating the worst sales month since October 2006 – back when dinosaurs and Sony Walkmen still roamed the earth.
What it means: The gaming industry is doomed. The sky is falling. In an attempt to keep itself from going under, VG247 will begin covering competitive crocheting. Or, you know, none of those things. As per usual, the gaming industry isn’t surrounded by vultures and circling the drain (all of which would make it incredibly dizzy); it’s just different.
July was a fantastic month for console gaming if you knew where to look. Catherine rocked the boat at retail, but the real main event was Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade event. Titles like Bastion and From Dust brought heavy hitting doses of originality and fun – occasionally flanked by tiny men being devoured by walls of lava. Point is, people purchased games last month. Incredibly creative games, at that. From where we’re standing, there’s not a dark cloud to be seen. The future looks pretty damn bright.
What happened: So it was rumored, so shall it be. Valve took a deep breath and sounded its announcement trumpets, alerting all in the realm of online face-shootery that a new Counter-Strike approacheth. Approaches. Approachethes.
What it means: The grandpappy of military manshoots is back, and it aims to teach youngsters like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 how it’s done. Well, kind of. Since we haven’t actually seen what kind of heat Global Offensive is packing, the biggest news here is the whole “coming to XBLA and PSN” bit. Valve knows what it’s doing, and it sees the giant void where an ultra-popular, reasonably priced downloadable console shooter should be. Meanwhile, we’re whiffing an eSports focus wafting from this one’s oven as well. That in mind, don’t expect any major revolutions here. Counter-Strike is a very deliberate formula. Tamper with it, and fans will hurl full-scale replicas of de_dust at you.
Also of note: Valve’s really making a push with the smaller releases. First Alien Swarm violently burst out of nowhere last year, and now DOTA 2 and Global Offensive are defending ancients and countering strikes, respectively. We’re not complaining one bit, mind you. But on some cold nights, we climb into bed and long for the warm, crowbar-tinged caress of a certain videogame icon. And then come the tears.
What happened: Ubisoft fired the latest shot in what – from the outside looking-in – appears to be an all-out war on PC gaming. Seriously! First head-scratching delays for both Call of Juarez and From Dust, then always-on DRM for Driver, and now a big fat, pedal-to-the-metal delay as well. At least tell us why, Ubisoft. Relationships are about communication, and you’re basically stealing our organs and leaving us in tubs of ice.
What it means: Ubisoft’s conduct here has been absolutely baffling. If there are two things that define PC gaming right this moment, they are 1) that there’s finally real, non-Monopoly-man-minted money to be made and 2) that PC gamers get rowdy when they’re handed sloppy seconds. Allegedly, the publisher’s DRM has put a sizable dent in piracy numbers, but that still doesn’t explain the sometimes months-long delays. Whatever the reason, though, we’re ready for it to stop. Only then will we accept an apology in the form of Mr Caffeine’s mouth being eternally sown shut.
What happened: RAGE creative director Tim Willits had fans raging when he walked across PC gaming’s current warzone of choice and allied himself with Blizzard.“If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome,” he said.
What it means: It’s a clash of unfortunately opposing mentalities, and someone’s going to have to give. Willits laid out his side’s argument perfectly. “In the end, it’s better for everybody. Imagine picking up a game and it’s automatically updated. Or there’s something new you didn’t know about, and you didn’t have to click away. It’s all automatically there,” he explained. In other words, convenience is king. No more hassle, no more fuss. What goes on inside the game is all that matters. Problem is, for many PC gamers, what goes on outside the game is sweet, sweet icing atop the experience. Without mods, tweaking, and freedom to play how you want, it’s just… plain.
At this point, it’s really a matter of who wants it more. After all, everyone was foretelling the death of dedicated servers a couple years ago – including id. But then PC gamers piped up in unison, and slowly but surely, their voices were heard. The end result? Well, we’re just going to let id’s own John Carmack do the talking: “Our future games will have dedicated servers.” So then, the lesson: speak up. It may not seem like it, but developers are listening. And if you’re loud enough – for better or worse – no one can ignore you.
What happened: Love him or hate him, you can’t doubt Brendan McNamara’s passion for what he does. That in mind, he’s not the type to go down silently with his sinking ship. And so, according to a report from Develop, McNamara and his team have been bailed out of a sea of bad press and scooped into the loving embrace of Sydney based Kennedy Miller Mitchell. Unsettlingly realistic human-faced penguins in Happy Feet 2? We can only hope.
What it means: The dicey rollercoaster ride that’s been McNamara’s career up to this point is far from over. According to an insider look from Kotaku, this whole shake-up will put the LA Noire whip-cracker back in league with many of the folks who fled from his allegedly iron-fisted rule in the first place. However, McNamara apparently won a great deal of respect at KMM with his no-compromises attitude, so it’s doubtful that he’ll suddenly have the tables turned on him by his former workforce. In short, whatever McNamara works on next, we’re not sure what’ll be more interesting: the game itself or the story behind it. Fingers crossed that McNamara’s learned his lesson.