Gaming Headlines April 4th – April 10th

I saw the Super Mario Bros movie this weekend. I took my two nieces in, got some popcorn and settled in for a gloriously fun time that was pretty much everything I wanted from a Mario movie. It’s a fun, bright movie that doesn’t exactly challenge the best of the animated flicks like the recent Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, but it’s solid and has a clear love and admiration for both Mario and his fans.

I’ll be writing up a review for it soon. For now, though, I’d recommend grabbing a ticket to see this one, especially if you’re a big Mario fan or you have kids – they’ll love it, and you’ll get a few good laughs out of it.

Speaking of stuff I’ll be reviewing, I’ve been playing Moviehouse, a little indie game where you take control of a movie studio and start pumping out films while hiring new writers and directors. A spoiler for my own review: it’s a bit pants, to be honest.

Now let’s jump into the news.

  1. Is Sony Making a New Handheld Console?
  2. Gamer Writer & Designer Chris Avellone Wins Libel Case After Being Accused of Being a “Sexual Predator”
  3. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor File Size Is Insane
  4. Creative lead Joseph Staten leaves Microsoft
  5. Resident Evil 4 Remake has Microtransactions Now
  6. No Alice Sequel and American McGee is Leaving the Industry
  7. God of War: Ragnarock is Even Better After Big New Game+ Update

Is Sony Making a New Handheld Console?

According to a report by the amazing people at Insider-Gaming, Sony are working on a brand new handheld gaming device codenamed the Q Lite.

Sony’s last foray into handheld gaming was the Playstation Vita which launched in Japan toward the end of 2011. Initial sales were slow, though, which resulted in a lot of the big game companies releasing a trickle of games for the system. Sony continued to push out first-party games for the handheld and even launched a slimmed-down version of the Vita, albeit replacing the OLED screen with a cheaper LCD, but it was obvious that they didn’t see much of a future for the machine. By 2015, Sony had announced it wouldn’t be making any more games for the system.

The Vita didn’t just give up, though: a diehard fanbase had formed and the little handheld became a home for indie titles, Japanese roleplaying games and more. Production of the Vita would finally be ended in 2019, and the storefront was officially closed in 2021.

This news sparked great excitement among those who have been hoping that Sony might consider venturing back into the handheld market, but sadly the news isn’t good on that front. According to the report, the Q Lite is actually intended to be a Remote Play device, streaming games from the Playstation 5. This is a feature Sony has been reminding people exists for the past few weeks, letting them stream their games from their console to their phone, tablet or other devices.

The report goes on to say that the device will feature an 8″ inch screen, adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Basically, it’s a Dual Sense controller with a screen on it.

Rumours have been flying that Sony is gearing up to announce its second phase of Playstation, potentially culminating in some sort of PS5 “Pro” by the end of 2024. This streaming handheld is planned to launch before that, according to Insider-Gaming.

Like a lot of people, I was initially very excited about the prospect of Sony stepping into the handheld ring again and competing with the likes of Nintendo, the Steam Deck, mobile gaming and even the upcoming ROG Ally. But that’s not the reality. Instead, the Q Lite seems, in my opinion, to be a fairly pointless product. Remote Play can already be used on phones and tablets, and numerous controller options exist for those devices. Are people really going to want a dedicated device for streaming games from their console? Bearing in mind, the report says the Q Lite can’t stream from the Cloud and thus can’t even be used with some of Sony’s own services.

I don’t know, guys, this one seems redundant unless it’s sold cheap enough.

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Gamer Writer & Designer Chris Avellone Wins Libel Case After Being Accused of Being a “Sexual Predator”

Only the more die-hard among you probably know the name Chris Avellone, but he’s a pretty big deal in the industry having worked on numerous games as a designer and/or writer. Notable titles include Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Icewind Dale and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. It’s an impressive resume.

However, in 2020 his life and career came under attack when Karissa Barrows, and later Kelly Bristol, publicly accused Avellone of sexual assault and of being a “Sexual predator.” These accusations were made on Twitter, something which should perhaps raise immediate suspicions. Surely victims would contact authorities first. Either way, the claims were devastating and it resulted in Avellone being immediately ditched by Techland where he was working on Dying Light 2 at the time.

It took a year for Avellone to break his silence. While it perhaps wasn’t the best move to remain quiet for some long and let the accusations and rumours run rampant, Avellone spent the time amassing evidence and witnesses before finally making a public statement. It was a lengthy blog post in which Avellone laid out his belief that the accusations stemmed from attempting to get some kind of revenge for his rough breakup with a former girlfriend.

To Avellone’s credit, his post was penned with as much respect as he could muster. He pointed out that he didn’t blame any studios for cutting contact with him because in the current cancel climate, any company attempting to defend an employee or refusing to act until guilt is proven will be attacked.

He was less pleased with the press, though:

I should point out that some of the press didn’t reach out to me at all before painting their own lurid interpretation of events with their own embellishments — Sean Murray of The Gamer, in particular. You can read it in his article, and you can see the unedited url that references it to this day.
To be clear, the game press don’t need to check the “facts” — all they need to do is report that someone said something or fall back on the word alleged, and it’s a story. And so they did, and the clicks started rolling in. As soon as the press “report” something like this, however, it carries the same validation as if it was researched and fact checked, which no press publication to my knowledge did. Either they didn’t take the time, or they may not have cared because it’s not really “on them” for the truth. All they have to do is report someone said something, which is technically the truth, but it’s far from the reality of what actually occurred.

Chris Avellone, 2022

Chris wasn’t just going to let it rest at that, though – he fired back by taking both women to court, suing them for libel. That’s a difficult task in America where libel cases are not typically successful, but Avellone was clearly confident that he had enough evidence to come out the other side a victor.

He was right.

Although the case has taken two years, Karissa Barrows and Kelly Bristol have both signed a joint statement which reads,

Mr. Avellone never sexually abused either of us. We have no knowledge that he has ever sexually abused any women. We have no knowledge that Mr. Avellone has ever misused corporate funds. Anything we have previously said or written about Mr. Avellone to the contrary was not our intent. We wanted to support women in the industry. In so doing, our words have been misinterpreted to suggest specific allegations of misconduct that were neither expressed nor intended. We are passionate about the safety, security and agency of women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ persons, and every other community that has seen persecution in the video game industry. We believe Mr. Avellone shares a desire to protect and uplift those communities. We believe that he deserves a full return to the industry and support him in those endeavors.”

It’s as substantial a win as Chris Avellone could ever hope to get in a court of law, essentially clearing his name. The statement itself is a tad cowardly, in my opinion, as it attempts to argue that Barrows and Bristol’s words were “misinterpreted” and that they wanted to “support women in the industry.” Their words were very clear and could not be misinterpreted, nor did they appear to be supporting anyone in the industry since Avellone never worked alongside them.

On top of this public statement, the court ruled for a confidential seven-figure payment to Avellone.

Avellone’s case is a stark reminder to us all that everyone deserves the chance to defend themselves, and that the court of public opinion is capable of destroying careers and ending lives. Accusations are just that, and while they should be taken seriously they should not be used as proof of guilt. Avellone was privileged in the sense that he had the means to battle both women in court, but sadly many people do not have the funds to spend on lawyers and must simply live with the accusations hanging over their heads.

Quite honestly, I think Barrows and Bristol have got enough lightly considering the severity of their words.

As for Avellone, I hope he can get back to living his life now.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor File Size Is Insane

EA and Respawn have put out the hardware requirements for the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, a game which I’m very hyped for. Generally speaking, the requirements are quite reasonable for a triple-A title, so hopefully most people intending to play on PC will be able to get a good experience.

However, there is one glaring requirement: a whopping 155GB of hard-drive space. By comparison, the previous game, Stars Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, asked for 55GB. Now, the download won’t actually be the size one you take into account file compression, something which the PS5 is very good at, but you might still want to give your storage a cleanout.

STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor PC Minimum System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • RAM: 8Gb
  • CPU Features: 4 core / 8 threads
  • CPU AMD: Ryzen 5 1400
  • GPU AMD: Radeon RX 580
  • GPU Features: DX12, 8Gb VRAM
  • Storage: 155Gb
  • CPU alternate: Intel Core i7-7700
  • GPU alternate: Nvidia GTX 1070

STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor PC Recommended System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • RAM: 16Gb
  • CPU Features: 4 core / 8 threads
  • CPU AMD: Ryzen 5 5600X
  • GPU AMD: RX 6700 XT
  • GPU Features: DX12, 8Gb VRAM
  • Storage: 155Gb SSD
  • CPU alternate: Intel Core i5 11600K
  • GPU alternate: Nvidia RTX2070

Creative lead Joseph Staten leaves Microsoft

Joseph Staten is leaving Microsoft. “Hey folks, I am indeed leaving Microsoft,” Staten said. “I’ll have more info to share soon, but for now, I’d just like to thank all my @Xbox colleagues for all their understanding and support as I embark on a new adventure.”

Staten is a pretty big name in the industry having worked on the first three Halo games. Staten left Bungie in 2014 while the first Destiny was being developed and signed on with Microsoft as a senior creative director where he worked on numerous titles, lending his vast experience to the company.

And then in 2020, Staten ended up working on Halo once again after the rather rough gameplay debut of Halo Infinite. He initially stepped into 343 as a campaign project lead, but it didn’t take long before he was announced as head of creative for the entire game. At the time, people were concerned that this meant Halo Infinite was in rough shape and Staten was being brought in to get it across the finish line. Sadly, the incredibly promising multiplayer has soured with fans left unhappy at the slow trickle of maps, modes and more, all indicating a studio that isn’t sure how to handle a live-service experience.

Having overseen the launch of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer and its single-player campaign, Staten announced in January of this year that he was returning to Microsoft. In the intervening months, though, something has clearly changed.

People join and leave companies all the time and there doesn’t seem to be anything nefarious behind Staten’s decision. He probably just thinks it’s time to move on, and his Tweet appears to indicate that he already has plans. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to.

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Resident Evil 4 Remake has Microtransactions Now

The Resident Evil 4 Remake has been kicking ass and taking names, pleasing both fans and critics alike. Over on Opencritic, it’s sitting at a Mighty 94 rating, making it the second highest-rated game of 2023 so far, beaten only by Metroid Prime: Remastered, and Capcom has announced it has sold 4 million copies.

So, how does Capcom celebrate this huge success? By adding Microtransactions to the game, of course. Oh. Well…fuck.

Launched alongside the free Mercenaries DLC are ‘Exclusive Upgrade Tickets’ that each cost £2.49. Each ticket can be redeemed at the Merchant to instantly unlock a weapon’s exclusive upgrade, and to make the upgrade itself free. This will apply across all of your saved data.

In other words, it’s a shortcut to skip having to level the weapons up and unlock the upgrade normally. To buy everything will set you back around £26.

Capcom never indicated plans for Microtransactions prior to them appearing. It might be surprising to Capcom, but fans are not very happy with this change, even if they are optional. This is fairly standard for Capcom, mind you: Devil May Cry 5 has a similar system, as does prior Resident Evil games.

The issues I have with this practice are many. First, it degrades trust been players and developers because now there’s always the question of whether the developer might deliberately make levelling up weapons a little more grindy to push people toward buying a ticket. And second, they clearly wanted to keep the Microtransactions away from the initial reviews before sneaking them a few weeks after launch. It reminds me heavily of Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled where Microtransactions were put into the game after the review cycle.

No Alice Sequel and American McGee is Leaving the Industry

American McGee (yes, that’s his name) has been trying to get a sequel to his 2001 and 2011 games for nigh on 6 years now. American McGee’s Alice and the follow up, Alice: Madness Returns built themselves a cult following for how weirdly dark they were, presenting a gothic take on the classic Alice in Wonderland tale. Both are absolutely worth playing, especially Alice: Madness Returns which I featured in my Best of Xbox Game Pass series.

In a bid to persuade EA to let him make another one, McGee put together a chunky design bible for his vision of what a third game would be, along with a development plan and budget. He presented all of this to EA and after a week received a reply which did not contain good news.

On the question of funding, they have ultimately decided to pass on the project based on an internal analysis of the IP, market conditions, and details of the production proposal. On the question of licensing, they replied that “Alice” is an important part of EA’s overall game catalog, and selling or licensing it isn’t something they’re prepared to do right now.

American McGee’s Patreon

As a result, American McGee has put the Patreon page into hibernation and officially cancelled his Alice: Asylum project. But the bad news continues as McGee also revealed that he is leaving game development for the foreseeable future.

For my part, I have also reached an endpoint with “Alice” and with game production in general. I have no other ideas or energy left to apply toward getting a new Alice game made. Nor do I have any interest in pursuing new game ideas within the context of the current environment for game development.

He goes on to remind people that EA has complete control over the license, but even if they do eventually want to do something with the Alice series, McGee wants no part of it. It’s a disheartening end to a long and varied career in video games.

It’s also just sad to see a series with so many cool ideas and potential languishing in EA’s catalogue, likely to never see the light of day again.

However, McGee’s Patreon was a very weird project. People were funnelling money to McGee to help persuade EA that a game was viable and while plenty of that money was used to produce artwork and bring in help, selling tiers based on the idea of including people’s credits in a game McGee could never make with EA’s permission is more than a little iffy.

As for Ea, it is somewhat understandable they would refuse the project as McGee’s output over the years has slowed to a trickle, and his games don’t tend to sell big numbers. But EA could have given him permission to use the license and fund the development through Kickstarter, minimising any risk to them and keeping the IP alive.

It’s worth noting that Alice in Wonderland is actually in the public name, so anyone can write stories and make games in its world – they just have to make sure it looks distinctive from EA’s games. That means McGee could make a new Alice game but it couldn’t be a true sequel.

God of War: Ragnarock is Even Better After Big New Game+ Update

God of War: Ragnarok is already one of the best Playstation games around, an epic saga that has sold millions upon millions of copies. It’s pretty good, in other words, so I’m pleased to report that the whole thing has somehow become even better following a big update.

The headline feature is New Game+, letting you fire up the game again with all your skills, armour and weapons intact for another run at Odin and his pals. If you do, you’ll instantly get the Armor of the Black Bear shown in the game’s very first cutscene. Sweet. A new level cap also lets you upgrade gear even further, and if you beat Gna again you’ll get the Zeus armour as a reward. Plus, there are a few other new pieces of armour and shields to find.

Now to the juicy stuff for people seeking a challenge. The new Spartan armour is available from the start and is locked at power level 1 with no upgrade options, making it perfect for those who want to dedicate their lives to mastering the combat systems.

Then there are the new Burden enchantments which apply negative modifiers, like slowing you down after you dodge.

I do think this has all come a little late, though. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t touched the game for months and the idea of trying to jump back into a harder challenge now isn’t hugely appealing. New Game+ probably should have been there at launch, too. I can’t imagine a lot of people are going to fire up Ragnarock again this long after it came out, but for anyone who hasn’t played it yetk this update makes an already substantial and incredible game even better.

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