Hello once again NAGushins, and thanks for coming back for This Week In Gaming (or really, just coming back at all; we missed you). This week was stacked with news, with all of the twists, turns and drama of the Facebook Oculus buyout. Find out what Carmack thinks of it, and find out what is (and then later, isn’t) happening. Then there’s the competition, Sony’s own VR headset – and you’d be surprised who’s interested in making games for it. After that we have an update on supervillain King.com’s foray into the stock market, a new take on the sidescrolling shooter, the real reason Epic sold Gears to Microsoft, and 3D Realms is fighting back on the Duke Nukem issue. All that, some more news, a crop of videos and some NAG highlights from the week. Hit the jump.
So the big news to drop this week is that Mark Zuckerberg is once again writing cheques with internet zeroes. Facebook’s buyout of virtual reality company Oculus has got the internet buzzing – and not in a good way.
Minecraft’s Notch already pulled out of a potential deal because Facebook is “creepy”, and pretty much no one was happy when a New York Times “anonymous source” claimed that the VR hardware will eventually be rebranded with a Facebook interface and logo. Yeugh.
Of course, rumours being rumours, Facebook has come out and said that rebranding thing isn’t true at all. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that that bit of information is “not true and not in the spirit of our relationship with Oculus.”
The company also said it plans to let Oculus run independently, much the way it does Instagram and now WhatsApp Messenger.
It wasn’t just a bunch of gamers throwing their toys on the forums either, the Facebook’s share prices actually dropped 6.9 percent following the announcement.
Of course, there was a similar drop after the WhatsApp buyout, which quickly stabilised after Zuckerberg convinced investors all would be okay.
Face of Oculus John Carmack has thrown his support behind the deal. Which is probably because he already handed in his resignation at Id Software, but Carmack had some other reasons prepared.
“I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR,” he said. “I have a deep respect for the technical scale that FB operates at. The cyberspace we want for VR will be at this scale.”
Carmack went on, “I suppose I will get a FB account now, so that may lead to some writing a little longer than tweet length…”
Obviously a long-time fan then.
Oculus isn’t the only one getting into VR, Sony have their own Morpheus headset that they’re trying to generate interest in, something which appears to be harder than it looks.
According to Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has said that, surprisingly, the people showing real enthusiasm right now are indie developers.
“I am very excited to work with indie developers”, Yoshida told Polygon, “because we’ve been communicating with third party publishers, and the typical conversations go, you know the developers in the third party publishers, they are really excited, but they say, ‘Oh well, I have to get approval from the business side.’
“And it’s very hard for big companies to approve something that no one knows if there’s a market for it. But the indie guys are like, ‘I like it, I’ll do it.’ And there are many indie games being created in the marketplace because of that.”
So EA is gaming public enemy #1 this year, and last year, and, well, the year before that. But EA has apparently caught on that gamers are a fickle bunch, and in an attempt to buy some good will are giving away games for free.
On Origin. So yeah, it’s PC only and you have to install malware on your computer. But still, free stuff!
The initiative is called On the House, and the first free game is the original Dead Space, yours for free until May 8th. So why are they doing this? “Because we’re gamers too.”
King.com recently hit the stock market, and so far it’s going… not so well. The share price has dropped fifteen percent on the NYSE debut, once again raising concerns that investors just don’t have all that much faith in the social gaming market.
And it’s easy to see why, with the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of companies like Zynga. It’s just not that sure of a thing, as a game can be a hit one week and discarded the next.
I know I bring it up all the time, but lessons need to be learnt from games like Draw Something – a lot of these big mobile moneymakers just aren’t sustainable.
Considering King.com’s unsavoury business practices, I can’t say I’m all that disappointed by this news.
Roll7, developer of critically acclaimed Vita skateboarder OlliOlli has revealed a new game, a quirky, indie-looking side-scrolling shooter for the PC called Not a Hero.
Billed as “2.5D”, the game is sporting something called “ISO-Slant”, a mix of traditional 2D sidescrolling visuals with isometric features as well. It looks to be ultraviolent and pretty interesting, count me in.
More news this week from the Watch Dogs team over at Ubisoft Montreal, who say that there were a lot of ideas for Watch Dogs that would have been moved to a sequel had the game not been delayed. Ubisoft’s VP of creative, Lionel Raynaud, had this to say:
It’s clear at this point that the publisher is very happy to have delayed the game, emphasising again and again that it’ll be a much more interesting and polished product. There were several systems that were not going to be in the game if we released in November,” he said. “There’s always the discussion of, ‘should we leave them for the sequel, or do we take the time to finish them?’ And we decided to take our time and do it right.
“It’s made a big difference – we’ve polished everything. The things we’ve developed the most are the interactions with hacking, and how in many situations being smart with chain reactions can offer something unique from any other open-world game.
“If we weren’t able to deliver this aspect, it wouldn’t feel new enough to be worth a new IP.”
Fans of the Gears of War franchise may have been disappointed when Epic sold the IP to Microsoft, but Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has said had they not done that, the series may have been collecting dust on a shelf for the next ten years.
“We’ve gone through a long process of figuring out the games we’re going to build at Epic worldwide in the future and we concluded that we weren’t going to be building any more Gears of War,” he said. “As much as we love the game, we’re heading in a new direction.
“The core Gears values are really tied to being big event-based, single-player console games with awesome cover mechanics and other things that really didn’t translate into the future approach we were taking with online games, and competitive and cooperative multiplayer.
“Because we weren’t planning on building any more Gears games we were just going to let that sit on the shelf for a decade or more, in case it had any future value to us.”
Remember that 3D Realms-Gearbox fiasco with the new Duke Nukem game? Well, after apologising and seemingly admitting fault after planning to release a game in a series they no longer own, 3D Realms is now going on the offensive.
In an official response to Gearbox, 3D Realms claim that as part of their agreement they would be allowed to complete and release “Duke Nukem Survivor”, which is apparently this Mass Destruction thingamajig.
They also claim that Gearbox doesn’t actually own the Duke Nukem trademark, saying that was never part of the agreement.
Oh, I do love a bit of scandal on the weekends.
Alien Isolation is looking pretty damn good, and this new videos shows us more gameplay than we’ve seen yet. Hell, it even has commentary.
Hey while we’re talking Project Morpheus around here, Sony has released the full, hour-long GDC presentation of the new hardware. If you’re interested in learning more, this video has pretty much everything.
A new Watch Dogs trailer surfaced this week, and you can’t help feel like it may be a response to gamers’ claims that the game has suffered some visual downgrades. After watching this, that becomes a little harder to argue. Check it out:
Video games adapted from movies have tended to be more than mediocre, but this new Amazing Spider Man 2 footage is actually pretty damned good. You even get to play as Peter Parker; let creative director Thomas Wilson talk you through it below.
Best of NAG
So this week I wrote a column around all the recent graphics “scandals” that have been popping up like weeds around the internet, from “resolutiongate” to visual “downgrades” and all these other trivial things gamers love to complain about. Read it, and tell me what you think.
And then you should read this, Wesley Fick’s take on the situation and the various visual elements that we should be caring about. I guess it’s somewhat of a rebuttal, and yet I agree with everything he says. Weird, huh? Read that too, and tell us both what you think!
Speaking of controversy, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes dropped recently, which you may remember as the game which can supposedly be finished in under two hours. Matthew Vice took it for a spin, so head over here to find out if the somewhat short-lived experience is worth your money.
Saving the best for last, the latest issue of NAG magazine hit the shelves on Thursday – and you already have a copy, right? If by some divine intervention you haven’t managed to pick it up yet, you can find out everything you’re missing right here.