PIXEL BURN – The Great Minecraft Purchase & TGS 2014 highlights

In which Matt posts another Pixel Burn episode here late because he was recovering from EGX.
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[VLOG]

Hello 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 the week’s gaming news. Because believe it or not there was some actual news last week.

The biggest being that Final Fantasy XIII is now on Steam, with the rest of the XIII games coming in October! Yes, PC owners can now enjoy the thrilling adventures of Lightning, the most compelling character in all of videogames, as she and her friends-

Nah, I’m just shitting you, although Motomu Toriyama’s Fantasy Wife Simulator is actually out on Steam now for the five people who actually care. No the big news of course is that for a mere $2.5 billion dollars, Microsoft bought the hearts and minds of all the world’s children. Or “Minecraft” as it’s more commonly called.

And not just Minecraft but also Mojang, the studio founded by its creator Markus “Notch” Persson. Because you can’t mention him at all without chucking in his internet name. It’s so obligatory by now I surprised the Swedish government haven’t slapped it all over his official documents already.

Rumours had already been circulating via big-wig moneybags news-sites like The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, that Microsoft were looking to buy the Swedish developer. Nobody paid them too much attention however. Notch had previously turned down similarly-huge sums of money, and is even on record as saying he wanted Mojang to become as big as Valve.

So why the sudden change of heart? Well 2.5 billion dollars is as good an answer as any. According to Notch himself however he’d simply had enough of shouldering the whopping great burden that was Minecraft, with all the expectations that come with it. In his own words:

“I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”

Yes, despite not having actively worked on Minecraft since 2011 Notch was still very much the face of the game, although calling it just a game is somewhat naive by now. Minecraft has absolutely become one of those humungous bona-fide cultural phenomenons like Angry Birds, with the associated t-shirts, stuffed toys, books and all that other mechandise guff. Not forgetting of course the talk of a Minecraft movie being in the works, branding & copyright issues, and future updates for the many versions that have spread to other platforms.

Speaking of other platforms Microsoft have said it will continue to “make Minecraft available” across all the platforms it is on today, including Android, iOS, PC and PlayStation. “Make available” does not necessarily mean “continue developing updates for” of course, so it’s not hard to see why this whole deal has plenty of Minecraft fans nervous.

We can expect the PC version to carry on pretty much as usual, and I don’t mean that in a snobby “PC Master Race” kind of way either. The modding scene for Minecraft on PC have literally taken the game to whole new worlds, as well as in the kind of crazy directions that science doesn’t even have a name for yet. The only way Microsoft could ever stop that would be to clamp down hard all guns blazing with DMCAs and other fun legal gubbins. And anyone who thinks that’s a good idea is someone who’s only still alive because they haven’t been curious about the taste of bleach yet.

Sadly it’s the console crowd that’ll get the shitty end of any sticks Microsoft have started sharpening. Microsoft have not firmly commited to providing updates for versions on competing platforms and until they do that, your most recent PS4 or iOS version update could well be the last you’ll ever see. And if you’re a parent with Minecraft fans for children you can bet your arse there’ll be plenty of skin packs coming to the Xbox Store in the near future, for the wee little tykes to pester you into buying for them.

What this ultimately means for Mojang itself in the long run, well, your guess is honestly as good as mine or anybody else’s. It’s really too early to tell at this stage, although I’m sure they’ll be fine. It’s not like Microsoft have a history of buying up studios and running them into the ground or anything, right?

[MONTAGE OF STUDIOS MICROSOFT HAVE BOUGHT AND RUN INTO THE GROUND]

Ah fuck.

On the bright side we may at least finally get a Psychonauts sequel out of this. Notch isn’t getting all $2.5 billion for himself but as majority stakeholder in Mojang he’ll get the lion’s share of it, and if you all remember that far back he was once in casual talks with Tim Schafer to fund development of a Psychonauts 2.

Although considering DoubleFine recently cancelled all future development on Space Base DS9 for financial reasons, Notch might not be quite so eager this time.

In his farewell message Notch says he wants to go back to doing small experimental stuff like Ludum Dare games, and that if he ever accidentally makes something that looks like it could be wildly successful he’ll abandon it immediately.

And I can’t say I blame him really. In the eyes of many people he’s lived the dream, so to speak, guaranteeing his financial future with a single smash-hit labour of love. He’s also had to put up with all the insane pressures that come with it, watched his passion project grow into something completely beyond his control, and will forever be known as “The Father of Minecraft.” Some fans will feel hurt and angry by this news for some time, but I’m sure they’ll come to realise Notch has earned the right to quietly potter around in his metaphorical garden shed for the rest of his life. He can certainly afford to.

Much of the rest of this week’s news came out of the 2014 Tokyo Game Show, a yearly videogame exposition held in Tokyo of all places. Microsoft and other western companies had a modest presence but the main focus was all things Japanese gaming, like this stand for One…onechan…onechanba…some game with a cowgirl who hits things with a sword. A stand where to play the game you had to insert your skull into one of two giant sockets in her breasts, like some denizen of The Matrix reimagined by an Anime-loving H.R. Giger.

I swear I had a dream like that once. Still, that’s not the weirdest thing to have graced the Tokyo Game Show over the years. That honour still goes to the Giant Inflatable Pikachus with vaginas you had to climb into if you wanted to play Pokemon.

You could argue that dark unspeakable horror was a big theme of this year’s show. That is if you’re like me and only paid attention to games like Bloodborne, which was available for Japanese gamers to play at the show and streamed online for Western gamers to jealously salivate over from a distance.

Lucky bastards.

The newest game from Dark Souls developers From Software was on full glorious display at TGS and looking gorgeous. But then Dark Souls 2 looked gorgeous as well and that got a graphical downgrade at the last minute, so take all this footage with a handful of salt. It does look very nice though. Promising more of the harsh-yet-familiar gameplay that so captivated audiences worldwide, it appears to have all the rolling-dodges, giant monsters, unforgiving enemy encounters and glowy loot on corpses you could want from a Souls game that isn’t called Something Souls.

As well as showing it off for envious eyes, From Software were also at TGS to announce Bloodborne’s release date, which is Friday February 6th of 2015. So if you’re a Dark Souls fan and you own a PS4 then…you’ve probably already torn every other page out of your calendar already. I can’t say I blame you really.

If you can’t wait until that date then I have some other good news for you. Lucky players from around the world will be able to help test the alpha version of the game from September 24th. Unfortunately everyone eligible for it has already been notified by email, so if you haven’t received one then you’re shit out of luck. You can always check your junk mail folder anyway just in case.

More beautiful horror was at TGS by way of this pre-rendered teaser for Silent Hills, Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro’s reimagining of the classic horror gaming franchise. While it had a distinct lack of any Norman Reedus it did feature a severed head, a centipede infestation, a bunch of creepy toys – including this awesome little fellow doing the Moonwalk, a giant squamous indescribable thing sucking out someone’s brains, and magic projectile doors.

Like the Playable Teaser released last month this was also presented from a first-person perspective, although we still don’t know for sure if the final game will be like that. Nobody knows for sure except Del Toro and Kojima, and they’re not saying anything. They’re just quietly laughing at us all in a really unsettling way from inside a dark room. The best thing about this footage however, particularly for a Silent Hill fan like me, is there wasn’t a single skimpy faceless nurse-creature or completely unwarranted Pyramid Head cameo to be seen.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the geometrically-helmeted old lummox as much as any fan of the series. It was just…really depressing to see him trotted out in nearly every other Silent Hill games for cheap little cameos.


BENEATH THE PYRAMID – THE PYRAMID HEAD STORY

NARRATED BY PYRAMID HEAD

To this day Silent Hill 2 is my only real happy memory. The crew was great, the other cast members were amazing. I really felt like my role had…a purpose, y’know? I was the embodiment of James – that’s the protagonist – of, uh, James Sunderland’s repressed guilt and thwarted male sexual desire. Some of the finest scenes in my entire career were with James in that game. I wasn’t even the main villain, not really. That was his wife, sort of. Sorry, that was a spoiler there. They were good times, y’know?

After that it was a downward spiral. Konami didn’t need me for Silent Hill 3 or 4 but they asked if I wanted to be in a movie. Who doesn’t? So I met Chris – that Christoph Gans – and he put me in the film. I tried my best but the chemistry just wasn’t there. Tanya was nice though. That’s, uh, Tanya Allen. She’s the woman whose skin I tear off near the end of the film. We still keep in touch.

So then Konami called me back, said they were handing the series over to some Western developers. It started with a little cameo in Silent Hill Origins. Only a portrait on a wall but it was enough to earn me some beer money for likeness rights. After that was Silent Hill: Homecoming. No real ryhme or reason for me to be there. I was meant to be the main character’s guilt but…it wasn’t like it was with James. And the props department were all assholes.

Then I had that stint in the arcade game. By that time I was on about three or four different types of anti-depressant. I also had…a pretty serious fucking drinking problem by then. Downpour and Book of Memories are just a blur to me. I wish I could say that about Revelations 3D.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…they put me in a fucking kart racer.


If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in that segment, please do your part to help Stop Pyramid Head Exploitation by tweeting the hashtag “#StopPHE” It will really, really make a difference.

Aaaaaaanyway in other Hideo Kojima-related news, the media blitz for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Menace – I mean The Phantom Pain – was in full effect at TGS. First up was this trailer featuring a character called Quiet, who’s some sniper woman in skimpy fishnets with instant on-again, off-again Goth makeup. She lands on an oil platform, turns invisible a few times, then let’s herself get escorted by some soldier types somewhere. I really wish I could tell you what it was all about but the whole thing is in Japanese. She could have been delivering a new Mike Oldfield album for all I know.

And as for what that freaky eye makeup does, my guess would be [“NANOMACHINES, SON!”]

The other big reveal was this 20 minute gameplay presentation showing off Metal Gear Solid 5’s verrrry nice looking open world, as well as the combat and stealth mechanics. Not that you’d necessarily come away from it remembering it was a Tactical Espionage Game, oh no. To me at least Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is shaping up to be the greatest “launching men and horses into the sky with balloons” simulator the world has ever seen.

And that alone is enough to make me consider buying it.

For years the Tokyo Games show has generally been regarded, by anyone not a hardcore fan of Japanese games, as a sort of roadside attraction. Something with a few nice knicknacks to bring home to show the family but otherwise unmemorable. This year’s TGS however had some genuinely impressive and interesting games in its lineup, and not only the ones I’ve just talked about.

For example I completely forgot to mention the new Fatal Frame, the latest instalment in a series that seemed tailor-made for the Wii U before the Wii U even existed. And how could I possibly not mention Project Scissors? A spiritual successor to Clock Tower from the game’s original creator Hifumi Kouno with Silent Hill monster designer Masahiro Ito on board. God, it’s like the gaming equivalent of a cheese and bacon sandwich: two of my favourite things in one delicious package. And it’s an indie title too! Sadly I don’t have any actual footage to show you, which is why I’ve been showing you clips from Clock Tower on the SNES instead.

Alright, so most of what got my attention at TGS were horror games to some extent. Some of my fondest horror gaming memories came from Japan and it’s really exciting for me to see something of a resurgence in the genre over there. So yeah, that’s my incredibly narrow perspective on the Tokyo Game Show.

You ain’t getting anything else. This is now the Japanese Horror and Horse-launching episode of Pixel Burn.

Wakarimasu ka?

That’s all for this admittedly rather short episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and everyone still trapped inside Pikachu’s vagina know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then I’ve got some good news for you. You won’t have to put up with it for two weeks as I’m going to EGX up in London.

Not that I’ve ever forced anyone to watch one of these, although you can go now.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.