The Weekly Wrap – Rockstar boots Bondi, Burnout goes downloadable

By Nathan Grayson
9 July 2011 12:04 GMT

BioWare’s thinking about showing Tali’s face in ME3. We hope she pulls off her mask, revealing a Master Chief helmet. “ Let’s finish the fight,” she’ll say. Just like you’ve finished another week. And you didn’t think we could tie all of this together.

Where There’s Smoke: Team Bondi’s Sydney “sweat shop”

What happened: A series of scandalous documents revealed that things aren’t all sunshine, butterflies, and giant dinosaur crocodiles at Team Bondi’s headquarters in Australia. Long story short, studio head Brendan McNamara ruled with an iron fist, the term “sweat shop” reared its ugly head, and Rockstar got the hell out of there like a murder suspect who perplexingly thinks himself a marathon runner.

What it means: Our own resident adventuress and probable lion-tamer Brenna Hillier took a not-so-fond look back at whip-cracking, soul-crushing industry labor conditions – rightly pointing out that Bondi’s hardly breaking new ground in breaking its employees. She added, however, that writing these things off as unfortunate realities of a “creative” industry is completely unfair – especially considering low-level employees who’ve put about as much of a personal signature on their game as the company janitor’s broom.

Big developers, however, are tenuous machines constantly teetering on the brink of collapse. Money and time are precious commodities when one small screw-up could mean the next dollar or second is your last. So employee needs tend to slip through the cracks. No doubt: it’s a broken system. On the upside, many aspects of triple-A development are currently in flux due to a lack of sustainability. Change is in the air, and we can only hope that employees benefit.

Burnout Crash, DAII DLC announced at EA showcase

What happened: While everyone prayed to their deities of choice for Mirror’s Edge 2 and Crysis on consoles, EA trotted out a fairly subdued lineup. Burnout made its oddly adorable XBLA/PSN debut, Dragon Age II took timid, Bambi-like steps beyond Kirkwall with new DLC, and Origin Origin Origin Origin Origin – but we’ll get to that in a second. Also, there was a dog show for some reason.

What it means: EA’s upcoming big guns (Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, SSX, The Old Republic, etc) have had the chance to strut down the promotional catwalk plenty of times, so this showcase let the spotlight briefly hover over games that won’t cost EA an arm, a leg, the farm, and a whole month’s allowance.

As for what we saw, Burnout Crash looks new, different, and Not Exactly Like You Wanted, but its stupidly-addictive-timewaster potential seems high. And since we love stupidity and enjoy nothing more than killing time with an almost disturbing fervor, we’re willing to give Crash a chance. Beyond that, Secret World sounds interesting, and Dragon Age II’s DLC is definitely a thing that exists we guess. For now, that’s about all she wrote. But hey, maybe Mirror’s Crysis 2: Edge Edge Edge In Your Face Tim Langdell will show up at Gamescom next month.

EA: Origin could support other publishers

What happened: What the hell is Origin actually trying to become? At this point, we’re not even sure EA knows. First it said the download service didn’t have any plans to repeatedly hop up-and-down on Steam’s toes – while, we might add, simultaneously acknowledging Steam’s policy against exclusive DLC and the like. For the uninitiated, that’s basically Origin’s calling card. Then it talked about making eyes at other publishers as well. And finally, EA’s showcase wheeled out the Originmobile, which is a rocket-powered– wait, Origin mobile? Like with phones? Oh. That’s sort of a downer.

What it means: We jest because we’re intrigued. Origin mobile, at least, presents some interesting opportunities for cross-platform play. But – while we’re all for competition – we can’t help but frantically scramble for breathing room with all these social services vying for our attention. Steam, Origin, iPhone’s Game Center, Xbox Live, PSN, whatever Nintendo comes up with for Wii U, Call of Duty Elite, etc. What’s the point of building features that connect us to our friends when the proprietary nature of each network acts as an active volcano in the center of our little social neighborhood?

You thought the console wars were bad? Unfortunately, audiences now look to end up more fragmented than ever with separate log-ins, social networks, possible game libraries, etc. Like we said, we’re all for competition – but only when consumers are the real winners. At this rate, we’ll be lucky to nab participation ribbons.

Bethesda announces Dishonored for 2012 release

What happened: People are making new videogames. We know. We were shocked too. Bethesda was indirectly responsible for what may very well be our favorite paragraph of all time with a description of Arkane’s Dishonored, and Planetside 2 finally got a formal reveal. (It also ditched the “Next” moniker, which means SOE got our hostage ransom letters after all!)

What it means: We’d kill (without having to kill anyone) to know more about Dishonored – especially given that Deus Ex vet Harvey Smith’s setting his experience-augmented arms to the task of hammering this one into shape. So far, of course, Bethesda’s been incredibly cryptic, but the emphasis on moving away from high-octane thrillsplosions starring Nolan North as A Guy Who Shoots Other Guys (each of whom may also be voiced by Nolan North) earns big brownie points in our book. Also, it’s another new IP from Bethesda. Sure, Brink may have been a bit wonky, but we’ll take that over another “horrific” vision of an invaded modern US any day of the week.

LucasArts leader calls for better-balanced workplaces

What happened: LucasArts creative director Clint Hocking aptly compared game development culture to Viking states. Unfortunately, he wasn’t referring to neat hats or months spent ravaging frigid coastlines. Turns out, Vikings weren’t so keen on having the women-folk along for their exploratory escapades. “Game development studios and their teams are largely staffed in the same way that Viking longships were crewed. Consequently, the culture is overflowing with beer and pent-up aggression, and a very significant portion of our overall cultural output is fart jokes,” he explained.

What it means: Hocking’s incredibly right – especially in his pursuit of a game development culture that’s “more reflective of our culture at large.” However, he limits his argument to women in the workplace, which – while definitely a huge deal – is only part of the equation for greater diversity.

Recently, big-budget games have gone to great lengths to minimize cultural diversity, primarily in an often futile attempt to appeal to “Western audiences.” That’s a huge problem. Some of gaming’s greatest classics have emerged from different (read: non-18-34-year-old American-skewing) perspectives, but the industry’s squelching that in favor of what it believes to be the golden brick road to the almighty dollar.

We want more off-the-wall Japanese zaniness. We want more absurdly ambitious games like STALKER. And if a giant publisher gobbled up (Zeno Clash creators) ACE Team and whitewashed their weird streak? We’d become Vikings – partly because we like bringing things full circle, but mostly for the wanton killing. We find it cathartic.

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