What good is a boycott when the target is caught between a rock and a hard place?
The recent cancellation of two panels planned for next year’s SXSW convention in Austin, Texas, has understandably left a lot of people upset. Both sought to confront issues of equality and discrimination in the games industry - albeit from opposite sides - and would have hopefully shed some more light on the controversial GamerGate saga. Sadly, there are those who feel that politics have no place in video games, and an unhinged few went so far as to threaten violence should the panels go ahead. The SXSW organisers were left in the unenviable position of weighing up the danger of the threats against the importance of the discussions. There’s no "right" decision; each option came with significant caveats. Ultimately, though, the safety of patrons had to come first.
There are some who don’t see it that way, however. Internet media publications Buzzfeed and Vox Media, among many others, have expressed resentment over the panels’ cancellations, vowing to boycott SXSW in protest until they are reinstated. This is a seriously misguided move. SXSW did not remove the panels out of fear of controversy or disagreement with the material. The decision was necessary to ensure the wellbeing of attendees. If violence were to erupt, not only could innocent attendees get caught in the crossfire, any valuable debate would devolve into a heated argument that would only serve to harden the resolve of proponents and opponents both. That would be antithetical to the cooperative attitude that protesters are pushing for.
Dismissing the threats out-of-hand would be foolish and irresponsible. There has been no shortage of horrific hostage incidents and senseless rampages in recent times, and the video game industry is hardly immune. Security needs to be a prime concern for any public event. Is it wrong for SXSW to play it safe and protect the patrons responsible for its existence?
What do Buzzfeed and Vox Media hope to achieve? Boycotting is a tool for punishing bad decisions. Cancelling the panels was not a bad decision. SXSW faced a lose-lose prospect, and it made the only choice it could. Proponents of diversity and equality should be showing support, not turning against their ally. If publications like Buzzfeed and Vox Media are so invested in the issue, perhaps they should look at providing their own venues for such discussion. It would be interesting to see how they would react if they received similar threats. Would they be so willing to throw caution to the wind when push came to shove?
Writer: Matt Sayer
If you are wondering who we are, we're primarily a digital magazine for the iPad focused on the coverage of indie video games. Run by the former editor of Game Informer, you'll find worldwide exclusives, but also an interactive media experience unlike any you have seen before. If you have an iPad, you should check out the free sample issue at the very least, or enjoy one of our other episodes as listed below.
Crowdfunding is too often confused with investment. Many backers believe their donations buy them a say over the direction of a game's development, but that's simply not the case. Buyer beware: if you don't trust the seller, don't give them your money.
A lot of weight rests on Star Citizen's shoulders. The crowdfunded space sim from industry veteran Chris Roberts, creator of the classic Wing Commander games, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest crowdfunded project ever, with over US$90million raised thus far and funding still being accepted. With such high stakes, there's been no shortage of probing questions from backers and critics alike, especially now with the game three years into development and the finish line nowhere in sight. The pressure on Chris Roberts and his team at Cloud Imperium Games to deliver the dream they sold is immense.
Too immense, according to some. In a recent article posted on The Escapist, a group of former Cloud Imperium Games employees unleashed a barrage of accusations condemning Star Citizen's development. Tales of financial mismanagement, wasteful development practices and a toxic work environment paint an ugly picture of the goings-on behind the scenes. Roberts has refuted many of the claims as spiteful slander, and CIG has even threatened litigation against The Escapist for publishing the reportedly fallacious article without proudly verifying its sources. The current lack of hard evidence on either side of the argument makes it difficult to extract the truth. Nevertheless, there is one aspect well worth musing on.
Mario Paint crossed with LittleBigPlanet. That's the peanut butter and chocolate combination Nintendo has conjured up with its latest Wii U title, Super Mario Maker. Since the recipe is so good, what other dishes should the industry serve?
Super Mario Maker is Nintendo at its best. The company might seem old fashioned compared to its contemporaries, but as the Wii showed, sometimes its sheltered way of doing things pays off big time. Mario Maker continues that trend. The game transforms players into mini Miyamotos capable of creating entire Mario levels in mere minutes. Unlike LittleBigPlanet, Disney Infinity and other games with packed-in editor tools, Mario Maker's singular focus and simple yet deep interface encourage players of all skill levels to contribute, rather than just those willing to wade through hours of experimentation.
The elegance of Mario Maker's design is too valuable to be a one-off. Its formula is just begging to be applied to other properties. Five of those properties sprang to my mind as being especially ripe for the Maker treatment. In reality, the non-Nintendo titles I've included in this list would need phone or tablet integration to emulate Mario Maker's intuitive touch controls, but since this is just wishful thinking for the time being, let's not worry about that part.
Played it Before? Will the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 be known more for its remakes and remasters than new games?
Like a live hand grenade, one of the biggest complaints lobbed around this console generation is the supposed prevalence of remastered games. Certainly, the year following the release of the Xbox One and PS4 coined its own zodiac sign known as the “year of the remaster.” During this time hard hitting, console selling blockbusters such as Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, Metro: Last Light, Deus Ex: Human Evolution and Borderlands were all given the nod to receive a new coat of shinier paint.
Surely, with all those remasters being thrown our way, there must be very little else to play? Will this generation go down as that of the “remaster?” Has our investment in brand spanking new hardware been all for naught?
The answer to all those questions is an emphatic no.
There are more games than you might expect out this generation, and it’s no small thanks to the indie revolution. Will Publishers Ever Fight Back?
We’re all about the indie games here at Grab It, which until recently was blossoming just on mobiles and PCs. However, it would now appear that the current-generation of consoles has come to the party, too. At the pre-launch E3 conferences of both Microsoft and Sony, the companies talked up their claims of having the best console option for fans of indie games. Shortly after launch, however, I remember thinking that it had all been talk, and by E3 2015, the indies were barely mentioned at all.
However, a recent report shows that 550 games have been released on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (combined) since they launched in November 2013, and of those, 297 have come out of the indie scene. That’s 54% of the games available to consumers right now or, to put it more bluntly, the majority.
It’s quality gaming, too. For last year’s PAX AUS event, Grab It published the official indie show guide as an iPad app. In it we featured the games and interviewed the creators of the 68 indie titles that were to be on display at the show. It’s an epic read, and you can still check it out now. At the time, I was concerned that there would be a handful of gems, a bunch of mediocre titles and a lot of dross that was going to be painful to cover. I was wrong.
All 68 titles were genuinely interesting, and made by people with fascinating personal stories to tell about their development. It was clear to me then that indie gaming was set to conquer the industry. So here we are; proof that more indie games are being released than those through the major publishers. It’s a beautiful thing.
However, will the publishers ever fight back and retake their position as being the number one outlet for console gaming experiences? Potentially, but not through the older model of delivering giant, expensive blockbusters at large intervals, or through churning out sequels. They’re going to have to diversify their offerings and provide experiences that appeal to those with indie sensibilities. But how?
A few years ago EA went on a rampage, buying up indies like Firemint and Iron Monkeys, and the industry giant has now started to show the results of those acquisitions with indie-like titles such as Unravel. Ubisoft has taken the indie concept internal, building the UbiArt engine and then using it to provide gamers with sweet indie-likes such as Child of Light and Valiant Hearts. Elsewhere licensed affairs such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Adventure Time have gone indie-like by reverting to old-school genres and visuals.
For gamers it’s all good news. With 550 play options already available on the two stores, and incredible diversity coming from the indies making up the majority of that number, it’s something of a Golden Age. If the publishers start to sprinkle their release schedules with indie-likes as well then the good times will continue.
I do not have a head for business, yet I'm assuming the suits at the big tables of Disney Interactive and Activision do. These big name publishers getting behind the gaming component of Apple's first move into lounge room gaming - Apple TV - is the best possible start the tech giant's little black box could have had.
It's the kind of dream start other microconsole hopefuls - such as the Ouya - couldn't have possibly hoped for without the brand power Apple brings to the table. Will this brand name support set the fourth generation of Apple TV on a course for microconsole success?
Do you really know all there is to know about the Monkey Island series?
In celebration of Monkey Island turning 25 (yes, 25!), we’ve scoured the murkiest corners of the internet for some of the most random and fun facts about this iconic series. Yes, some of these facts have been around for years now, but you still might learn something. But even if you know them all, just have a bit of fun reminiscing about how great this series has been to us over the past 25 years.
Halo 5: Guardians is losing multiplayer functionality faster than a dive-bombing Banshee.
First splitscreen multiplayer is carved away, and now the Big Team Battle mode is pushed into post-launch add-on status. 343 seems intent on leaving its own stamp on the Halo franchise, but I dare say it's going about it the wrong way. Multiplayer is where Halo has always been King of the Hill, but the way 343 is treating it, it might not be that way for much longer.
Big Team Battle has always been one of my favourite modes. Throwing together massive maps, the biggest and baddest vehicles, and the highest player counts ensures plenty of bombastic fun. 343 has claimed that the new Warzone mode will satisfy players looking for large-scale combat in the interim, but while Warzone admittedly seems like the most interesting of Halo 5: Guardian's additions, it's not particularly comparable to BTB. Warzone is objective-based, with an economy and experience system layered on top of the action. Big Team Battle is just pure explosive chaos. They address two very different play styles, and neither is a suitable substitute for the other.
I have to say, the more I hear about Halo 5: Guardians, the less interested in it I get. I would never have thought I'd be saying that about a Halo game, but here we are. I am honestly more excited for what Creative Assembly will do with Halo Wars 2, the sequel to a game I came away decidedly lukewarm on, than where the Master Chief's journey will take him. End rant.
Several contenders - Amazon Fire TV, Ouya and PlayStation TV to name a few - have tried to make a go of the strange middle-ground we’ve come to call microconsoles. The alluring idea of a more affordable console platform however - on which games might sell hundreds of millions instead of millions (much the same as in the mobile arena) - has so far failed to ignite.
Out of those three mentioned, the best positioned for potential success was surely Sony. With decades of experience in the console space, a vast back catalogue of games to draw from, and an already established fanbase to tap into, it causes one to wonder why the PS TV didn’t take off. Sales saw a boost in early 2015 after Sony dropped the price of its newest gaming hardware, but still, the PlayStation TV hasn’t exactly become a household name.
It’s hard to argue however that the iPhone and iPad - even if you don’t own one yourself - aren’t just household names. Everyone knows someone who has one.
And that is why Apple is in the best position to create yet another market for itself, in much the same way it created a market for touchscreen phones with the advent of the iPhone. Yes touchscreen phones existed before the iPhone, but it’s also hard to argue that Apple’s product isn’t what drove the market to the healthy and competitive space that touchscreen phones are in today.
Apple has broad-reaching brand awareness across the tech-consumer landscape, as opposed to Sony’s dedicated, but much smaller fanbase in the gaming industry. If the rumours are true and Apple does release a new Apple TV with its own App Store, some onboard storage and a physical controller, then everyone on planet Earth who owns an iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac or MacBook will be made aware of it by Apple, and many of them will buy one.
People didn’t buy the iPhone originally for gaming, but it does gaming exceptionally well. It’s that broad, pre-existing Apple fanbase who will take the next stepping stone in the tech giant’s list of products and purchase the Apple TV - probably with the intention of consuming media. If the design gurus led by Jony Ive put the same amount of care and attention to detail into it as they have all of Apple’s other products, then no doubt purchasers will soon discover that Apple TV also does gaming exceptionally well.
And as with the iPhone, those people will talk and word will spread. Microconsoles might be about to become an industry after all. If the Apple TV succeeds in gaming, then competition will surely follow, meaning success for Apple would be a good thing for the previously mentioned Amazon, Ouya and PlayStation TV, as they’d now have a space within which to compete rather than having to create one.
We at Grab It look forward to playing and reviewing games on yet another platform, and if these years of persistent rumours finally bare fruit we may be doing it sooner rather than later. Bring on September 9.
Hey Siri, give us a hint.
Writer: Garry Balogh
If you are wondering who we are, we're primarily a digital magazine for the iPad focused on the coverage of indie video games. Run by the former editor of Game Informer, you'll find worldwide exclusives, but also an interactive media experience unlike any you have seen before. If you have an iPad, you should check out the free sample issue at the very least, or enjoy one of our other episodes as listed below. There is also a trailer below.
Comcept's track record is pretty woeful: is ReCore doomed to be its strike three?
ReCore for the Xbox One was definitely one of the more interesting titles announced at E3 this year. Its debut trailer teased a harsh post-apocalyptic wasteland in which the female protagonist fought a horde of mechanical monstrosities in order to salvage the eponymous glowing "cores" that presumably serve as some form of currency. With the ability to use her own core to animate first a robotic canine, then a hulking bipedal robot, potential is rich for innovative gameplay mechanics involving shape-shifting companions. Of course, since the trailer is all pre-rendered and no concrete details about the game have yet been released, this is all speculation. Still, ReCore had me excited.
That's all changed in recent weeks. The interest I had in the game has been annihilated thanks to the storm clouds looming over Comcept, one of the two studios helming ReCore. From the six-month delay of Mighty No. 9 to the shady dealings of its failed Red Ash Kickstarter, everything Comcept touches seems to be falling to pieces around it. As someone who doesn't have a connection to the Mega Man franchise to which these games pay homage, I consider myself lucky that I don't have to watch as an icon of my childhood is dragged through the mud.
But with ReCore, Comcept's withering touch is no longer limited to the past. A new IP and fresh ideas - two things the games industry is always in desperate need of - are at risk of being wasted on a studio that has shown only disrespect for the people supporting it. If Comcept approaches ReCore the same way it has Mighty No. 9, where the current art style is decidedly different to the one originally pitched, what will happen to Recore's bright potential? Comcept has already shown repeatedly that it can't deliver on its promises; what reason do we have to think this time will be any different?
There's only one saving grace for ReCore: co-developer Armature Studio. Staffed with ex-Retro employees responsible for the fantastic Metroid Prime series, the studio has just as much pedigree as Keiji Inafune's Comcept, but it also has the record to back it up. From Borderlands: The Handsome Collection to the Vita version of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Armature has proven itself in recent memory - even if mostly through ports.
Its sole original production, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, received mostly positive reviews, with disappointment only really emerging from comparisons to the high standard established by the other Arkham titles. As a 2.5D twist on the Arkham formula that drew a lot of inspiration from Metroid and Castlevania, I thoroughly enjoyed the game; especially the way it translated mechanics like takedowns and detective vision from its 3D brethren to a 2D plane. Thus, I'm prepared to pay attention to anything Armature is involved in.
As talented as Armature is, though, is it capable of protecting ReCore from Comcept's corruption? It's tough to tell. We know nothing about the division of labour between the two studios. Perhaps if Comcept is only responsible for coming up with ideas, while Armature takes care of actually delivering them, it might be possible for ReCore to fulfil the potential promised in its trailer. On the other hand, if Comcept is in charge of bringing the game to life, chances are the ReCore we eventually get in our hands will be a very different beast to the one we have been teased with.
To me, the Comcept name is a curse. ReCore is under its affliction, and I'm not confident it will escape unscathed. My fingers are crossed, but so too are my arms. Until it proves otherwise, Comcept will be a studio I avoid like the plague.