Getting a job in games journalism was an interesting experience in that it meant that one of my biggest hobbies, timesinks, and forms of escapism had suddenly become a 9-to-5 job. I had worked as a full-time freelancer for a couple of years and that was pretty labor intensive, but there was still notion in my head that I was just someone who played games and happened to get paid to write about them.

Moving to a new place and having a desk in an office where I sat and wrote about video games shifted my mental landscape in ways good and bad that we don’t necessarily need to go over here in detail. However, the key point is that this amorphous, shifting element that had been a focal point in my life was now firmly entrenched in the professional.

A while ago, I ditched playing games as the thing that I use to blow of steam, dedicating too much of my time to games. I told myself I’d only play games for work reasons and find other things to do in my free time. I worked on a visual novel I’m making with some pals,  and I started climbing for exercise, watching a bunch of classic movies, and reading novels daily. I was filling in my life with non-gaming hobbies.

However, I recently started missing playing games for non-work reasons, so I came back to them with the promise that I would only spend one or two of my personal hours playing games to strike a balance. First, I replayed all of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, wandering the continent and solving people’s pest problems for them for a couple of months. It was a nice way to settle back into the idea that games could be a fun thing I still do in my life without danger of my professional career tampering with that or soiling my enjoyment. After my travels with Geralt, I brushed off the dust on my Switch and started going to sit in cafés every other day or so.

I’ve been going to a place down the block from where I live that has all these leather chairs and a very quaint, brown oak aesthetic. The past two weeks I’ve been a fixture there, sitting down with a cup of black coffee next to me and Octopath Traveler in my lap (and maybe a side of Dead Cells). In that time, I’ve been thinking about rituals. Not the sacrifice-innocent-lives-to-The-Dark-Lord-for-dollops-of-power kind of rituals. But instead, the sort of routines that we fall back into, sometimes day-to-day, other times year-to-year, for whatever reason.

I used to dismiss these sort of these things as an open-shut case of escapism. I’ve written before about needing to get lost in Hyrule when the world sucks and I’m sure there are countless people who disappear into World of Warcraft or Destiny every day to get away from their problems. However, there’s a bit more there than just getting away from your troubles. At their best, rituals are little acts of magic that pull back the cover of our terrifying world to reveal the tunnels of goodness beneath. When I’m sitting there in that café, drinking from a cup of coffee someone has made for me just moments ago, enjoying a game that hundreds of people whose language I don’t speak spent years making, there’s some serious harmony going on there. The coffee, the game, and these things that these people made have value in my life, and I am taking the next 120 minutes to enjoy them as much as I can.

The wonderful thing about rituals is that everyone has them and they’re different from person to person, with every routine designed by that person’s values and interests. It’s a fascinating thing to me. Gaming rituals, in particular, are important because it’s easy to get swept up in the idea that games are products, priced and put out on a storefront, a catalyst for that classic gamer customer dilemma: “Is this thing I’m going to buy worth the 30 hours I’ll get from it?” They are those products because of the very nature of our international interconnected economical systems, sure, but they also exist as cultural artifacts, things that shape our day to day lives.

I play through all of the Mass Effect trilogy every year, once a year. Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game of all time. It’s the game that got me back into video games after being away for a while, that showed me the power of well-written cinematic sequences married to branching game design and just how complex the interactive adventure had grown in my absence. I’m never going to be able to experience replaying Mass Effect 2 for the first time again, but I can still feel echoes of that incredible experience whenever I see Shepard and company storming the metal shore of the Collector Base or when she’s bonding with Garrus in the Normandy’s engine room. That magic is important to me.

This digital pilgrimage reminds me of the passion in the world in a way quite like nothing else does. That reminder is important because it means rituals and routines aren’t just escapism. They also help give your world structure – meaning in small moments that might otherwise frustrate because they seem so mundane and petty compared to personal ambitions or worldwide events. But just because something is small doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. I love sitting there in that leather chair, playing the hell out of games on my Switch or my annual war with the reapers because it’s time carved out to pay respect to the things that I love most in the world.

I asked some of my co-editors for their favorite gaming rituals and they chimed in. I want to hear from you too, if you’re willing. Let us know in the comments below if you have any special routines with games that enrich your life in some way.

Brian Shea (Digital Editor)
For a long time now, my girlfriend and I have played games together for a few hours almost every evening as a way to unwind from the day and spend time doing what we love together. We have two TVs right next to each other, and we often play the same game together, which ranges from Splatoon 2 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 to our longtime and current favorite, Overwatch.
 
Kyle Hilliard (Senior Associate Editor)
Whenever I would rent a game back in the day, I would have to watch the full attract-screen loop before I started playing. Attract screens have pretty much disappeared at this point, but when they were present, they were the closest thing to getting a trailer for what you were about to play in the pre-video Internet days.
 
Imran Khan (West Coast News Editor)
I used to play Left 4 Dead 2 with friends every night for something like two years. We accumulated thousands of hours in the game each and at some point it became less of a game and more just a way to hang out, chat, and trash talk each other jovially. It was basically a gaming poker night.

Rapper, actor, producer, and author Ice-T is now all decked out in Resplendent Solstice of Heroes gear, which means he wastes just as much time on Destiny 2 as the rest of us. Ice-T recently announced the achievement via Twitter.

Acquiring the Resplendent armor requires upgrading the Scorched and Rekindled sets by completing various objectives, like generating special elemental orbs, getting super kills in the crucible, and completing heroic strikes. It’s confusing, but basically all you need to know is that it takes a long time – probably more than a dozen hours per Resplendent set for the average player.  You can find a full list of the objectives here, courtesy of Reddit user Guyovich67, and you can read Matt Miller’s thoughts on the event here

It’s reassuring to see someone so successful spent the time to grind this gear. Ice-T, thanks for promoting Gamer Stuff to Twitter users everywhere. Still, you’ll never top my Solstice of Heroes fashion. No one will.

According to a number of sources connected to ESPN, Activision Blizzard is finalizing a deal to sell a new slot in its professional Overwatch esports league. The new team is expected to sell for $35 million and will be run by the esports organization Splyce. This is an impressive bump in the sales price, since the 12 franchises from season one initially sold for $20 million.

The owners of this Toranto team will be Canadian entrepreneur Michael Kimel, his family, and Splyce investor OverActive Media. Kimel is also a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A few weeks ago, Atlanta and Guangzhou teams joined the Overwatch League. Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues CEO Pete Vlastelica said the league anticipates selling six slots across North America, Europe and Asia-Oceania. Free agency for expansion teams begins on September 9.

[Source: ESPN]

Our exclusive coverage of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey continues with a look at one of the game’s most intriguing new features: enemy recruitment. In a first for the franchise, nearly any foe in the game can be convinced to fight for you, both on land and at sea. Game Director Scott Phillips said in our rapid-fire interview that it was the feature he fought hardest to put in the game. Now, Creative Director Jonathan Dumont explains how the system works, as well as changes to ship combat, customization and more.

Watch the video above for new gameplay footage and details, and don’t forget to click the image below to check out our coverage hub, where new written and video features on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will be posted all throughout the month!

Although games that use a stop-motion art style have been attempted before, they’re exceptionally rare. Every minuscule detail of animation has to be posed and captured in real life and then somehow ported into an engine that can mesh those movements with player input. Harold Halibut is one such game, set to release in 2019. Today, we got a peek behind the curtain of another such title: Vokabulantis.

Working through the Danish studio WiredFly, Vokabulantis is a puzzle game in which you control two friends that have been thrown into the “World of the Language,” an eerie landscape full of imposing towers and deep shadows. A new video shows off the incredibly labor-intensive process of creating the characters, posing them, and then incorporating them into the game’s world. 

Vokabulantis will be a PC release, with potential console port later down the line. No release information is available yet. 

It has been half a decade since Gone Home came out, but that hasn’t stopped Fullbright from releasing it one more time now that the Nintendo Switch is a port machine.

Gone Home originally released to critical acclaim in 2013. It follows a young girl who returns home to an empty house. The title was short but focused on exploration and finding the story of what happened with your family while you were away. 

Gone Home was an incredibly influential indie title, and help popularize the “Walking Simulator.” In our original review, we said, “Gone Home’s biggest strength is how it tackles more complex and realistic subject matter than most developers would dare touch.”

For those who somehow avoided the original PC and subsequent console release, the Switch version is here for you. The game will be out August 23 for $14.99.

Have you ever wondered how much a rupee is really worth, or whether your job in retail would ever allow you buy a house in Whiterun? Well wonder no longer, because a London mortgage broker crunched some serious real-estate numbers (for some reason). 

London & Country took a look at eight different game worlds and developed conversion rates to real-life currency then broke down how much each games’ properties would cost. Skyrim is pretty reasonably priced: Breezehome, the first house available to a player, would only cost about $12,000. Even the game’s most expensive property in Solitude is only about $62,000.

On the far other end of the scale is Final Fantasy XIV. With a severely limited number of plots for sale (only 2,000 per server), prices for even the most modest apartments are nearly a million bucks. FFXIV inadvertently created a housing crisis in its MMO; that crisis is probably something that the London-based mortgage company promises to help you avoid.

There are lots of other cool tidbits included, like the fact that a rupee is worth about $1.39, or that a plot of land in Fallout 4 costs less than a grand. Check out the full study here.

Card collection modes are one of the most visited destinations across sports games, and it’s no different for NBA 2K. The thrill of building a super team out of cards you either earn or purchase has proven strong over the last decade. For NBA 2K19, Visual Concepts has some big changes in store. Here are the most notable new features coming to the game. 

MyTeam Unlimited

To spruce up MyTeam, Visual Concept is retiring modes from past games like Pack & Playoffs and SuperMax. One of the new features filling that vacated space is MyTeam Unlimited. Basically, this mode lets you take your 13 best cards to form a super team to compete online in a seasons style format to borrow parlance from the Madden and FIFA games. 

Each season, you play a block of 12 games with the goal of winning as many games as possible. Lose three games, and you have to start from scratch. Rewards scale upward based on how many wins you can accrue before hitting that daunting third loss. Win all 12, and you can look forward to receiving a Player of the Month card. If you can collect all the POTM cards, you will receive a Galaxy Opal Isiah Thomas card, with Galaxy Opal being the new rarest and most powerful type of card available.

Triple Threat 3v3 Modes

Full squad basketball isn’t going anywhere, but given the popularity of 3v3 match-ups in the Neighborhood, Visual Concepts Wants to bring this to MyTeam in the form of Triple Threat, a new mode-within-the mode that features both single-player and competitive components. For the single-player gauntlet, you need to take down all 30 NBA teams. Every time you clean house on an NBA division, you earn one of the new Reward Tokens for use in a special marketplace. After you reign over every NBA team, it opens up a new competition where you have to beat teams featuring the best three players from that franchise. This section of the mode offers a wider variety of prizes.

Online, after each game you play you return to the new prize drop interface, where you drop a ball down a peg board to see what reward you get. If you manage to win 10 games before losing three, you get to drop five balls and collect five prizes. Once you rack up that third L, you start from square one. 

New Heat-Check Cards

New to MyTeam for NBA 2K19, Heat Check cards look and operate exactly like a base collection card – unless, that is, the player goes on a tear in real life. For instance, if the Greek Freak goes off for 40 points for the Bucks in real life, his Heat Check card will get activated, giving it a 48-hour ratings boost. The level of boost depends on how good of a game the player had. 

Steadier Content Drops

Visual Concepts realizes they had too many content lulls in the schedule last year, and it took too long to start dropping the upper echelon cards. For NBA 2K19, they want to avoid that with a better content cadence that includes five new single-player challenges every week, new multiplayer challenges every week, the return of Moments challenges, daily trials, and a more reliable stream of Locker Codes. 

To drive more interest in the high-end market, you can expect to see Amethysts from day one. Some Diamonds and Pink Diamonds are also going to drop in September. 

A Revamped Interface

For NBA 2K19, Visual Concepts has given MyTeam a dramatic overhaul. You can expect a new packet market, new auction house, redesigned landing page, redesigned collections menu, a new pack opening/card reveal animation, new edit lineups menu, a new card glossary that teaches you about the nuances of each card type, and a notifications system.

To read about more changes coming to MyTeam in NBA 2K19, including throwback collections, the NBA 2K 20th anniversary collection, the return of collector levels, and to get your very first MyTeam Locker Code for NBA 2K19, head to the official blog.

THQ Nordic has announced that they have picked up the Timesplitters property and released trilogy, as well as the rights to Free Radical’s Second Sight. This puts THQ Nordic in a position to not only re-release the old Timesplitters games, but to make new ones, as well.

“Timesplitters was largely considered as one of the most influential console games of the early 2000’s,” THQ Nordic wrote in a press release just issued. “The three game series earned a large and passionate fan base thanks to its unique humor, art style and pop culture references while encouraging customization and modification to give each person their own individual experience.”

Additionally, THQ Nordic noted that they have purchased the IP for Second Sight, as well as the rights for the 2004 stealth paraspychological horror game itself if they ever want to re-release it.

Timesplitters was created by British game development studio Free Racial, which was primarily made of ex-Rare employees who worked on Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. The three Timesplitters games were published under different publishers and had a fanbase that created a lot of demand for a revival of the series. Free Radical suffered a number of setbacks, however, before any revival could be considered. The studio was working on Star Wars: Battlefront III, but the game was cancelled at the last minute by Lucasarts, according to former employees. Combined with the critical drumming that Ubisoft game Haze took, the studio declared bankruptcy and closed.

It was later purchased by Crytek and rebranded as Crytek UK. During THQ’s IP rights auction, Crytek picked up Homefront and intended to produce a sequel to the game, which they were working on for many years. Crytek faced immense financial troubles and allegedly stopped paying staff for a period, prompting Crytek to lay off staff from Crytek UK and eventually selling the Homefront license, Crytek UK, and the work done on Homefront 2 to Deep Silver’s parent company in 2014. Deep Silver then ended up publishing the game with Crytek UK, formerly Free Radical, now renamed Deep Silver Dambuster.

Fast forward to earlier this year, where Deep Silver’s parent company, Koch Media, was acquired by THQ Nordic. With THQ Nordic acquiring the Timesplitters IP, in theory, Free Radical can work on the series they popularized in the first place.

Arkane’s Dishonored series is considered one of the stronger immersive sims released this generation by a lot of people, but it seems like last year’s Death of the Outsider standalone expansion might be the last Dishonored content we get for a long time, if ever again.

Speaking to VG247 during Quakecon, Arkane lead designer Ricardo Bare discussed the studio’s slate and what we might expect from them in the future. When the outlet asked Bare about Dishonored, he didn’t have good news about new installments.

“I can’t say definitively what might happen down the road, anything could happen, but [Dishonored] is resting for now,” Bare told VG247. “As far as pure immersive sims go, I don’t know if we’re going to continue to make like carbon copy – this qualifies as an immersive sim and it’s the only thing we’re ever going to make.”

Bare goes on to say that the same first-person immersive sim DNA will carry through whatever worlds they build next, but for anyone hoping for a return to Dunwall will have to wait for at least some time. While Dishonored 2 and Death of the Outsider were critically acclaimed games, they did not sell as well as the first game, which is a shame considering how post-launch updates improved Dishonored 2.

[Source: VG247]

 

Disappointing, but not surprising after seeing the drop off in Dishonored 2’s sales. It at least got a strong finish in Death of the Outsider.