Hello there, fellow Candy Forcers. Yet another Saga of gaming has passed this week, and as usual I’ve Crushed this news-writing gig to deliver you the best of Monday to Friday. First of all, we go really deep on the King.com debacle, rehashing some of the things you might have missed and bringing you a whole lot more drama you haven’t seen yet. Things are getting ugly, and fast. Then we have another rumour that wasn’t, another rumour that might be, and the console fanboys are up in arms over frame rates once again. There’s other news too, of course, and a whole crop of videos (with one hilarious troll) and then a highlights package of the things on NAG you missed this week but definitely shouldn’t’ve. Go, go, go.
So earlier this week, Alienware said that their sexy looking steam machines would be released annually, and could not be altered or upgraded.
Alienware’s SVP and resident schizophrenic Frank Azor has said in an interview with Eurogamer, “Enabling customers the opportunity to upgrade components has been a core tenet for Alienware since the company was founded, and that remains true today.
“The Alienware Steam Machine, announced at CES, is designed to deliver a great gaming experience in the living room and we will enable customers to upgrade components.”
Which is kind of an odd thing to say, since this week we heard this from him: “There will be no customisation options, you can’t really update it.”
Errr, okay Frank. Whatever you say.
You may remember me bitching about the gaming rumour mill essentially always being wrong, and this week it was more bad news for the Wii U! Again. An Italian website had reported that the Wii U version of Watch Dogs had been canned by Ubisoft. The news came after a reader said Gamestop Italy cancelled his pre-order, informing him that Ubisoft had cancelled the game.
Losing Ubisoft’s support would have been a big blow to the sinking console, but of course this morning when I checked up on the story it turned out to be crap. This rumour mongering is really something we have to work on.
One console that doesn’t need much help is the Xbox One, as Microsoft have reported they sold just shy of 4 million of their next gen hardware last year.
In a new column on Microsoft’s website, Xbox’s industrial designer Carl Ledbetter said the company used a 3D printer to create more than 75 prototypes of the flagship console, along with 100 different Kinects and more than 200 controllers.
“We were extremely thorough. We were trying to push boundaries, to do something new and inventive, but there was so much at stake that we had to be really careful as well.”
“The reason why there was so much at stake is that people really, really care about Xbox,” he went on.
He also adds: “We wanted to take every component of what people love about Xbox and amplify it, but also make it disappear into the living room – to stay in the background, robust and reliable.”
He did however leave out, “…watching your every move.”
Our last bit of console news for the week is the rumour floating around (yes, another frikken rumour, sigh) that that the new Apple TV might support games.
Basically the platform will support applications, which means games. There’s even rumoured to be a Bluetooth controller coming, so you can jam your Candy Crush Saga in style. Just kidding – don’t ever play that game.
Oh man, King.com. Where to start with these people? You may have noticed NAG Online has recently changed (temporarily) to the 100% more fabulous Super Candy Force Online.
This is done in protest to King.com’s recent draconian trademarking litigation. The Candy Crush Saga creator has filed a trademark for the word “candy” as well as the word “saga”, and have started handing out lawyer letters like candy (sorry, it was too easy).
Any game in the App Store that so much as dared to use the word “candy” in their title were asked to remove them, and now this week indie developer Stoic has been slapped with a trademark dispute for having the balls to call their game “The Banner Saga”.
Let’s just get something straight here – this is what is known in the legal world as “a dick move”. Anyone can understand such a big company wanting to protect their brand, but The Banner Saga is a turn-based RPG, released on Steam, about frikken Vikings.
For the sake of fairness, here is King.com’s explanation: “We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.
“If we had not opposed Banner Saga’s trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of ‘Saga’ was legitimate.”
This was Stoic’s response:
“Two years ago, the three of us at Stoic set out to make an epic Viking game, The Banner Saga,” the response reads. “We did, and people loved it, so we’re making another one.
“We won’t make a Viking saga without the word Saga, and we don’t appreciate anyone telling us we can’t. King.com claims they’re not attempting to prevent us from using The Banner Saga, and yet their legal opposition to our trademark filing remains.”
It concludes: “We’re humbled by the outpouring of support and honoured to have others stand with us for the right to their own Saga. We just want to make great games.”
These trademarking issues seem to be cropping up more and more, like with Mojang’s Scrolls getting no-no’d by Bethesda due to The Elder Scrolls. It makes you wonder just how easy it actually is to get a trademark approved. Can we just stop letting people trademark commonly used nouns? Trademarking something like “Candy Crush” makes sense, it’s a unique combination of words evocative of that game.
But to trademark “candy” or “saga” individually, forbidding any company from ever using either of those words in a title regardless of context or content, is preposterous. If this carries on for long enough, we’re going to end up with some very strangely titled games.
Even worse news is that Stoic will not be making a sequel to their game if King.com’s dispute is successful.
In an interview with Polygon, Stoic’s Alex Thomas said they would absolutely not release a Viking game without the word “saga” in it, which means the in-development sequel will be scrapped. It’s very sad to see an indie developer like Stoic get slapped in the face by King.com’s giant, corporate, litigious wang.
Of course, the irony here, as many have pointed out, is that King.com (like Zynga before it) is notorious for cloning games.
None have pointed it out quite so publicly as indie developer Stolen Goose, however, who tell an interesting story of publishing negotiations with King.com back in 2009. Apparently, the negotiations fell through and King.com quickly hired another developer to clone the game, called Scamperghost.
According to Stolen Goose’s Mathew Cox, a member of the team hired openly admitted to Cox that King exec Lars Jornow had instructed him to “clone the game very quickly”, quickly enough to try and beat the original to release.
Essentially, this is just a case of the biggest kid on the playground pushing everyone else around. It’s not new, but it doesn’t make it any less sad to see.
Hmm, so how about some more drama? Tomb Raider Definitive Edition for next gen consoles has been shown to be capable of running at 60fps in 1080p on the PS4, but only half those frames on the Xbox One.
Square Enix maintains that both consoles are only intended to have a frame rate of 30fps, and that anything beyond that is “just gravy”. But 30 frames, to be fair, is a whole lot of gravy. Certainly enough for the fanboys to get excited about.
League of Legends is the biggest MOBA, and one of the biggest online games, in the world. It’s following is enormous and it’s the most watched competitive e-sport as a result.
While even the best games must surely date and expire at some point, developer Riot’s vice president for esports Dustin Beck is optimistic, saying this week that he believes the game should last decades.
“It’s a sport like just like anything else,” he said. “Baseball has been around 110 years. I’m not saying League of Legends will be around that long, but we see the shelf life of League Of Legends as hopefully decades.”
It’s an interesting thought. Surely in its current form it couldn’t exist for the next 20 years, but if it could be updated to keep pace with current technology and expectations… it very well could, I guess. After all, how long as Counter-strike been going now, in one form or another? The answer to that, is nearly 15 years.
Makes the League of Legends thing a little easier to believe, doesn’t it?
This one is a little gem someone turned me on this week; it’s a masterclass in [innocent] trolling. Here’s the set up: a guy names himself “Xbox One Sign Out”, heads into a Call of Duty game and attempts to annoy his teammates into shouting his name in rage. You can guess what happens next.
Sony has released a documentary titled “KAZ: Pushing the Virtual Divide”, which covers the inception and creation of arguably the world’s best racing simulator, Gran Turismo. It’s already out on US service Hulu, but will be releasing on the Sony Movie Channel, Sony Entertainment Network, Amazon Instant Video and Crackle on the 5th of February. Below is the trailer to give you an idea what it’s all about.
I’ve been following Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare quite closely, because it looks chaotic, hilarious and enormously fun. The game is due for an Xbox One and Xbox 360 release of 27 February for us, and a little longer after that for the PC version. Pre-orders have just opened up ($29,99 for 360, $39,99 for Xbox One), and EA has released this new trailer to celebrate.
Sony and Capcom have released a new trailer for Deep Down, the free-to-play PS4 exclusive online RPG. It looks really cool, and in this trailer, as in others, Sony are showing off the game’s impressive visuals. You can even catch a glimpse of some gameplay; check it out.
Best of NAG, err I mean SCFO
Next-gen consoles are the new standard for 2014, and Miklós Szecsei has been asking himself where the new games are to take advantage of all this – slightly prettier Call of Duty isn’t going to cut it. Luckily, this year will be next-gen’s time to shine, and Miklós has taken a look at all the games that’ll help it do exactly that.
NAG’s (excuse me, SCFO’s) resident indie specialist Delano has taken another game for a spin this week, a platformer overflowing with nostalgic appeal called Muri. Instead of simply aiming for the gameplay of the early 90s, Muri goes all out with EGA graphics and the tinny sounds of a rattly old PC speaker. Check it out.
Another indie that’s been floating around getting people’s attention is Papers, Please, a novel game in which you work as a customs officer attempting to spot crooks trying to get across the border. No guns or action in this one, it’s just you, your eyes, your brain and most importantly, your stamp. Nic Simmonds takes this oddball for a spin.
Do you know what variable refresh rates are? Do you know how they’re ruining your life? Wesley Fick held a masterclass this week (in his typical no stone left unturned style), and tells you everything you didn’t know and everything you didn’t know you needed to know. It’s a fantastic read, give it a look.
Last, and definitely least, I wrote a column this week. If you could call it a column. It’s cynical, without substance and mostly just terrible, pretty much like everything else 2014 has delivered so far. Go read it, or don’t.