A pirate’s life is hard, but a pirate’s resurrection was about to be a lot harder until Rare halted plans to charge gold for respawning.

Planned as part of their very first update, Rare positioned the death cost as such:

Coming soon: Death Cost – A trip to Davey Jones’ Locker is going to start costing you gold. The way that you meet your demise will affect how much gold you will have to pay (so dying from a Kraken will most likely cost less than if you were starring at a map and walked off a cliff). Rare does not intend for this gold fee to be applied to any PVP related deaths. 

Fans were not happy about this change. Arguments ranged from it being an arbitrary change after players were used to the way the game played, to this not being conducive to exploration, to it exasperating a grinding process that already felt too long and tedious. It seems Rare has listened to the complaints and cancelled plans for a death cost.

Joe Neate, the executive producer on Sea of Thieves, confirmed on Twitter today.

“Letting everyone know we’ve heard the feedback and the proposed ‘Death Cost’ in  is, well, dead. We messed up with the messaging around this, and it’s now gone. Thanks for the honest feedback & discussion on this.”

So that’s that, pirates can explore away without fear of a poor meeting with a shark costing them their next cosmetic retail therapy. You can read our review of Sea of Thieves right here.

 

Our Take
While I understood the desire to provide a risk-reward system for the game, that should have been in since before the betas and not just hoisted on players later. It was also pretty bad messaging to release a fairly thin game and outline this as one of the very first updates they were focusing on. That said, it’s good they’re dropping the idea.

Hollywood Reporter has gotten details on the third season of Stranger Things and, of course, Steve’s newfound role as protector of children.

Details come from a panel from the Dolby Theater with the cast and creatives, talking about where the show and characters go in a third year. The new season takes place one year after season two, with a lot of the character relationships from the season finale. The school dance at the end of season two sets the tone for the third season, for as much as that matters with young characters.

As for Dad Steve, Joe Keery’s character who has found renewed purpose in taking the Stranger Things kids under his wing? They’re not letting go of that.

“We’ll definitely get to see some more of Steve Harrington in season three, and I’ll just say we won’t be abandoning the Dad Steve magic,” executive producer Shawn Levy said. “I don’t want to say much more, but I literally feel that we were walking along and we stumbled onto a gold mine with Dad Steve.”

A release date for Stranger Things season 3 has not been announced yet, but it will be going into production next month. Season 3 was signed before season 2 released.

[Source: Hollywood Reporter]

Fortnite and its immensely popular battle royale mode have now set a record for most videos uploaded in a single month throughout the entire history of Youtube.

The news came from the Twitter account of Ryan Wyatt, the head of Youtube Gaming.

“How big is on YouTube?” Wyatt tweeted. “Fortnite holds the record for the most videos related to a video game uploaded in a single month EVER. Yesterday, the Battle Royale tournament had over 42M live views, and set a record for biggest single live gaming stream @ 1.1M concurrent.”

In terms of viewership, Fortnite continues to do extremely well with audiences looking to watch streams and videos, mimicking the Minecraft’s rise in popularity on Youtube. Having already set records on Twitch and Youtube, it makes one wonder what could end up unseating it.

 

Our Take
Making sure your game is entertaining to watch is now just as important as making sure it’s fun to play in terms of marketing it to a wider audience. Fortnite seems to be performing expertly at that and it’s helping to propel the game to new heights.

For years, the Soulcalibur series has stood out among fighting titles for being accessible to button mashers but deep enough for dedicated fans of the genre. Soulcalibur is also known for its exciting and surprising crossovers with other gaming franchises in the form of playable guest characters – including wacky backstories on how they were transported to the fighting universe.

From Soulcalibur II to the upcoming sixth entry, here is a rundown on the various special guests and debating how cool they are in the 16th century setting.

Heihachi Mishima in Soulcalibur II on PlayStation 2 (2002)
One day after training with his pet bear, Heihachi Mishima from Tekken passes out after accidentally cutting his finger with a piece of Soul Edge, an evil blade with powers that can possibly corrupt anyone upon contact. That slice somehow sends Heihachi on a trip back to the 16th century. Using his Mishima-style fighting karate, Heihachi tests his strength and skills against the Soulcalibur combatants.

    Coolness rating: 1/10
    A guy who punches people in a game about swords because he traveled through time after pricking his finger? Wake us up when it’s over.

      Spawn in Soulcalibur II on Xbox (2002)
      After Lt. Col. Al Simmons dies, he makes a deal with the devil to stay alive on Earth but becomes his servant, Spawn, in return. Spawn is sent back in time to acquire Soul Edge at the devil’s beckoning. He may not bear his silky-smooth crimson cape by default, but that’s because it transforms into an ax for combat.

        Coolness rating: 5/10
        Spawn axes the competition with some slick moves, but the sporadic parts on his costume look goofy. Why is his right shoe thing so much bigger than the left?

          Link in Soulcalibur II on GameCube (2002)
          Link discovers that an evil wizard wreaking havoc on Hyrule was being controlled by a fragment of Soul Edge. The Hero of Time, equipped with his iconic weapons including the Master Sword, bombs, and arrows, embarks on a secret quest into the Soulcalibur universe to prevent Soul Edge’s resurrection. Unfortunately, Link couldn’t make the journey to Soulcalibur II Online HD, unlike Heihachi and Spawn.

          Coolness rating: 8/10
          We’re not sure if Link is overpowered because of his arsenal or he’s just that skilled, but he’s nonetheless fun for anyone to use.

            KOS-MOS in Soulcalibur III (2005)
            KOS-MOS, a combat droid from the Xenosaga series, may not have her own moveset or backstory of how she came upon the Soulcali-verse, but she has the distinction of being the first guest fighter that’s purely cosmetic. Players can fight as her by acquiring the Type X parts.

            Coolness rating: 6/10
            KOS-MOS’ presence is a unique way to bring in a guest character, but we would have liked to see her gatling guns blow away the competition.

            Lloyd Irving in Soulcalibur Legends on Wii (2007)
            Bearing two rapiers and spinning attacks, Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia leaves his homeworld, Aselia, to seek out Soul Edge because he believes the sword is an Exsphere, an object that enhances the user’s abilities. Lloyd assists the Soulcalibur heroes in their quest to find pieces of Soul Edge.

            Coolness rating: 3/10
            If only Lloyd had traveled to the right game instead of the right time. Soulcalibur Legends is a messy, motion-controlled spin-off on Wii.

            Watch our Replay of Legends here.

            Yoda in Soulcalibur IV on Xbox 360 (2008)
            While in hiding on Dagobah, Jedi master Yoda senses a universe-wide shockwave caused by a being named Algol opening a portal to their universe. Knowing the Empire seeks to obtain the powers of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur at the core of the portal, Yoda sets out via space pod to quash the distortion with his green lightsaber and Ataru combat style, which focuses heavily on jumping attacks.

            Coolness rating: 7/10
            You would have to be a Jedi to foresee the wonderfully random surprise of force users in a Soulcalibur game. However, Yoda’s small stature make him the Oddjob of the series and annoying to fight.

              Darth Vader in Soulcalibur IV on PlayStation 3 (2008)
              In the midst of a battle between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, Sith lord Darth Vader senses the same shockwave as Yoda, as well as the Soul Edge and Soul Calibur at the portal’s core. To reach this power, Darth Vader mows down his competitors with slow but powerful attacks and his signature dark-side abilities like Force choking.

              Coolness rating: 10/10
              It’s Darth-freakin’ Vader and he doesn’t comically scream “Nnnnooooooo!” Enough said.

                The Apprentice in Soulcalibur IV (2008)
                The Apprentice, aka Starkiller and Darth Vader’s pupil, is tasked by his master to investigate what surge of power is causing a disturbance in the Force. The Apprentice might be trained under Vader, but Starkiller separates himself from his master with his Sith Shien style that efficiently combines Force blasts with swift lightsaber strikes.

                Coolness rating: 7/10
                The way the Apprentice holds his lightsaber may not look practical, but he can efficiently use it in tow with his Force abilities.

                Angol Fear in Soulcalibur IV (2008)
                Angol Fear from Sgt. Frog appeared in this game before her debut in the manga. Fear is sent to investigate Earth and judge if it should be destroyed, making her cross paths with the Soulcalibur crew. She uniquely retains her anime art style aesthetic and uses Seong Mi-Na’s fighting moves, albeit with her Lucifer Spear Black instead of a naginata.

                Coolness rating: 6/10
                The way they tie Sgt. Frog to Soulcalibur actually makes sense in a weird manner, but Fear is merely a Seong Mi-Na skin.

                  Kratos in Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny on PlayStation Portable (2009)
                  Seeking revenge on a religious cult, a man summons Kratos, the god of war, to his dimension using a shard of Soul Edge. Instead of helping the man, Kratos kills him and sets out to use the powers of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur to send himself back to where he belongs. In this PSP title, Kratos battles with his extensive Greek mythological weaponry and rage.

                  Coolness rating: 7/10 
                  Angry Kratos? Check. Sweet skillset? Check. Over-powered because of his range with chain blades? Check.

                  Check out our Broken Destiny review here.

                  Ezio Auditore in Soulcalibur V (2012)
                  On his way to fight Cesare Borgia from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherood, Ezio Auditore discovers an artifact being held in a chest by the Templars. After stealing the chest, Ezio opens it and is suddenly transported to the end of the 16th century, becoming entangled in the conflicts between Soul Edge and Soul Calibur. With his assassin arsenal from hidden blades to crossbow, Ezio fights his way back in time.

                  Coolness rating: 9/10
                  Signore Auditore’s attire and combat experience fits right in with the roster. After all, blending in is what he’s best at.

                  Read our Soulcalibur V review here.

                  Devil Jin in Soulcalibur V (2012)
                  Like KOS-MOS, Tekken’s Devil Jin has no backstory chronicling how he ends up in Soulcalibur universe and is unlocked through character creation parts. Unlike KOS-MOS, however, Devil has his own fighting style via “tempered fists” in which he doesn’t utilize a weapon.

                  Coolness rating: 3/10
                  So he’s Heihachi with wings, horns, and laser eyes? We suppose that’s a little better.

                  Harada Tekken in Soulcalibur V (2012)
                  Namco Bandai producer Harada Katsuhiro appears as a bonus character in Soulcalibur and has the same moveset at Devil Jin. There are no details on how he ended up in the 16th century.

                  Coolness rating: 2/10
                  It’s always fun seeing developers in games, but Harada is basically a Walmart-brand Heihachi.

                  Geralt in Soulcalibur VI (2018)
                  Nothing is currently known about how Geralt of Rivia ends up clashing with the Soulcalibur cast, but it’s safe to assume time- or dimension-traveling is involved based on how other guest characters have appeared. The White Wolf’s reveal trailer shows him using his trademark blend of swordplay with offensive and defensive spells.

                  Coolness rating: 12/10
                  We’re satisfied as long as Geralt rides in nude on a unicorn before each bout.


                    Characters originally planned but scrapped
                    Dante from Devil May Cry along with Bayonetta were originally planned to be Soulcalibur III and V, respectively. Capcom supposedly borrowed the Soulcalibur II engine for a Devil May Cry 3 boss fight. In return, Namco wanted Dante in Soulcalibur III to “appease” fans, but his appearance was canned for unknown reasons. Bayonetta, on the other hand, simply didn’t make the cut because her hair attacks were too difficult to animate.

                     

                    With all of these amazing crossovers, we can’t help but highly anticipated who else might make the long journey to Soulcalibur VI when it releases sometime this year. Until then, check out our New Gameplay Today episode with 10 minutes of Soulcalibur VI footage, Ivy and Zasalemel duking it out, and new and old faces meeting in this trailer.

                    MLB The Show 18 comes out tomorrow on PS4, but it’s been playable since Friday of last week if you pre-ordered the title. Reiner is currently reviewing the game, and that will be on the site as soon as he’s done. In the meantime, I chatted with him to get his first impressions.

                    —————————————————————————————————————————–

                    Kato: So another year for MLB, and … more online problems. As of this afternoon, people are losing their progress after they finish games, purchases are being lost – it’s another mess!

                    Reiner: The original idea for this week’s Sports Desk was to give a video tour of MLB 18 The Show. Seconds after we booted up our game for this video, Sony took the servers down. We could have shown off Road to the Show and Franchise mode, but none of the online content (including everything tucked into Diamond Dynasty) can be viewed. They say they are conducting “server maintenance” right now, but the problems people have logged at Reddit speak to a much larger issue [Ed. – The game was back online after this article was written.].

                    K: Developer San Diego Studio said that it was working on this year’s online tech to prevent this stuff from happening, but at least for those of you who pre-ordered the title and have been playing it up to this point are experiencing the same problems as previous years. I don’t even want to think about what the game might be like when it comes out for the general public tomorrow…

                    R: I hope today’s update is a safeguard for that, but I question Sony conducting server maintenance midday. People lost progress. I hope all of my cards and victories are logged. I’d hate to take on the Yankees again, which is one of the missions I need to complete to get a pack of cards.

                    K: Moving on to more iffy news – MLB 18 has dropped both the Season and Online Franchise modes this year. Is that a negative for you?

                    R: I didn’t spend much time in either of those modes. I understand why Sony dropped Online Franchise. The intent was to create a more stable online experience, and that meant a huge piece of the content needed to be dropped for a year. I do not see any logical reason why Season mode would disappear. Yes, you can play one season in Franchise mode, but it isn’t quite the same thing. People would play Season mode since the number of games could be adjusted.

                    K: So while the world waits for Diamond Dynasty to come back online, you’ve been playing lots of Road to the Show. Which archetype did you choose, and what are your thoughts on how your player is progressing?

                    R:  I’m currently juggling two Road to the Show players. I have a finesse pitcher in the Phillies organization who I modeled after the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks. My other player is your typical power-hitting first baseman. He was drafted by the Rays. The big change to this mode this year is I’m not accumulating experience points to max out abilities at 99. That path is gone. No Road to the Show player can be 99 in everything. That doesn’t mean you won’t get better as you play. Gains are now delivered in small increments while performing well on the field. They are immediately applied to your player (it’s all hands off now). During off days, you can also train to raise your potential in a particular field. It’s a slower process, and one that makes me feel more like a minor league player, but I think I like that I don’t feel out of place after just a handful of games. I’m a true AAer at this point.

                    K: Yeah, I chose the Mr. Reliable type, which can play a variety of infield positions. I did it not only for that, but because the max caps (which can be further topped through equipment) are decent across the board. They aren’t 99 in many areas, but I also didn’t feel like I’d be capped really low, either. So far it feels like I’m making some progress every game, even if I don’t have a great outing. I’ve seen some times when I get positive feedback even when I do something that’s not so great, like getting Contact points when I reach base through an error, but overall the game doles out the points pretty fairly. I’m very curious how it’s going to feel once you start to butt up against the current and max caps.

                    R: I also want to know how long it will take me to reach AAA. I usually get there in a couple of months, and it always felt like my coach was holding me back. I’m not against playing a full season in AA and another in AAA before reaching the show – if that’s the arc they are looking for – but I hope I get the call-up based on my performance, not predetermined points in the season that don’t register my gains.

                    K: That kind of stilted progress was notable in last year’s RTTS mode, and frankly, this year’s mode doesn’t seem that different in how your coaches relate to you and how your actions don’t seem to have a big effect on what goes on in the clubhouse. Did you find that as well?

                    R: I still have to experiment with the “choice” that is implemented into the story moments, but from what I can tell right now, I believe there is a “right” answer that gives your player a bump. Again, I need to check this out more to truly understand how it’s different, but if it is following a similar arc, I could likely hit 80 home runs by summer in AA and not get the call to AAA. I hope that’s not the case.

                    K: Sony has been touting some of the “user-friendly” ways to approach Franchise mode this year. What was your favorite way to use these to play the mode?

                    R: First off, the new menu interface is incredibly slick. Everything you need is right there in front of you. Everything is broken up into what Sony calls “phases,” which allow you to quickly dive into any aspect of the mode, and also keep them in order, such as the tasks required in each. You also don’t have to jump into the options to turn a system from manual to auto. Just tap the Square button on managerial category and you’ll see it switch to the preference you want. My first time through Franchise mode was strictly a simulation, but I quickly found myself engaged by the situations that would arise during the sim – such as being asked if I wanted to take a few hacks in the bottom of the ninth to try to win a game or see if I could hit a milestone with a player. This is nothing new for the series, per se, but the way it’s presented this year is great. The speed from Franchise dash to game is also faster. We’ll have to see how the trade logic and all of that is, but I’m digging the balance of managing and playing in Franchise. You can even play a game in Retro mode if you want, which may throw off your stats a bit, but is a nice diversion from time to time.

                    K: Despite the problems the game is currently having with online, from what I’ve played this past weekend – including some online matches – I’ve been impressed with the gameplay in general. I’ve had a couple problems making catches at the wall, but other than that, the fielding has been smooth and the animations I’ve seen were what I expected from my players in that situation.

                    R: Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Sony has done a phenomenal job of building upon the gameplay base each year, and this season’s game is no exception. The fielding is tighter. Ball physics hold even more realism. New camera angles and TV presentations frame this great play in different ways. It’s a hell of a game. It may not do much “new” on the field, but it really doesn’t have to. I was blown away when Aaron Judge checked his swing, but still made contact. It was one of those awkward moments that happens in real games, and it was captured beautifully here. It’s something most people will likely never see, but that’s how far along Sony is in building upon its base. The little touches are everywhere, and they go a long way to making this game better.

                    K: I’m a more casual player at this point, and one of the gameplay aspects I really like is the new swing feedback meter. I think it really gives a better sense of exactly what “early” or “late” means in the context of your last swing, what the pitch was, and where it was on the plate. I know Sony tweaked the PCI, and so far, some people are having a harder time batting and getting the hits they may expect, but in general I’d say that all sports games seem to take a little time getting used to from year to year even if you’re a hardcore player.

                    R: Balancing player tendencies is a difficult thing. Some people go up there swinging at everything. Others look for their pitch. I think the game caters to both crowds, but you need to tweak the game sliders and settings to find the sweet spot. You don’t necessarily have that luxury in Diamond Dynasty’s various modes. Everything is set to predetermined difficulties and parameters. I’ll likely spend most of my time online this year, trying to unlock legends for my team (the Burnsville Bats).

                    K: Well, I know you have lots more to get to before your review is done, so I’ll leave you to it, and hopefully the wider launch of the game goes off without a hitch. Fingers extra crossed….

                    R: Maybe the early release for people who pre-ordered isn’t the best idea. Figure out your damn stability before getting it into people’s hands. One last gripe: What in the hell is up with hats and jerseys in the packs of cards? What am I supposed to do with a Baltimore Orioles hat? Seriously….

                    K: Well, you can’t wear them even if you’d wanted to. Looks like you’ll have to funnel them all into your programs and/or hit the marketplace…

                     

                    Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below. 
                    Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato

                     

                    THE TICKER 
                    A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week 

                    Check Out Reiner Playing R.B.I. Baseball 18 

                    Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 Delayed 

                    New Live Activities Announced For Steep 

                    MX vs. ATV All Out Multiplayer Trailer 
                    The game comes out tomorrow, March 27, but you can play now if you’ve pre-ordered the title.

                    Gravel Announces Ice And Fire DLC 

                    After a 30 year hiatus, a new Bard’s Tale game is finally ready to grace the RPG world with its self-deprecating sense of humor and a new approach to combat that channels the turn-based strategy of digital card games. 

                    Taking place 100 years after the events of the 1988 release Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate, the fourth installment in the series wisely modernizes its approach to make it a natural jumping off point for the generations who didn’t have to make boot discs to play the original games on DOS. The game preserves the series basics like dungeon crawling, party management, turn-based combat, puzzle solving, and exploration, but its modernized combat feels more aligned with Hearthstone and Elder Scrolls Legends than any other RPG game. 

                    I got to go hands-on with a segment of the game about a quarter of the way through the 25-30 hour game. My party is on a quest to destroy a wraith that has dethroned the king and restore rule to the land. 

                    While in exploration mode, you see the world through a first-person view and can freely move about to interact with the environment and characters around you. I approach a gate that requires us to solve a simple gear puzzle to move beyond the door. As I move into the next room, I stumble upon a circle of mages performing an arcane ritual on a man suspended in the air above them. Before I tap these guys on the back and initiate a fight, I click the right analog stick to check out my party. I’ve got a fighter named Dogleash, who can taunt to draw enemies forward on the battle grid or heal his fellow fighters with a potion; a magic practitioner who can conjure up spell points for a turn to unleash a massive attack; and a bard, an all-around fighter who can add force multipliers by drinking various magic elixirs with unique properties. If bards stack too many drinks they can eventually pass out and miss a turn, so you need to watch their intake.

                    The robed ritual participants eventually notice me and the action transitions into the battle grid. Turns are based on the opportunity rating for your party. At this point in the game, the party has four opportunity points to spend for each round, though this number will grow over time as they become more powerful and battles become more complicated. Character position is key on this grid system – those lined up in the frontlines are more vulnerable to attack, while those in the back will have to swap places with others if they want to land a critical melee blow. Over the course of battle, you may need to reposition characters horizontally as well to maximize your attacks. 

                    (Please visit the site to view this media)

                    Battles unfold like a DCG puzzle; trying to maximize your offensive opportunities, discover party synergies, and move across the battle grid without opening your more vulnerable glass cannons to attack. After I vanquish the baddies we save the hapless bloke being subjected to the ritual. Arthur, who has a dagger lodged in his eye, quips, “Can you believe this? The idiots didn’t even kill me properly.” We pull the dagger out of his face, putting him out of his misery, and inspect the weapon. 

                    Similar to some of the devices you manipulate in games like The Room, these puzzle weapons offer some small challenges for unlocking their true potential. You can rotate and inspect the weapon, then properly align the markings. I properly align the Elvin script, which gives me a riddle to solve. If I chose the answer incorrectly the weapon will be cursed. I guess right and am rewarded with a boon; it’s now an acidic weapon that can remove armor from enemies. 

                    All of the abilities your characters have during battle come from the weapons you equip, giving the inventory a sort of deck-building quality. Making sure you find complementary weapons and armor for your party members can spell the difference between unlocking your true potential or failing the task at hand. 

                    After equipping my new acid blade I venture forth into the temple. Before heading up the stairs in front of me I walk around the perimeter and spot a strange-looking stone wall. As you explore the world, you find songs of exploration that can help you maximize your experience in any given dungeon. You can raise the dead and interrogate them for clues, banish illusions to find magic loot, or you can do it the old-fashioned way and destroy weak stone structures with a magical hammer. We find one such vulnerable wall and smash it to cinders. I see a few enemies up ahead (there are no randomized battles – you always know what’s coming and can try to avoid them if you want) but before engaging, I go into my inventory to eat some food. Rather than force you to heal your entire party one at a time, ingesting a meal automatically heals everyone in the party. 

                    The next battle requires me to rend armor and do mental damage to vanquish the new enemies, revealing another level of strategy you need to be cognizant of when fighting harder enemies. One of the baddies starts conjuring a spell that I know will do massive damage if he makes it to the next round, so I concentrate my attacks on him to remove the threat from the equation. 

                    I came away from Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep intrigued by its unique mixture of lane-based combat and exploration. The user interface is a little rough around the edges and could use a revision to make the movement options more legible, but the shortcomings I experienced hardly spell doom for a game that’s still in the alpha phase of development. 

                    The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep is scheduled to release on PC later this year. Inxile Entertainment says it’s still looking into consoles but doesn’t have anything to announce at this time.

                    Iconoclasts is a surprisingly dark game with a mature story, especially considering its nostalgic art style. It caught me by surprise in a great way so we decided to speak with its developer, composer, artist, writer – everything – Joakim Sandberg, about the game’s prolonged development, surprisingly dark story, religious themes, and much more. We go deep into late-game spoilers, so fair warning if you haven’t played the game yet!

                    How long has Iconoclasts been in development?

                    I started on a project called Ivory Springs in 2007 that the game is sort of based on, but the actual project started properly in 2010. With some losses of motivation, the project went off the rails along the way. It has basically been eight years of doing that and not expecting it to take so long. It becomes your life for a long time.

                    Is the game you imagined when you first started a lot different than what this final game is?

                    For Iconoclasts, it’s not super different. It was always going to have more darker characters, but it is darker than what I first intended. Ivory Springs was going to be a comedy thing because I was younger.

                    It started as more comedic, but was it still the same characters? The same world?

                    Ivory Springs started pretty much in the same way. It’s the same up until the village, destruction of the house, and escape. I recreated that for Iconoclasts but tried to be a little more serious with the events inside that house, sort of setting up that this might go somewhere that is different from your first impression of the game.

                    It’s a very colorful game at first glance, but it was in the brother’s house I realized I was in the middle of two parents arguing about my being there and it was clear I was playing something much darker than I expected. What was the original game going to look like if it was more comedic? Did you still have an eye towards examining religion, or was it very much just a Metroid-inspired platformer?

                    Ivory Springs was something completely different and then several years passed and I started Iconoclasts, and it was always going to have these sort of themes. It was a very organic development of the story. I had notes and established the main characters and a bunch of the other people. As they reach these different set pieces, I imagine are necessary, they sort of act according to what I feel would make sense and I connected the story based on that.

                    I have lots of questions about the story and lore, but I wanted to ask you about some of the influences. Obviously, Metroid is a big one. Would you consider Drill Dozer a game that influenced its development at all?

                    No, but I can see why you’d think that. It has some of that attitude. I think I heard somebody say that before, but mostly people say Mega Man.

                    I definitely felt some Mega Man in there. It was the way you used the wrench to interact with the world really reminded me of Drill Dozer.

                    It’s been ages since I’ve played Drill Dozer.

                    I’m actually kind of surprised, because if you remember, the game is about a girl taking over her father’s role as a person who works on machines. So I was like “Oh man, he must be a big Drill Dozer fan! Like me!” I guess that’s not really the case.

                    No, I don’t think I beat it. I should try it again. I remember you level up your drill across every stage, stuff like that. I feel like it reminded me of the same sort of design attitude of a Wario Land game in a way. That’s what inspired the tutorial.

                    That is a specific line you can draw? With the signs showing you what to do, as opposed to telling you what to do?

                    Absolutely no one read the signs I used to have. People don’t want to read. Now they pop up and you have to see them.

                    That’s true, people don’t like to read, and I’m one of them. There is a lot of lore in the game. Did you just find that as people got more invested, they were more interested in digging deeper into the world?

                    Yeah, I guess I sort of went with less detail without being too shallow with the story and let people skip what they wanted to. The story, to me, is a personal indulgence more than anything. The whole game is, of course, because I sat and worked on this all the time. But I felt if I could tell a decent enough story, people would want to read all of those.

                    It’s interesting that you say the story a personal indulgence. What do you mean by that?

                    I just wanted to tell a story. I don’t know, really. It’s just something that I did entirely for myself, not really considering other people’s reactions other than having some personal reservations. I used to consider having swears, but I decided an audience that plays this kind of game would probably think that looks stupid and try-hard. Other than that, I just wanted to tell a story about characters that you sympathize with, without them really learning anything. A lot of people in this world don’t actually develop and just keep going in their lanes. That’s why it sort of goes darker. It doesn’t go to that “everybody’s friends in the end” way.

                    I want to talk about the ending specifically, in a broad way. It’s not a happy ending, but it is conclusive. Not everyone is in a great spot. Was that important to you?

                    Yeah, that’s just how I feel things would play out. Maybe I’m just a cynic. A lot of people appreciate games that cheer them up because the world is kind of s****y. But this is the kind of story I write. When I finish the story, I have to consider what’s going to happen next to these characters, thinking about how sad this and that was or what they could’ve done different instead of thinking about, “Oh, that was nice, everyone was happy and it’s over.” I want to ruminate on characters.

                    On that topic, are there alternate endings and story paths? I’ve seen people online trying figure that out, but is there anything like that?

                    There is one significant moment. It alters the ending, but it’s not a completely different one. Also, you have some choices and dialogue in the game that affects how aggressive the nightmare sequence is.

                    You’re talking about the end boss bird creature?

                    Yeah. Before then, you get sort of a mind-melt thing. I haven’t said it before, but it’s supposed to be anxiety. It brings out all of your anxieties and worries. All those sequences in the nightmare are based on if Robin felt she treated those characters right. If you pick options that are brushing off or not handled correctly, those fights are more intense because you have more anxiety. That’s supposed to be the idea.

                    Religion is a big theme in a strange way. I don’t get the sense that you’re calling out any specific religion, but was there a position you were trying to get across about faith in general?

                    Well, when you don’t have the script and you have to go by feel, you’re not always prepared to explain. Religion is a good vehicle for society in general, how they have a hive-mind of ideals and what you’re supposed to follow as a person. That’s the conflict, especially with Elro. He feels like he should be a certain thing. He keeps trying to go down a road that’s destructive for him. That’s true for all the characters. They’re doing a thing they’re not really passionate about, but they feel like they should for the sake of their society and loved ones, but it’s just destroying them instead because it’s not what they really want. It’s sort of reflective on me having worries about making a game for so long.

                    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I never really got a point of view about religion in, positive or negative. However, I felt like Robin was this atheist in the middle of these competing ideologies and she was trying to tread through it in a way that she was still helpful towards everyone. Her interpersonal relationships were more important to her than her faith. That was my takeaway from the game.

                    A good summary of her character is not trying to pigeon-hole children. She’s young for a reason. She’s not jaded and willing to help anyone, but everyone around her is trying to get her on their side. She’s a non-partisan who just goes around the world and tries to help everyone.

                    The scene with Royal on the moon – How did that come about? What do you think of that scene now that you have had a chance to take a step back from it? For me, as ambiguous as Royal is in his own morality, I felt awful leaving him behind.

                    He’s just spoiled. It’s not his fault, it’s how he was raised. That’s the point of that character. He’s a hopeless character because he’s been so destroyed by how he’s always had a certain power. At the end, he sort of starts to come back around for the sake of Robin, but as soon as he feels rejected, he falls right back to where he was before and doesn’t really learn anything. That’s his destruction. On Robin’s behalf in that section, she tries her best to help, but she can’t always help everyone.

                    And there’s no way to save him, right?

                    No, that would change a lot of the theme.

                    It was important to have players not make that choice, but experience it?

                    You’re given a lot of time to realize it.

                    The bird creature at the end of the game – he doesn’t have a name. What’s his name? Is he Him? Is he just an unnamed creature?

                    That’s the thing I hear people theorize about Him. He’s sort of the capper on the story that’s left unclear. It’s just the background story on the facts of the world. I want to hear what people theorize about that character, so I don’t want to talk too much about him. That character is there to surprise people, and hopefully get you thinking about why this character looks this way. Why was the worm not the creature?

                    I was wondering what that creature was and what it wanted, which I love. I did not see that coming. It’s not really a twist, but it changed my whole view on The One Concern and what they were doing, or thought they were doing.

                    It’s not entirely out of nowhere. There are hints early on and throughout. It’s not like the Final Fantasy IX final fight.

                    Even if you don’t want to share it, does he have a name?

                    No, I haven’t thought of one. I only think of what the story needs. I don’t even know the age of anyone else but Robin.

                    On the topic of the bird creature, what has surprised you about the discussions surrounding the game? What are the debates you’ve seen online that spark your interest?

                    I would suggest seeing people piecing together what I actually intended, which is surprising. I was worrying that I didn’t have enough seeds in there to actually make people have those accurate guesses, but there’s been a lot of them. In terms of the birds, they’ve been close on that, too. It’s pretty fascinating. There’s like two camps on what that character is. There’s stuff like the bird worked with the suits, or the suits didn’t know what the bird actually was and theories like that. Those are basically the two camps … I know what my intent with the bird was. I had no idea what people would feel about it. There’s a good word for being very absolute, very plain about the worlds, like the easiest world. The truth of something is usually very mundane, that attitude.

                    You want people to theorize and come up with their own ideas?

                    Yeah, for a while at least just to see what they think.

                    Are you ever going to come out and say, “This is exactly what was going on…”?

                    Yeah, I might. The only reason I’m not saying anything is – at least 50 percent – just because I wanted to see if I could just tell a story that way.

                    The idea that maybe someday you’ll talk in more details about the ending of the game – is that something that you would do with a sequel?

                    I’m not thinking about sequels right now.

                    For more from our chat, including a discussion about the Switch, head to page two.

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                    After failing to fund his pet-based mystery game on Fig, the famed niche Japanese game creator Swery 65 is giving the game another shot on Kickstarter.

                    The project is inherently Swery, a mystery set in the British countryside about an investigative photojournalist named Naomi. Upon arriving in Rainy Woods, Naomi discovers not everything is right in the small town, and people are turning into cats and dogs at night, and that might be the least sinister thing happening.

                    When the game launched on crowdfunding/investment site Fig last September, it ultimately ended at under half of its original goal of $1.5 million. Rumors leaked ahead of its PAX announcement, suggesting platforms for the game that were ultimately not in the plans. With no playable prototypes until late in the campaign, keeping apprehensive fans from backing the game. The team decided to try again and is relaunching on Kickstarter.

                    “We learned a lot of lessons from the first campaign,” Swery, whose full name is Hidetaka Suehiro, told us. “We’re not going to just relaunch the same campaign and try it again.”

                    One of those major changes is having a prototype available for people to see before they back now, a problem Swery specifically called out as a major issue with the Fig campaign. The original rumors about the game claimed that studio White Owls was producing a simple mobile title and, despite protestations from updates, the studio was unable to produce a prototype in time to show off what they felt was special about the game.

                    The goal is also now half of what it was during the Fig campaign, needing only $647,000 to greenlight the project.

                    White Owls has also tweaked the graphics of the game for a more realistic and more detailed style, making the game look overall less simple and increasing things like the density of grass for a better look. Swery showed off comparison images on his laptop, labeling one side as “Previous” and the newer version as an admittedly accurate “Much Better.”

                    Halfway through the previous campaign, White Owls heard the pains of dog owners who were not necessarily interested in a game where the town turns to cats at night and added a dog option instead in the same way Pokémon had different versions of the same game. Now both options are part of the game’s narrative and players can choose which one they would like to use.

                    “I love both cats and dogs,” Swery said. “They differ a little in this game, cat and dog behaviors are not the same. If you’re a dog, you can run faster, you can smell better. Cat gameplay is a lot like being a ninja and climbing tall things,” Swery mimed climbing a wall with a cat’s paws.

                    “Western mysteries remind me of Sherlock Holmes,” Swery said after being asked to recall previous games like Deadly Premonition and D4. “They’re more challenging to do and that makes them more interesting to me. It is easy for me to set a mystery game in Japan, because I know that, but I think me doing something interesting is more interesting to players.”

                    The Kickstarter launched today and runs for 40 days, you can check out the trailer below.

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                    The Good Life, should it be funded, will release on PlayStation 4 and Steam.

                    Sick Stunts In Sea Of Thieves

                    Sea of Thieves released last week and while it lacks an enticing progression loop, it is a great playground to pull off some sick-ass stunts.

                    Join Ben Reeves, Suriel Vazquez, Ben Hanson, and me as we fire ourselves out of cannons, attempt impossible jumps, ring the bell to let everyone know we’re getting ready to climb, and frankly, grow closer as friends as we pull off sea-sick stunts on the high seas.

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                    For our review of Sea of Thieves, head here. For more Sick Stunts videos, head here to watch us play with Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s motorcycle and here to watch us push Wander and Agro to their limits in Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4.

                    With Yakuza Kiwami 2 being announced for the west just recently, Sega has released an extended version of the announcement trailer.

                    The trailer shows off Kiryu being the best at looking uncomfortable during tense conversations and extends the scene a little further, giving the name of the antagonist from the game. Fans of Yakuza 0 who did all of Majima’s side stories might recognize the character from the name or appearance.

                    You can check out the extended trailer here.

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                    You can check our hands-on impressions of Kiwami 2, a remake of Yakuza 2, right here.