Hello you. My name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, where I look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things that happened in gaming this week. Because sifting through terrible April Fools jokes is just so much fun.
Since International Liars Day was this week gaming news was saturated by a deluge of comedy sewage, which made my work here about ten-times more frustrating than it needed to be. Most gaming April Fools Jokes were either tiresomely obvious, flakier than a ten year old turd or so bland they could be mistaken for genuine news. Thankfully there were at least some jewels of amusement sparkling in this week’s foetid depths.
Blizzard threw out a fistful of Fools Day gubbins ranging from the nostalgic – like a homage to fighting games called “Blizzard Outcasts: Vengeance of the Vanquished” – to the whimsical – like this Flappy Bird clone called Happy Reaper.
What I love most about Blizzard’s April Fools jokes is while they’re obviously Not Real Things, there’s so much thought and effort put into them you end up wishing they were. Like this screenshot for Blackthorne 2 from April 2010.
Speaking of things you wish were real, there was this Instagram picture giving the world its first glimpse of a sequel to Far Cry Blood Dragon, titled Blood Dragon: Vietnam War 2.
Except the first Blood Dragon was originally announced on April 1st last year, and everyone thought that game wasn’t real until it was. Gloriously so in fact.
Not everyone could take a jest in good spirits however. These relatively mild tweets poking fun at Nintendo were deemed so heinous – presumably by whining Nintendo fanboys – that EA’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore publicly apologised for them, calling them “unacceptable and stupid.”
The most heartbreaking gaming April Fool for me was this body pillow of Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect on the BioWare store. I say heartbreaking because Garrus is my Commander Shepard’s Space Bro Best Friend Comrade in Arms, not some sexual novelty to ride like a bronco until her thighs are covered in third degree burns. Seeing him emblazoned on a pillow like this is…well, it’s like seeing an old friend selling their arsehole for pennies. Still, at least it isn’t a terrifying Tali Zorah sex doll made from furniture foam and surgical tape.
My personal favourite wasn’t even a developer one. A user by the name of “DamnNoHTML” on Reddit posted this edited screenshot from Dark Souls 2, purporting to show the summoning rune for a much beloved NPC from Dark Souls 1. For those of you who don’t know, in Dark Souls 1 & 2 you can summon other online players into your game, or let yourself be summoned to other peoples’, to either fight against each other or…
[“ENGAGE IN JOLLY COOPERATION” CLIP]
Given how notoriously cruel the Dark Souls games are it seemed entirely plausible for the developers, FROM Software, to put in a way to summon a favoured NPC only to have it not work. In fact this joke convinced so many people its creator eventually had to own up to it, which is as perfect a testament to the cruelty of the Dark Souls games as you can get.
The best April Fools jokes however are often the simplest, and you can’t get much simpler than this solitary tweet from Phil Fish, creator of Fez and the enfant terrible of Indie Game: The Movie.
What’s particularly brilliant about this joke is, like Blood Dragon: Vietnam War 2, it could actually be genuine.
Before his dramatic self-imposed exile from the games industry last year one of Phil Fish’s favourite pastimes was winding people up twitter. The irony being that people winding HIM up on twitter is what eventually caused him to storm off in a big huff. Tweets like this – where you don’t know if he’s being genuine or just taking the piss, are precisely the sort of thing he used to indulge in. Regardless of your opinions on the man you have to admire its simple, diabolical genius.
Well played, Phil Fish. Well played.
Onto proper news now, or what little I could scrounge from the mire this week, Valve announced that the Fourth International Dota 2 Championships will be taking place from July 18 to July 21 at The Seattle Centre. In Seattle obviously.
For a not inconsiderable $99 dollars you get general admission to all four days of the tournament, while an extra $100 on top of that gets you floor seats at the main events. For a whopping $499 you get all that as well as access to the 6 days of playoffs taking place before the main championships, along with VIP meet and greets and, perhaps most importantly, access to the after party.
Meanwhile Frictional Games, creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent have put out a new trailer for SOMA, their forthcoming sci-fi horror title for PC and PS4. Unlike previous trailers which showed off a very H.R.Giger-esque bio-mechanical aesthetic this new trailer, called “Lambda” is very reminiscent of Bioshock. Specifically the “outdoor” sections of Bioshock 2 where you got to clomp around on the seabed and chill out with some fish. If SOMA lets me mosey around on the ocean floor for a bit then I’ll be a very happy bunny: the bottom of the ocean is a fantastic venue for terror and is criminally underused in games.
As well as SOMA I’m also looking forward to Routine by the lovely awesome people at Lunar Software, due out on PC in the hopefully not-too-distant future, hint-hint. And not forgetting Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation, due out October 7th for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC. All in all it’s a great time to be a sci-fi horror fan and a horror gaming fan in general. So hooray for sci-fi horror games sparing us all from more terrible Slender knockoffs.
Speaking of sci-fi FTL now has a bunch more content in the form of FTL: Advanced Edition, released this week. If you own the game on PC then you already own the Advanced Edition since it’s completely and utterly free, so you can download that now. Steam users will receive the update automatically while owners of the DRM-free version will have to re-download it from wherever they got it.
If you prefer to take your grimly desperate cosmic treks on the move, FTL is now also available on iPad for the sum of $10 Yankee dollars. For your money you get the hours of replayability the vanilla version has, as well as all the extra Advanced Edition goodies like the new events, weapons, ships, music, a new alien race and more.
Meanwhile fresh from her depature from Naughty Dog, veteran videogames writer Amy Hennig has joined Visceral Games, creators of Dead Space, as Creative Director on…a new Star Wars game.
As appointments go it’s rather like getting Nikola Tesla in to fix a knackered old toaster. Then again the Star Wars franchise has been in desperate need of good writers since a long, long time ago, and if anyone can rekindle my interest in non-MMO Star Wars games then Amy Hennig is a great choice.
Most people will know her for Jak and Daxter or the Uncharted series, but my favourite Amy Hennig games will always be the Legacy of Kain series. Thanks to her writing what could have been just another generic dark-fantasy kill-fest became, instead, a fun philosophical romp exploring such concepts as Gnosticism, free will, time-travel, paradoxes and determinism. And also killing things.
Needless to say I wish Amy Hennig the best of luck in her new role, and look forward to seeing if she can breath some life back into the violated carcass of the Star Wars franchise.
Speaking of breathing life into carcasses, Bethesda’s monthly subscription-based MMO The Elder Scrolls Online came out this week. Eager, ready and willing for a whole bevy of players to jump in and muck around with…for about a month or two, before 90% of them bugger-off back to World of Warcraft.
Not that you needed me to tell you Elder Scrolls Online is out. Since you’re watching this on YouTube you’ve probably already endured countless unskippable ads for the bloody thing like I have.
[CLIP OF ME WATCHING ABILITYDRAIN’S LATEST VIDEO ONLY FOR A TSO TRAILER TO PLAY]
Alright Bintychops, time to watch your newest Dragon Age: Inquisition vid- OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
This media carpet-bombing for The Elder Scrolls: Online all feels rather desperate on Bethesda’s part. They know MMOs have moved on from rigid monthly charges, yet have too much invested in Elder Scrolls Online to make it free-to-play straight out of the gate.
As such I can’t shake the feeling it’s going to be Star Wars: The Old Republic all over again, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
At least The Old Republic didn’t put an entire player race behind a paywall like Bethesda have done in Elder Scrolls Online. To play as a member of the unique Imperial race, who can join any in-game faction and all start off with a fancy white horse [RRP: 15,000 in-game gold] to ride around on, you need to have spent $79.99 on the special Imperial Edition of the game.
In a way it’s even more shameful and disgusting than the $25 Celestial Steed in World of Warcraft, since the Celestial Steed didn’t have any effect on gameplay except perhaps making you a more tempting PvP target.
Speaking of which the latest expansion for World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor, is now currently in Alpha and already eliciting cries of despair with its latest patch notes. WoW might be longer in the tooth than a certain prehistoric feline but it still keeps pulling people back, and you’d be a fool to bet against it even now. Some will argue The Elder Scrolls series has an illustrious-enough pedigree to make it a serious contender to WoW, but we all know they’re only deluding themselves. People said the The Old Republic would topple WoW because it was Star Wars and everyone loves Star Wars.
We all know how that turned out.
If you can’t wait for Daggerfall 2: Electric Boogaloo, or whatever the next main Elder Scrolls Game is going to be called, and you’re sick to the back teeth of World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls Online is available for PC right now. Playing it will cost you $60 USD for the game itself or your regional equivalent and $14.99 for each month you play it. For however long it takes you to slay the 119,050 mudcrabs required to reach level 50, or until you get bored. Whichever comes first
And I’m afraid that’s all for this week’s episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. I’m off to play some more Dark Souls now, and by play I mean “scream insanely at my monitor like a crazy person.” Because I have become one of “those” people and it’s probably best if you go now.