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 gaming news this week, before I scuttle off to enjoy a nice extended bank holiday weekend.
Starting with the rumour that YouTube were either buying, or had already bought, streaming service Twitch TV for a stonking $1 billion. Although technically it’s Google buying them since they own YouTube and have more money than god. YouTube and Twitch have both refused to comment on the rumour, and The Wall Street Journal reports the deal is still only in the discussion phase, so it’s not quite cut and dried just yet.
Nevertheless people reacted to this news with all the grace, dignity and calm you might expect.
A somewhat extreme reaction perhaps but not entirely unfounded. You don’t have to be a person who spends your evenings sitting in front of a webcam in your pyjamas, blasting out terrible music and yammering on about what you did at the mall that day…while incidentally playing a game or two, to see how this could be bad news.
You need only have seen one of these. A copyright claim on a YouTube video, often slapped on by YouTube’s ContentID robot without so much as a by-your-leave. Gaming content has been particularly vulnerable to this, some examples being SEGA Japan copyright flagging anything related to its Shining Force series and Nintendo claiming videos featuring any footage of its games: even videos that use Nintendo game footage fairly for purposes of criticism or review.
ContentID has already shafted hundreds of people who create and upload gaming-related videos to YouTube, as well as any vids that feature copyrighted material used legitimately under Fair Use. If YouTube does buy Twitch then ContentID will have a whole new realm of people to trample on, and there are plenty of streamers who wouldn’t exactly make it all that difficult.
ContentID isn’t strictly confined to pre-made videos on YouTube either. It’s also enabled on YouTube’s own streaming service, and will terminate a livestream if it so much as suspects there’s any copyrighted content being broadcast.
Such a merger would also give YouTube, and by extension Google, a stranglehold on Internet video. YouTube’s own streaming functionality is rudimentary at best, suited more for presidential addresses and other passive viewing events. Twitch is simply much better for events with heavy audience interaction, like a videogame livestream, as well as for the simple fact it has significantly shorter delay between the material being broadcast and the viewers receiving it.
Twitch has also given rise to some fantastic experimental gaming phenomena that simply aren’t possible do on YouTube. Like Salty Bet for example, where people bid imaginary money on the outcomes of automated fighting game bouts – between stupidly unbalanced characters – for the sheer fun and spectacle of it. And of course Twitch Plays Pokemon, where thousands of people complete the Pokemon games together by inputting commands via Twitch chat.
And not forgetting the countless streams of League of Legends, Dota 2 and other esports titles watched by thousands around the world daily.
There would be some benefit to YouTube owning Twitch. Twitch’s servers are currently about as reliable as a scarecrow soaked in petrol at a firebreathing contest, and can only get worse now that the Xbox One and PS4 both have Twitch integration. With an infusion of phat Google cash Twitch could buy more servers to cope with the demand and deliver a better service.
Though that would be a cold comfort if Twitch ends up with forced Google+ integration, or ContentID shutting down your stream because it heard your mum watching Eastenders in the living room.
The only silver lining to this big, dark ominous cloud is that it isn’t 100% confirmed yet, although I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much if I were you. Why should YouTube spend time and energy improving its own streaming service when it can just buy someone that does it a whole lot better?
On a cheerier topic, UK developer Rocksteady released a new trailer this week for Batman Arkham Knight starring everyone’s favourite billionaire orphan. It shows off some familiar faces from Batman’s rogue’s gallery like Scarecrow, Penguin and Two-Face, as well as the Arkham Knight of the title: a sort of gun-wielding mirror-universe Batman who prefers to kill criminals, rather than simply beat them so hard they have to eat food through a straw for the rest of their lives. It’s labelled a gameplay trailer and supposedly shows off some of what we’ll be able to do when the game is released later this year, although good luck actually spotting any gameplay amongst all this pre-rendered cutscene nonsense.
At first glance you might not think there’s any gameplay in there at all, but there definitely is. I was able to confirm this by injecting the trailer with glow-in-the-dark fluid, then putting it under an electron microscope and squinting really, really hard. I was then able to make out at least two seconds of actual gameplay…before my eyeballs imploded.
I got better.
Another bunch showing off their game without actually showing much is Tecmo Koei, who’ve released a load of screenshots this week for Hyrule Warriors. For those who don’t know Hyrule Warriors is one of those rare moments of Nintendo letting third-party developers play around with its core franchises. In this case it’s Omega Force, developers of the eternally-running Dynasty Warriors franchise, a series based very, very loosely on the 14th century Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
With some help from Team Ninja, whose previous work on an established Nintendo franchise took space bounty hunter Samus Aran, one of the most badass female characters in gaming history, and turned her into a meek, simpering damsel.
As demonstrated in this cutscene where Samus loses her bloody mind at the sight of an enemy she’s killed a squillion times in every other Metroid game, and without even breaking a sweat.
As treatment of fictional heroines go it was like making Vasquez from Aliens afraid of shooting things.
And who could possibly forget Team Ninja’s work on Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, where they implemented “jiggle physics” on a character’s breasts that you could “manipulate” using the sixaxes controller
The character sporting those breasts was written as being 15 years old. You know if Team Ninja was a person and they moved into my street one day, I wouldn’t at all surprised if they knocked on my door to tell me they were a registered sex offender.
Thankfully not all the female character design in Hyrule Warriors is so grossly objectifying. This great rendition of Princess Zelda’s bodyguard Impa, sporting a look similar to the one she had in Skyward Sword, is really rather cool. But then it would be just cool seeing either Old Lady Impa from A Link Between Worlds or BBW Impa from Oracle of Ages slapping entire armies around.
Sadly rumour has it you’ll spend most of the game playing as boring old green-vest-wearing Link, in a vast departure from the huge cast of characters available in any Dynasty Warriors game. That’s assuming you’ll even get to play it at all. Hyrule Warriors will be out for the Wii U in Japan on August 14, but there is currently no word yet on any western release.
Speaking of Nintendo, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Service for Wii and DS games ended this week. Which means no more multiplayer Mario Kart on the Wii. Because let’s face it, that’s all anyone ever really used the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Service for anyway. Netflix and other online apps will be unaffected, and both the Wii U and 3DS still retain online functionality.
Elsewhere in Japan Hidetaka Miyazaki, who directed Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 1, has been made President of From Software. He is of course not to be confused with Hayao Miyazaki who makes animated films set in a fantasy version of Wales. Although funnily enough Dark Souls 1 does have a Welsh bloke in it.
Many FROM software fans are both excited and a bit concerned by this news. Some believe Dark Souls 2 suffered in quality by not having Miyazaki squarely at the helm, and are worried this promotion could be detrimental to Project Beast, the rumoured follow-up to Demon’s Souls. After all, being President of a company is a busy gig, and leaves precious little time for hands-on games development.
Personally I’m not too concerned that this will have any negative impact on Project Beast. Miyazaki doesn’t strike me as a passive, detached sort President content to sit on his arse in an office all day. He seems more of a hands-on, sleeves-up, feet-in-the-trenches kind of bloke. Like this President.
[CLIP OF METAL GEAR CHAOS]
That brief clip there was from Metal Wolf Chaos, a game so American it could only have been made in Japan. By FROM Software funnily enough.
And finally Wasteland 2, the sequel to the 1988 classic post-apocalypic RPG that inspired its spiritual successor the Fallout series, finally has a release date. Since their wildly successful Kickstarter in April of 2012 inXile have spent the intervening years quietly beavering away at the game without any fuss, drama or controversy.
And without pissing away all their money. inXile haven’t had to do another Kickstarter or split their game into two halves and use cash from selling the first part to develop the second, nor have they run off into the night never to be seen again. It feels quite weird to say that actually. In a good way of course.
According to inXile entertainment’s Brian Fargo, lead producer on Wasteland 2, Wasteland and Fallout, the game is feature-complete although not quite fully locked-down yet. But there’s still plenty of time for that between now and the end of August this year, when Wasteland 2 is due for release.
That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and random acquaintances know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then you might like the forthcoming enhanced version with jiggle physics. In the meantime you can go now.