Chucklefish, the creator of the infectiously popular farming simulation game Stardew Valley, is working hard on its next title Spellbound. Spellbound has a similar aesthetic and vibe to Stardew Valley, but this time revolves around magic schools instead of agriculture.

In an interview with Red Bull Games earlier this week, Chucklefish’s founder Finn Brice provided plenty of new tidbits about what we can expect from this school of wizardry sim where you attend classes, build relationships, craft, brew potions, and learn magical spells.

“The game revolves around your path through school, the relationships you build, and your mastery of the several schools of magic at your disposal,” Brice told Red Bull Games. “Players should expect to build up their magical proficiency by undertaking school projects. This might have them growing magical crops and creatures in herbology or taking on the denizens of the forest in elemental magic.

Although Brice explains that the team was unsurprisingly influenced by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, they describe Spellbound’s world as “very unlike Hogwarts.” The magic in this universe is more “practical,” taking inspiration from Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, Studio Ghibli animations, and Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe.

Brice explains that a lot of emphasis is put on your path through school, where you increase your magical proficiency through academic projects in classes like Herbology, where you might create magical creatures and crops. School and social life will provide many opportunities for befriending characters, delving into quests, dating, and more. Brice hints that there will be some surprising elements to dating in Spellbound, where players may be “a little shocked the first time they get dumped.”

Combat is also a key feature, and the team describes this iteration as reminiscent of “Zelda-like retro action RPGs, with spellcasting taking the place of swords, bows and bombs.” By combining and unlocking elements, players will be able to activate different kinds of spells which can then be used in the forest dungeon.

You can read our review of Chucklefish’s previous game, Stardew Valley, by heading here.

[Source: Red Bull Games]

 

Our Take
I love both Harry Potter and Stardew Valley, so a hybrid of the two is really exciting to me. I’ve been eagerly awaiting more information about Spellbound, and this interview helps shed light on some interesting mechanics. I’m really curious about how Steven Universe influences this game and what both classes and spellcasting will be like. Sounds neat so far!

On Friday, the Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds, which is currently in Xbox Game Preview, received an update. In particular, the starting area where you spawn at the beginning of the game has been removed. 

Instead of the lag-induced starting area that spawned hundreds of players in one place, the game will now introduce several pre-match starting locations to help optimize performance. However, this isn’t the only notable change in this update. Sound effects are also being adjusted, along with quality of life improvements in some menus and bug fixes.

You can view the full patch notes below:

Gameplay

  • Introduced multiple pre-match starting locations in order to optimize both server and game client performance
  • Weapons are removed from the starting island prior to the match starting
  • Game DVR is now supported for automatic recording of gameplay highlights. This feature must be enabled within the Options / Settings menu.
  • We continue to listen to your vehicle feedback and have lowered the damage taken from objects throughout the world such as rocks, trees, and uneven terrain
  • Adjusted the sound effects of both water and red-zone bombing
  • Party matchmaking is now influenced by the player’s MMR
  • Adjusted long-range blood VFX back to the original colors

UI/UX

  • Improved visibility of squad member colors (yellow, orange, blue and green)
  • Players can use the right thumbstick to rotate their character model during customization
  • When customizing character appearance, the D-Pad can be held to switch between menus
  • Preview is supported when customizing appearance or creating a new character

Items

  • Updated the design of the energy drink

 Bug Fixes

  • Fixed water sound effects
  • Fixed Red Zone disappearing immediately after it starts
  • Fixed random character teleportation following initial landing 
  • Fixed an issue where some doors could not be entered despite appearing open
  • Fixed issue of recovery and boost items being able to be used when underwater
  • Fixed the character animations when transitioning from jump-prone to standing
  • Fixed unexpected character death caused by falling while moving
  • Fixed areas of fencing where specific sides could not be penetrated by bullets
  • Fixed buildings with missing stairs
  • Fixed bug which caused objects to float in the air
  • Fixed areas of terrain which were causing player characters to become stuck
  • Fixed an issue which prevented team members being displayed following acceptance of an invite
  • Fixed the issue of revive being cancelled unintentionally
  • Fixed hand animations when reloading/shooting the Kar98 in a prone position
  • Fixed the issue limiting peak parachuting speed in FPP mode
  • Fixed character animations when moving from prone to entering a vehicle

Optimization / Stability

  • Optimized textures, landscapes and buildings throughout the island to improve performance
  • Fixed a crash occurring when HDR was enabled
  • Fixed a frozen character issue when reconnecting following a crash
  • Fixed a crash occurring when the player opened their inventory
  • Fixed a crash occurring when the spectated player was using a scope

Localization

  • Applied new Russian, Japanese and Chinese (simplified/traditional) fonts
  • Japanese only: Adjusted the Katakana font
  • Japanese only: Fixed incorrect order of wording during object interactions
  • Portuguese only: Fixed the display of height meter when parachuting

 Known Issues

  • B button incorrectly displayed to cut parachute cable; this should be X
  • When viewing the map, the X, Y, and B buttons are fully functional – please be aware that this can cause you to exit the plane or vehicle whilst in motion. Please only use the map button to return to gameplay until this is resolved.

As of late January, PUBG on Xbox One has amassed over 4 million players. For more on the game, read our review.

[Source: PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds Official Forum]

The mysteries of Half-Life 3 and episode three of Half-Life 2 may never officially be resolved. Extensive, investigative work has resulted in little to no revelation, and whenever information does crop up, it’s delivered at the most unexpected times in the most roundabout manners.

Valve may have abandoned its silent theoretical physicist, but other developers have brought him into all sorts of video games over time. Freeman has received plenty of subtle textual and visual nods in titles like Call of Duty: United Offensive or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so we’ve limited our list to actual sightings of Dr. Freeman’s likeness. Let’s see what other worlds the scientist has explored over the years.

The Punisher (2005)
Loosely inspired by the 2004 movie starring Thomas Jane, The Punisher is a third-person shooter where Frank Castle takes on a load of gangs with plenty of guilty-pleasure cameos from Iron Man, Wilson Fisk, and more. However, the cameo we’re interested in happens during the introduction of the Stark Towers level. A tour guide shows Castle all of the scientists working on projects when the facility goes on lockdown. One of the scientists asks “Dr. Freeman” what’s going on, to which he replies, “Maybe the quantum physics group finally opened that extra-dimensional portal!” Sadly, the enthusiast scientist perishes when an Eternal Sun gang member breaks into his lab, so you’re unable to save him. Although Portal wasn’t released yet, this version of Dr. Freeman seemed to be working on a device that looks awfully similar to Chell’s Portal gun, too.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
If you look to your left next to a fallen helicopter in Wild Territory, you’ll see an underground tunnel filled with electro anomalies, which plays a key role in the “Find the Family Rifle” side mission. If you carefully navigate the area using bolts or your detector, you’ll find a deceased Gordon Freeman with his signature glasses. Looting his body will uncover his PDA, where he chronicles being sent to Chernobyl (possibly by the G-Man) following the Black Mesa Incident. Apparently, he didn’t fare well in the radioactive landscape, but you can benefit from the fallen scientist by taking a Black Kite pistol off his body and a modified version called the Big Ben in a box lying next to him. GSC Game World planned to add a mission where Barkeep gives you a mission to recover the Black Kite pistol, but the quest was scrapped from the game.

Penumbra (2007)
In Chapter 4 of Penumbra, you encounter a locked door that blocks your way to the incinerator room. The only way to get through is to carefully venture across a frozen lake to retrieve a crowbar, which must be sawed from the previous owner’s cold, dead hand. Should you inspect the item’s description, it reveals that “There’s a name scratched into the metal: ‘Freeman.’” The scientist can’t seem to catch a break from harsh landscapes, whether it be frozen tundras or radiation wastelands.

Metro 2033 (2010)
After Rangers Pavel and Ulman save Artyom from two Nazis in the Trolley Combat mission, you’ll notice a bloodied door down the hallway as soon as you assume control of Artyom. The Rangers head left, but if you open the door and turn on your flashlight in the pitch-black room, you’ll find a Gordon Freeman who’s been long dead. There’s no way to tell on appearance alone since he’s a skeleton, but a pair of glasses and red crowbar leave no doubt. The similarities between this and the Shadow of Chernobyl Easter egg are likely not coincidence. Metro 2033’s developer, 4A Games, was founded by former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers.

Renegade Ops (2011)
Your car is your weapon in this interesting take on the twin-stick shooter. You upgrade your arsenal and tour different locations as you blow up all sorts of different vehicles. The Steam version of Renegade Ops comes with a Half-Life-themed buggy that Gordon Freeman himself drives. His unique ability allows him to send out giant Antlions to destroy enemies.

Shoot Many Robots (2012)
It’s hard to say whether this counts as an appearance or not, but it’s close enough to warrant our list. This side-scrolling shooter features customizable clothing with varying stats, and one of these outfits is the Steam exclusive HEV Suit with Gordon Freeman’s glasses. These items were available for anyone who pre-purchased the game, which interestingly increased the likelihood of encountering a Portal turret in-game. Unfortunately, Shoot Many Robots was removed by Ubisoft from the Steam store, so this is an appearance that’s disappeared into the nether.

McPixel (2012)
The eponymous character of McPixel is put through dozens of rapid-fire situations where you interact with his environments to figure out how to prevent explosions from going off. In one of the downloadable content scenarios, the hapless guy finds himself at Black Mesa Research Facility, where Gordon Freeman and Gabe Newell are roasting hot dogs over a fire. Saving the facility entails kicking Newell into the fire, eating his hot dog, and vomiting on Freeman, which will cause him to vomit rainbows that put out their campfire. We can’t help but think there’s some metaphor behind all of this.

Steamworld Dig (2013)
In the Old World section of this adventure mining title, the second upgrade cave houses an ancient store you can visit if you venture to the upper-left portion of this area. Once you steam jump across a chasm after blowing up a wall, you encounter a GameGo store with a row of people who died waiting for Half-Life 3. Advertisement posters and a billboard are all over the place, and one of the fans is wearing a HEV suit. We wouldn’t count this as a Freeman appearance, but his likeness (with appropriately graying hair) can be seen on one of the store’s posters.

Mad Max (2015)
If you move south from the center of the Grit Canyons area, there’s a cliffside with an opening below. Entering this well-hidden haven will lead you to a pile of boxes, but you’ll notice that a bigger wooden crate has an orange “3” blazoned on the side. A severed arm with a crowbar rests on top of it and, lo and behold, a rotting corpse with glasses lying next to it. You can collect some scrap and eat some maggots straight out of Freeman’s corpse while you’re there, too … appetizing, right? In addition, Avalanche Studios developed this game as well as Renegade Ops; the team clearly has an affinity for Half-Life.

Final Fantasy XV (2015)
The latest in the strange world of Gordon Freeman appearances comes from Square Enix’s partnership with Valve to deliver Final Fantasy XV on Steam. Players can wear Gordon Freeman’s HEV Suit, glasses, and use a crowbar with their own customizable characters, but can play as the man himself if they so choose. The extra content is exclusive to anyone who purchases the game on Steam before May 1. As a side note, Final Fantasy XV creative director Hajime Tabata said that “The Half-Life team at Valve” sent him a headcrab hat to wear while announcing the DLC … the wording is a bit curious, wouldn’t you say?

 

What are some of your favorite appearances of Half-Life’s star character? Are there any games you’d like to see him appear in? Let us know in the comments below. You can also check out our thoughts on the canned script for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 by clicking here.

At the end of our Replay Civil War, it all came down to you to choose the next Super Replay! Our Overblood Facebook group ended up choosing two games through a tie: Killer7 and Godhand.

You chose well. Killer7 is my favorite game of all time, for reasons I will fully elaborate on in the near future. The short version, however, it’s that it’s the closest video games have gotten to being a David Lynch film. It benefits from being played alone in near silence, so you can fully process its wild, surreal moments, cool characters, and ambiguous plot.

In fitting with its themes, we decided to take Killer7 very seriously, as Andrew Reiner, Joe Juba, Leo Vader, and I focus only an the artistry of Killer7 and never talk about anything else and make absolutely zero jokes. Enjoy!

(Please visit the site to view this media) 

With a little ingenuity and £350 (or about $482), YouTuber
My Mate Vince created a “portable” Switch XL.

Using a 15.5 inch, 1080p monitor powered via USB cables,
Vince attached the components to the back with velcro. Portable batteries power
both the monitor and the third-party FastSnail Switch dock, which run off 12
and 5 volts, respectively. He even managed to make the Joy-Cons detachable by taking
the rails off a controller grip and screwing and gluing them into the sides. The
entire device weighs about 2.5 kilograms (or 5.5 pounds), he says.

Vince says in the video’s description that if the video
becomes popular enough he will invest in a set up that “will look much better and thinner and be more
portable with a kickstand with different levels.”

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Check out one of Vince’s
other videos that shows games
looking wonderful on a ’70s TV
.

The Land of the Rising Sun is fortunate to have some of the greatest cafés known to mankind, ranging from Monster Hunter to Kirby-themed settings with adorable dishes in tow. It was only a matter of time before Game Freak joined in with the craze with its adorable Pocket Monsters with the Pokémon Café in Tokyo.

Reservations will be opening on March 5 at 6 pm and are set between March 14 and April 5. After then, the schedule will be updated and subject to change, but the only way to get in is through reservations. Every customer will need to order two items, but if you’re looking to go all in, you can do special reservations where you can get exclusive merchandise like mugs, plushies, and more.

Pikachu is all over most of the menu items, which range from soups to fruit dishes. There are plenty of colorful drinks and deserts as well, which are upwards $15 on average. You can check out the full menu by clicking here. We imagine it’ll take quite some time for the craze around the café to die down, so if you don’t see yourself going, at least there are appealing, digital alternatives in the near future.

[Source: Pokémon Café via ResetEra]

P.T. was a teaser for the canceled Silent Hills game that never came to fruition, but it’s left quite an impact in its wake. Modders have tried to recreate the game on PC, and games like Layers of Fear have cited taking inspiration from it. The latest developer/artist to be inspired by the demo has decided to “demake” the game, and it’s a sight to behold.

Youtube channel 98Demake has turn the PS4 game into something out of the late PlayStation era, complete with some nostalgic aliasing and and simple lighting. Although the graphics quality isn’t the highest, you can still recognize it as P.T. and it’s still really dark, ominous, and scary. Take a look below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

If you’re interested in playing this for yourself, you can download it here.

If you subscribe to the computer, tablet, or mobile edition of Game Informer magazine, you can now read our 300th issue celebrating the top 300 games of all time! Following today’s cover reveal, our digital issue is now live on web browsers and will be coming to iPad/iPhone later in the day. You can download the apps to view the issue by following this link. All of these digital options are included in a standard subscription.

The issue launches later this week on our third-party subscription apps including Google Play, Kindle, and Nook.

Not a digital subscriber yet? Convert your existing print subscription here or start a new subscription here.

Be sure to visit GameInformer.com throughout the month as we expand on our Top 300 Games of All Time through various online features.

For those of us with large game collections, shelves are a pretty common way to store all of the game boxes we accumulate. For others, though, the floor might be a better fit.

Resetera user Squarehard was challenged to cover their entire floor with DS game boxes to show off their massive collection of them, so they did. While we can’t imagine it’d be comfortable to walk on, what better way to show off a game collection than for visitors to see literally every game you’ve collected when they visit. Also, it looks kind of incredible. Take a look.

(Images used with permission from Resetera user Squarehard.)

You can check out more pictures of this fantastic floor in this thread. If Vita games are more your style, Squarehard did a similar thing with them in another thread.

In Fortnite, you have to be prepared to face threats from all directions. I have no earthly idea how you can prepare for a sniper blasting across the map on top of a rocket, though.

As a squad battle came down to one final kill, BullNizzle kindly asked his teammate to shoot a rocket at him. As the rocket approached, BullNizzle hopped on top and took a ride towards the enemy encampment. He zeroed in on his target and with one quick-scope shot, it was Victory Royale for him and his squad. It’s truly a sight to behold. Check out the clip here.

BullNizzle plays Fortnite as part of Avant Gaming, an Austrailian esports organization, so clearly he’s had a lot of practice for this specific scenario, right?