Greetings NAGilziles, and thanks for coming back for This Week In Gaming. Plenty of stuff happened this week, but no time to dwell – let’s get right into it.

Valve acquires Firewatch devs

The indie studio behind the excellent walking simulator Firewatch have been snatched up by Valve – making good on Gabe’s promise that the Steam giant will be shipping games again.

While we were all thinking Half-Life and Left 4 Dead, it seems Valve is also interested in doing the publisher thing as well. The studio in question, Campo Santo, is currently working on their next project and this is still expected to release in 2019. Furthermore, all 12 employees have retained their jobs.

The studio put out the following blog post:

“The twelve of us at Campo Santo have agreed to join Valve, where we will maintain our jobs as video game developers and continue production on our current project, In the Valley of Gods.

“Both sides spoke about our values and how, when you get right down to it, we, as human beings, are hard-limited by the time we have left when it comes to making the things we care about and believe in. They asked us if we’d all be interested in coming up to Bellevue and doing that there and we said yes.”

Housemarque’s new game looks suspiciously like a Battle Royale

The studio behind Resogun and Nex Machina is working on a new multiplayer title called Stormdivers, which they say will be “fiercely competitive”. At the moment, the entirety of the pitch is that it’s multiplayer-focused and made in Unreal.

However, when head of publishing Mikael Haveri was told it sounded like the studio was doing a Fortnite game, he remarked that that was “a very good assumption”.

“Right now we are saying it is multiplayer. It’s a very competitive environment, specifically with those types of titles. How can you even compete? We know what we do and we’ve been making something for quite a while. Hopefully it will be able to compete.”

The game will be for PC and console, and it could even be coming this year – it’s been in development for years.

“We’ve been playing it for almost two years now,” Haveri said. “Internally we’ve been perfecting the gameplay part of it and now we need to catch up with the stuff we haven’t been able to focus on” – things like art polish.

“It’s not far away but we’re not in a hurry to push it to market before it’s done. Hopefully still this year but maybe, to be cautious, we shouldn’t say it’s going to be this year. It’s fast, very gameplay centric. We hope when people pick it up they start feeling good. We want there to be adrenaline, we want them to be moving, we want them to be really getting into it – a fast experience where you have to go outside and take a breather from it. Couple that with visual flair; you play Resogun, you see all this stuff exploding and going off – that’s what we’re bringing to the multiplayer. This is a Housemarque take.”

Right now, this trailer is all we got:

Netflix Witcher series will be 8 episodes, slated for 2020 release

Considering this show is two years away, the hype for it is pretty unreal.

Which is surprising, as every movie and series video game adaptation sucks, with the exception of the first Mortal Kombat movie (meet me outside if you disagree).

The series will be a compact eight episodes, but show creator Lauren S. Hissrich feels this is the right call.

“I know, I know, it may not seem like enough for you, but creatively, it’s the right call,” wrote Hissrich about the relatively short run. “The episodes can be tight, action-packed, rich in character and story, without lagging in the middle of the season. Sounds good to me, sound good to you?”

As for a premiere date, Hissrich tentatively points to 2020 but nothing is set in stone. Commenting on the timeframe she writes, “Who knows?! We’re moving quickly ahead with everything—like, my head is spinning around Exorcist-style, except with enthusiasm, not evil possession—but one thing is certain: quality comes before speed. You’ll get it as soon as humanly possible, and it’ll be good.”

The show is very much in its infancy. It hasn’t been cast yet, and only the pilot episode has been written. Additional writers are being brought on board, and the show will, of course, be shooting in Eastern Europe. See you in 2020.

Binding of Isaac prequel The Legend of Bum-bo gets first gameplay trailer

The Binding of Isaac is a game I own, but have never played. It sits in my Steam library glaring at me every time I boot up PUBG. Why is it even there? Did I buy it? Did someone give it to me? It’s been languishing in library hell for so long I don’t even remember how it got there.

But, I do hear good things. It’s a game that continuously creeps its way into my consciousness – I don’t know much about how it works or what it does, but the name gets bandied about fairly often. And look, here I find myself talking about the prequel to the game I own but haven’t played and know nothing about.

This game apparently pits the titular character against “hordes of paper goons”, which allows you to win money you can spend on gambling. There are also randomly generated dungeons and combat is apparently in the form of a match-4-style puzzle system, where Bum-bo produces pagan glyphs from his bag of trash, then lines them up to create offensive and defensive attacks, and to gain specific types of mana for spell-casting. None of what I just wrote made any sense to me at all. Maybe just check out this trailer.

Hearthstone game director Ben Brode leaves Blizzard

It’s been a good run for Ben Brode. After starting as a ‘Night Crew Game Tester’, he moved to Team 5 in 2008 to work on Hearthstone. In 2016, he was named game director – not a bad place to be considering Hearthstone‘s enormous success.

Now he’s decided to take a “crazy risk” and follow a different project, starting up a new company which will “probably make games”. In an open letter, he said:

“I am very fortunate to be able to take a crazy risk right now in my life, and I’m excited to be scrappy and a little scared. I’m going to help start a new company. We’ll probably make games, but we haven’t figured anything else out, yet. I’m looking forward to designing, programming, and actually creating things again. I’m going to miss the on-campus Starbucks, though. Dang.”

On the future of Hearthstone, Brode isn’t worried. “I get too much credit by virtue of being a public face, but the 80+ people on the development team are still there, and they are the ones actually making the cards, brawls, events, missions, and features. I am confident the game is in the best possible hands, and I’m excited to see where a new generation of leaders takes Hearthstone from here.”

Good luck my dude.

Dutch Gaming Authority rules (some) lootboxes are gambling

Lootboxes in games have been on thin ice for a while now. With the CS:GO betting debacle and Battlefront 2 fallout being the biggest instigators for investigation, countries around the world are weighing in. The UK ruled that no, they’re not gambling, while the Nederlands has now stated that some of then in fact are.

They reportedly investigated the loot systems in the top ten games on Steam, and found four of them contravened laws on gambling. While they did not publicly state which games, they are reportedly PUBG, FIFA 18, DotA 2 and Rocket League.

The sticking point here seems to be games whose unboxed items have real-world value – which thus baffles me how CS:GO escaped the list. However, the Authority further criticises lootboxes as having “similar design and mechanisms to slot machines”, pointing to their flashy visual and sound effects, as well as the ability to open multiple in quick succession.

All games will have to adjust their systems within these new rules, and remove what they’re calling “addictive elements”. Essentially if every time you open a rare item there’s a massive song and dance with flashing gold lights and items flying into the air, you have a problem. Hell, CS:GO has the damn thing spin like a roulette wheel – the comparisons are obvious.

Companies failing to comply will be liable for penalties and fines – the Nederlands mean business here.

About damn time.

Sources: PC Gamer, Eurogamer, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Gamespot, IGN

Videos

Hellblade is, by all accounts, stunning. This video looks at the game on the Xbox One X, to see if this is the current best of console gaming.

Beyond Skyrim may be the most amibitious gaming mod ever undertaken, and a helluva showcase for the kind of new life that can be breathed into a game via the mod community. In this new video, you’ll get a look at what’s planned for the Iliac Bay region.

Considering the popularity of sports sims, baseball doesn’t get all that much attention. With a name like Super Mega Baseball 2, you may be surprised to find this is your best option.

Finally, watch God of War‘s creative director react to seeing critics’ reception for the first time.

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