Google has announced that they are currently researching and developing new server technology in collaboration with Ubisoft to improve dedicated game servers.

Called Agones, an ancient greek word referring to a contest of arts and athleticism, the new technology hopes to leverage the scalability of open source server technology to better serve all kinds of needs. A lot of the details are fairly technical, but in theory, the new server technology should allow faster and more accurate multiplayer gaming.

:Many of the popular fast-paced online multiplayer games such as competitive FPSs, MMOs and MOBAs require a dedicated game server—a full simulation of the game world—for players to connect to as they play within it,” the Google blog post reads. “This dedicated game server is usually hosted somewhere on the internet to facilitate synchronizing the state of the game between players, but also to be the arbiter of truth for each client playing the game, which also has the benefit of safeguarding against players cheating. Dedicated game servers are stateful applications that retain the full game simulation in memory. But unlike other stateful applications, such as databases, they have a short lifetime. Rather than running for months or years, a dedicated game server runs for a few minutes or hours.”

Ubisoft has recently come to the revelation that dedicated servers work better for their games, recently instituting it into For Honor rather successfully. The open source nature of the project allows all sorts of developers to grab the tech and modify it for their needs and the needs of the game, so we might be seeing a more more games using it in the future.

[Source: Google]

 

Our Take
Most of the technical details escape me, but it is definitely cool to see the game industry partner with tech leaders to improve technology in an open source form.

Minor spoilers for Batman: The Enemy Within ahead.

Let’s make no bones about it. Telltale is a developer with a spotty record when it comes to quality. While it certainly has champions like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Tales From The Borderlands in its catalog, for every great game, comes a couple of clunkers (Guardians Of The Galaxy, Game Of Thrones). And then you have games in the middle, like the developer’s take on Batman, which completely upends Bats’ universe by giving familiar characters’ new origins, twisting fan’s expectations of character relationships, and carving out its own unique version of The Dark Knight’s universe. While some of the choices don’t pan out (like The Riddler basically being turned into a weird version of Jigsaw for some reason?), there’s no denying that Batman is likely one of, if not the, boldest work when it comes to Telltale taking liberty with creative license.

Among the biggest, most interesting creative choices in Telltale’s Batman is the Joker. The Joker is obviously a character with a huge history and a lot of characterizations. From Crazy-For-The-Sake-Of-Crazy clown prince of crime to the sympathetic and downtrodden misfit we see in The Killing Joke, a lot of versions of the Joker exist, which is fitting given that one of his most famous lines is, “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice.” However, even with that grand tapestry in mind, Telltale’s version still emerges as one of the most interesting takes on the character.

The series knows that The Joker is its trump card too. In the first season, he’s introduced as John Doe, a fellow inmate that shows up to help Bruce Wayne out when he ends up in Arkham Asylum (long story). From there, a sort of budding relationship emerges between Bruce and John. Both are outcasts. John, in particular, is wounded. You can see the pain on every inch of his face, hear the inescapable loneliness in Anthony Ingruber’s brilliant voicework. Despite everything I know about The Joker, I surprisingly became his friend during Telltale’s series, taking his side and even tending to his needs over Bruce’s classic allies. In this version of the Joker, we find someone who’s not a maniacal monster, but instead, someone clearly battered by trauma and being pulled between two desires.

In this version of the mythos, Joker loves Harley and wants to desperately impress her (a fun subversion on their typical relationship, where Joker is often an abusive partner), often on the verge of going to horrific lengths to do so. At the same time, if you make the right choices, John clearly feels indebted and loyal to Bruce. This makes a pivotal scene in the fourth episode haunting and even a little mesmerizing, where John’s capability for violence is suggested and whether or not he has the capacity to be a functioning person is called into question. All the evidence in the surrounding area suggested that John had committed a violent crime, but, despite the evidence, I still believed his pleas of innocence and a desire to be a good person. I took a leap and trusted him, and it was easily one of the most gripping moments I’ve had in a narrative-focused game in the last few years. I was left wondering what the consequences of that choice would be down the line and what it said about me that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Telltale’s version of the Joker works on a number of levels. Telltale games have received a huge amount of (earned) criticism about the lack of meaningful branching choices in various series. The way Batman gets past this is that it anchors your choices not in the melodramatic landscape of who lives and who dies, but instead in a single emotionally-driven concept: the evolution of your relationship with The Joker. As your relationship evolves with him, it goes to several uncomfortable places. Is he your friend? Someone you’re using to get what you want? John is very clearly mentally ill and you need him to stop Harley Quinn, but how does that damage him? How do you damage him?  Every choice you make carries consequences that affect the relationship, with John often remembering how you’ve treated him and reacting to your choices.

All of this ties back into the larger question often presented by the Batman mythos but never answered: does Batman actually help Gotham or does he make it a worse place by simply being there? The relationship hook is also an excellent way for Telltale to get you to buy into the company’s ‘shake-up’ mentality of Gotham, rewarding you with a fascinating, unique take on the classic Bats/Joker relationship. In many ways, you work against everything that Batman has ever told you about its characters and are willing to make choices that the other versions of Batman would never make. That’s how Telltale’s version of Gotham truly becomes its own.

Telltale’s second season of its caped crusader saga is set to end this month, and I’m honestly super excited to see where Bruce and John’s relationship goes in the conclusion. At this point in the series, I consider John as a friend of Bruce and yet I have a certain amount of dread thinking about how their relationship will culminate in the conclusion. Can Joker be saved and become an ally of the Bat, truly? Or is he doomed by other forces at work? Regardless of how everything ends, I’m really impressed with how Telltale has manipulated me into getting emotionally attached to one of comics’ most horrific monsters and making me see him as a person. The emotional tethering and manipulation here is a neat trick, and something I hope to see more developers of narrative-based games use in the future, or at least this sort of lateral thinking when it comes to adapting works into video games.

For more on Telltale’s Batman, be sure to check out our review of the latest episode here.

With more games adopting the business model of a service, what tends to happen is that new players are woefully behind the pack. Whether this pertains to Destiny or Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, both games have respectively solved these issues of inaccessibility by easing rookies in with level boosts and a handful of unlockable characters. This usually comes in the form of new editions of the base game, and For Honor is charging forward in a similar vein with the Starter Edition.

Veterans of For Honor have likely purchased or unlocked all of the base and new Heroes since launch, so the Starter Edition fully unlocks (playable and customizable) the Warden, Raider, and Kensei. Depending on which Faction is chosen, the other three base Heroes will be playable, but require 8,000 Steel each (around $7.99) to customize once you recruit them.

As for the other base heroes in the two remaining factions, you can fully unlock them for 8,000 Steel each as well. Post-launch Heroes will cost the standard 15,000 Steel each.

Players can simply unlock all the Heroes with the All Heroes Bundle for 50,000 Steel, but the Starter Edition will be available for $14.99 on Steam and Origin with no console versions currently in the works. You can read the full details of how Heroes are unlocked, how the Starter Edition applies to the Season Pass, and more via Ubisoft’s For Honor forums.

 

Our Take
For Honor is quite the beast on the competitive level, so while that’s a more considerable barrier of entry than other players’ access to more Heroes, this Starter Edition is more than a reasonable price just to take on its decent campaign alone and its significant improvements over time. If I were to unlock any Hero, it’d be the Highlander. That claymore though.

The newest game in the Bit Trip Runner series has a release date of May 22 on Switch both physically and digitally.

The release date was announced by developer Choice Provisions on Twitter today, confirming yet another release in the busy month.

The Bit Trip series, which is now almost entirely limited to the Runner series, started off as a number of experimental games with retro graphics and a consistent character of CommanderVideo. Across multiple systems, the Runner games became far and away more popular, culminating with the third Runner title.

Choice Provisions also dropped a release date trailer, which you can find below, shows off some of the new features like boss battles and separate character CommandgirlVideo.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Bit Trip Runner 3 is arriving on Switch May 22.

Limited Run Games, the publisher of physical copies of
games as collector’s items, is gauging how much audiences are
interested in buying Switch games.

“Our first game we’ll be
putting up for sale on the Nintendo Switch will be Thimbleweed Park,” Limited Run
says on their Twitter account. “The Switch version will be sold as an open
preorder to help us gauge demand on the platform!”

“So Switch fans – this one
is an open call for you to show up and give us a taste of how much demand exists
on this lovely little platform” Limited Run says in a follow-up tweet. “If this
is a success, we’ll definitely consider open preorders on our future Switch
releases.”

Pre-orders for the Limited Run release go live at and 7 a.m. PDT and 10 a.m. EST on March 30 here. There will also be “Big Box Edition” of the game for PS4 and Switch for $64.99. The box contains a copy the game (unlike State of Decay 2’s collector’s edition), full-color manual, full-color interior print on the cover sheet, a newspaper, foldable menu poster, sticky notes, exclusive stickers and phone books for each console, and “a classic LucasArts style big box – just like you remember.”  Thimbleweed Park released on Switch’s
eshop in September
for $19.99.

In our Thimbleweed
Park review
, Elise remarks that “The
narrative takes some twists and turns that didn’t always hit home with me, but
I enjoyed the whimsical journey nonetheless.”

[Source:
Limited
Run Games on Twitter
]

 

Our
Take
You know the year-old adage, “Bring
it to Switch”? That’s what Limited Run wants to start, and I couldn’t
be happier at this news as both a collector and someone who adores physical
copies of games. Show your support with a pre-order.

There was a time when Lara Croft was poised to take
over the world as a brand unto herself, gracing the cover of every magazine,
gaming or otherwise, on the newsstand. This fame naturally parlayed itself onto
the silver screen with Angelina Jolie taking on the role of Lara Croft, getting
two movies in before the cinema train stalled completely.

Much like with the video games themselves, the powers that
be decided to reboot the movies as well to be more in line with the more modern
Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix decided on a survivalist Lara
Croft who does more shooting than side-flipping in the video games, so it only
made sense that a new Tomb Raider
movie would follow in the same mold. Alicia Vikander, the Swedish-born actress
best known for her role in Ex Machina,
stepped into the role of a new Lara Croft for a new age.

As an idea on paper, this all sounds totally fine. In practice,
the idea is let down by virtually every aspect of the script and execution.

Tomb Raider is at
its best in its opening story beats, establishing Lara as more of an urban explorer
than a jungle-weary treasure hunter. She knows how to fight because she trains
to defend herself, she’s naturally athletic but not preternaturally so, she
enjoys thrills and excitement as one would expect of a character who would
eventually dash around the Earth raiding tombs. When these brief moments of
character establishment are over, however, Tomb
Raider
starts to weigh itself down in its own self-indulgent clichés.

Lara discovers the location of where her father may have gone
missing years earlier and, after convincing a salty sea captain to aid her, sails
off for a seemingly cursed island holding the remains of Japan’s first Empress and a secret
which has the potential to end the world.

Also on the island is an organization named Trinity, who are
supplied no description beyond being a group that wishes to use the occult to
take over the world. The Trinity squad leader, played by Walton Goggins,
oscillates between chewing the scenery and dozing off. It turns out to be
fairly fitting, as his characterization also shifts dramatically from true
believer in the occult to cautious skeptic between set changes.

Throughout the movie, the focus often returns to the captain
that brought Lara to the island as he occasionally will walk up a mountain
repeating that he needs to save Lara. These cuts have basically no payoff and
only really serve to remind the viewer that the character is alive even if he
did not get to go on the main plot adventure with everyone else.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The most baffling scene, however, deserves special mention. In
what one can only assume is a nod toward the video games, Lara is at one point tasked
with solving a puzzle involving colors and a disappearing floor. The scene does
its best to blend Indiana Jones and The
Last Crusade
with a video game puzzle, but it lasts about four minutes too
long, and the audience will have solved it long before Lara herself does.

Tomb Raider is not
without positive qualities, such as Vikander’s characterization and a few
genuinely fun action scenes, but they are only redemptive of their individual
moments and not the movie as a whole. If there is a curse on video game movies,
Tomb Raider only breaks it insofar as
being worth watching on a streaming service in the background while engaging in
something more compelling.

As a fan of the latest Tomb Raider games, the movie is
disappointing, but I suspect I would feel as drained by Tomb Raider whether I liked the games or not.

Recent years have seen some big changes to E3, the yearly conference where the video game industry gathers to show off what’s coming next. The event has long had a home in the Los Angeles Convention Center, but in the last few years, many publishers and developers have been exploring nearby venues for some or all meetings. Most notably, in the last two years EA didn’t have a show floor booth presence, and moved its showings to a different location. This year, Microsoft is also making some big changes, as the bulk of its demos and its press briefing (which has previously frequently been at the Galen Center) will occur across the street from the convention center in the Microsoft Theater. 

The Microsoft Theater at LA Live will first play host to the Xbox press briefing on June 10 at 1:00 pm PST. After that, it’s also where press and fans will find all of Microsoft’s hands-on gameplay opportunities and demos. However, Microsoft isn’t completely departing the E3 show floor. Within the convention center, it will use its floor space to highlight Mixer, the company’s Twitch-like live game streaming service.

The official E3 dates for 2018 are June 12 through June 14, but as usual, Microsoft and other big publishers will kick off the event early with a string of press conferences, streams and other presentations that precede the official show floor dates.

[Source: Xbox Wire]

 

Our Take
Increasingly, publishers are looking for ways to control their own messaging, stand apart from competitors, and dictate the way that players experience early looks at their games. Microsoft’s move to a new venue for its E3 presentation keeps with all of those goals. However, speaking as a longtime working attendee, spreading out to other venues that are further away does little to aid efficiency or help fans or industry professionals get a good picture of the entire show as it unfolds in a singular space. With that said, LA Live and the Microsoft Theater are just across the street from the convention center, so it’s not likely to be as inconvenient as some other options that might have arisen.

Microsoft has revealed
17 titles new to ID@Xbox, the Xbox One’s indie-developed games, ahead of Game
Developers Conference next week.

To be clear, these are
not all newly announced titles. They are simply revealed to be coming to Xbox
One and might be coming to other platforms. Some titles are enhanced for Xbox
One X and/or are part of Xbox Play Anywhere, which essentially gives buyers a digital
copy of the game to play on the console and a PC.

Here is a list of the 17
games:

  • 9 Monkeys of Shaolin (enhanced for Xbox One X)
  • Apocalypse Cow (enhanced for X, part of Xbox
    Play Anywhere)
  • BackSlash
  • Can’t Drive This (enhanced for X, Play Anywhere)
  • Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare
  • Exception
  • Flipping Death
  • Once Upon a Coma (enhanced for X)
  • One Finger Death Punch 2
  • Pinbrawl (part of Play Anywhere)
  • Planet Alpha (enhanced for X)
  • Russian Subway Dogs
  • Squadron 51 (Play Anywhere)
  • Supermarket Shriek
  • Thief of Thieves
  • Tormental
  • Virgo Vs The Zodiac (Play Anywhere)

GDC is from March 19 to March
23 in San Francisco. Microsoft says they will have over 50 games at the event, some available to the public, others at private press screenings.

A GDC
poll from January revealed interesting data about the industry
, including
the rise of games coming to Switch and virtual reality’s decline.

[Source:
Xbox
Wire
]

 

Our Take
More games are always welcoming, and it’s always great seeing a huge company like Microsoft putting indies in the spotlight. Some of the most surprising games have come from small teams. Maybe the next heavy hitter is among this roster.

Chucklefish, publishers of the immensely popular Stardew Valley, have revealed that their newest project formerly known as Spellbound is now named Witchbrook.

Chucklefish’s CEO posted the news on Twitter today along with the new logo. The magical school life RPG demands players balance social lives and interactions with learning magic through classes and studies. Think Harry Potter meets Persona, with more practicality than either.

You can read a bit more about Witchbrook from back when it was called Spellbound right here.

 

Our Take
While Spellbound was probably a better name, it was also likely way harder to trademark and protect that trademark. Witchbrook will sound natural before too long.

Twitch, a subsidiary of Amazon, has announced a new program called “Free Games with Prime,” giving away a collection of free games with an associated Amazon Prime account.

Amazon and Twitch have been no stranger to giving away games through Twitch, recently giving away Devil May Cry HD on the PC. The new program, however, significantly ups the volume of the free games and some may argue the quality, as well.

Starting March 15 through March 31, Twitch Prime subscribers will receive the following PC titles:

  • Oxenfree
  • Mr. Shifty
  • Superhot
  • Shadow Tactics
  • Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation

Twitch has also announced the April lineup:

  • Tales from the Borderlands
  • Steamworld Dig 2
  • Kingsway
  • Tokyo 42
  • Dubwars

People eager to build a PC game collection will likely find a lot to love about this program. For more info, hit the source link below.

[Source: Twitch]

 

Our Take
This is a cool feature for people who already have a Prime account or were on the fence about any of these games. I hope they can keep the level of quality up.