Bethesda’s Excuse

Eurogamer’s Robert Purchase spoke with Pete Hines about their decision to pursue legal action against people reselling games. Go read Purchase’s article and come back.

While I agree that it’s difficult to tell if a “sealed” copy of anything actually contains what it says, or is something that just weighs the same, I found this part of Hines’ argument particularly telling:

“He, specifically, was trying to list it as a new product as if he was GameStop or Best Buy… He’s not a company, he’s not a distributor…”

To Pete Hines you’re not allowed to sell something as new unless you’re part of an incorporated legal entity.

Last week I bought some electronics from a person off of Craigslist, they were selling it as “new” because it was still sealed. When I met the seller I had them open it up before buying it because you do need to be able to tell that it isn’t a box with a brick in it.

That is a legitimate concern, and I’m not sure how you resolve that question over an online purchase, but it isn’t really up to a the original software developer or publisher to police that. If they are going to do that,  you would hope that they have a very strong argument against the individual seller.

Hines is quoted as saying:

“…we don’t want our customers buying stuff from a vendor like Amazon where they think they’re buying a new product and suddenly finding out they got a disc that’s been played, somebody kicked across the floor and scratched and ‘oh they took out the insert that had the special items I was supposed to get for buying this’.”

Hines never makes any statement that the original seller, Hupp, was actually selling a resealed product as new, but he sure does love to speculate that this is what is happening. This is an incredibly flimsy excuse to approve the legal threats against Hupp, and it absolutely isn’t the same argument that his lawyers are using. Their argument is all about a bogus missing warranty.

Even if they’re successful in their pursuit of shutting the practice down, you don’t need to be a lawyer to smell the stench from Maryland. This is about locking out individuals from doing what they want with the things they purchase, not protecting anyone from buying a resealed game.

Fortnite Skipping Google Play to The Detriment of User Security

Epic is skipping Google’s Android app store (the advertising publisher calls it Google Play as if that meant anything) for their upcoming Android version of the free-to-play Fortnite (which is already on iOS and almost every gaming and computing platform.) There’s a beta signup here and the compatibility situation on Android is already a nightmare, check out the list of supported devices. It is extremely specific and the few Android devices I have aren’t supported.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney was pretty straightforward about why they’re avoiding Google’s app store in this interview with Dean Takahashi:

There’s typically a 30/70 split, and from the 70 percent, the developer pays all the costs of developing the game, operating it, marketing it, acquiring users and everything else. For most developers that eats up the majority of their revenue. We’re trying to make our software available to users in as economically efficient a way as possible. That means distributing the software directly to them, taking payment through Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, and other options, and not having a store take 30 percent.

I’m not sure how well this is going to work out for people playing Fortnite. Google’s app store security is awful and routinely distributes software that compromises user privacy and security already, but at least they can moderate that. To get started with Fortnite on Android users are going to have to disable built-in security functionality that disallows third-party apps. Sideloading applications is useful and should be possible on any computer we use, but there are going to be negative consequences for users who don’t fully understand the risks involved.

Parents and tech savvy folks helping their friends and family are going to be busy when they realize their devices are compromised by installing a phony version of Fortnite, or a version that works but steals their credit card data. Try searching your favorite web search engine for the premium currency in the game, “Fortnite Free V-Bucks”, those scammers are oiled up and ready for anyone who falls into their trap.

Julia Alexander investigated the versions of these “V-Buck” scams that run on YouTube:

Since Fortnite’s meteoric rise, there have been multiple YouTube videos running as ads that pitch Fortnite players easy ways to get free V-Bucks. (V-Bucks are Fortnite’s premium in-game currency, which lets them purchase limited-edition skins, gear and weapons.) Search “free V-Bucks” in YouTube’s search bar, and more than 4.3 million results will populate.

Bethesda’s Crack Legal Team Is at It Again

Apparently Bethesda is threatening to sue people who resell their games. Polygon’s Colin Campbell has the story:

Philadelphia-based Ryan Hupp recently contacted Polygon to explain how he’d been forced by Bethesda to stop selling his copy of The Evil Within 2. He bought the game but never unwrapped it, he told us. He’d been expecting to purchase a PlayStation 4, but instead spent his money upgrading a gaming PC. Hupp said he often sells used goods through Amazon Marketplace, which works in much the same way as other online trading sites, such as eBay.

Bethesda’s legal firm Vorys sent Hupp a letter, which he forwarded to Polygon, warning that the game must be taken down and threatening legal action for non-compliance. In its letter, Vorys made the argument that Hupp’s sale was not “by an authorized reseller,” and was therefore “unlawful.” Bethesda also took issue with Hupp’s use of the word “new” in selling the unwrapped game, claiming that this constituted “false advertising.”

The modern situation with game software that we can collect and play for a time, but not own in any real sense is extremely disturbing, Bethesda isn’t helping the situation.

Dead Cells Exits Early Access

Dead Cells is out of Early Access now if you’ve been waiting to check out a more finished version of it. Here’s what I said about it a year ago:

Rogue Legacy was a new style of metroidvania. It reset the castle when your character died, just like Rogue and Nethack, and randomly generated a new castle when you came back to life. Dead Cells has those generated dungeons and also changes out the progression system and combat to be somewhat Souls-like. I love the variety of weapons and effects that speak a little bit more to Symphony of the Night while the art reminds me of the Neo Geo classic, Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

I’ve played a little bit of it post-release and Dead Cells is still a very impressive game and one of my favorite post-SOTN metroidvanias. This game has that indescribably polished feel that makes it so much fun to play over and over again, learning new tricks every few runs.

Dead Cells is on Steam & gog for Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as the Switch, the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4.

Yakuza 0 on Windows Today

A PS4 screenshot of Yakuza 0

The only game I know of where you can brawl, race R.C. cars competitively with teenagers, help punk rockers with their imposter syndrome, and sing karaoke, all in 1980’s Tokyo, is out on Steam for Windows. That’s just a few months after I, and no doubt many others, bought it for the PlayStation 4 while thinking “Yakuza 0 will never come to Windows.”

Windows Gamer’s Phil Savage appreciated Yakuza 0:

“…Yakuza 0 is one of the most eccentric, idiosyncratic and downright charming games around. It deftly moves between drama and humour, between story and action, between arcade action and lengthy, well written pulp dialogue about a man who is incredibly good at punching. There’s simply nothing else quite like it, and it’s well worth your time.”

Yakuza 0 is at a bargain price, $20 on Steam for Windows, it’s already on the PS4 if you prefer to play there.

ST:BC Got TNG DLC on WIN

If you’ve ever wanted to blow up the Enterprise D, I’ve got good news.

Burn baby burn

Star Trek: Bridge Crew looked fun before, but when they finally patched the Windows version to let you play without a virtual reality helmet of shame I wasn’t able to get the game to work thanks to an error message popping up every few minutes and destroying all of my progress.

Finally, the latest patch fixed whatever was broken and now I can stay in the game as long as my family will let me, and they’ve also just added Star Trek: The Next Generation content to the Windows version. I am almost as happy as a targ in shit, except the DLC has been available on the PlayStation VR Goggle System for months.

The good news is that if any of our cross-platform friends on that PlayStation 4 are still looking to crossover some chairs as oddly as you can, ST:BC TNG DLC absolutely won’t let them. Ubisoft’s bridge game is all business, don’t get any ideas Commander Riker.

Fire

The bad news is that the game’s art still has a very strange weird and plastic style that makes it look a little bit like something from 2005, at least when you’re in the non-VR mode. I haven’t tried ST:BC with an HMD yet. I’d guess that this is because Ubisoft wants to maintain a solid framerate on console VR systems so that nobody pukes on the bridge.

Ubisoft’s “CrewBots” that substitute when you don’t have enough friends to fill the ship’s roles are as dumb as bricks, they’ll routinely fly directly into asteroids and mines and incorrectly prioritize your orders. Want your shields at full strength? I hope you don’t mind giving the same order again and again. The hilarious excuse Ubisoft came up for the mediocre AI is that anything smarter would somehow destroy the game’s framerate for VR players:

Keep in mind that with VR, performance is at an extreme premium to keep framerates high to avoid player discomfort so highly sophisticated AI that heavily affects that performance was not in the cards. The crewbots are a very effective solution that meets the goals of providing basic crew substitutes without any negative impact on framerates.

The ST:BC:TNG:DLC:ABC:BBD does add the Borg and Romulans as foes, as well as other features and major changes to the Enterprise D’s UI, and then it doesn’t explain any of it. Good luck.

ST:BC:TNG:DLC:TLA is on Steam as well as through Ubisoft’s UPlay store for $15. The base Bridge Crew game goes for $40 and you can’t play the DLC without it.

No Man’s Sky’s NEXT Patch Introduction Might Be Worse

Co-founder of my favorite old pub, The Rock, The Paper, The Shogun, John Walker has written a bit about how the introduction to No Man’s Sky has changed with the latest update:

More usually a feature of games that have spent far too long in early access, No Man’s Sky feels like a game that’s made for people who already play No Man’s Sky. When an available game’s opening is reworked and reworked, iteration colliding with iteration, both the developers and current playerbase seem to lose track of accessibility, and that is woefully apparent in No Man’s Sky’s latest incarnation. Already being a very familiar player, I knew to just wearily restart the game three times until I got a planet that wasn’t outrageously toxic with Sentinels that attacked on sight. Three times it took me to get a habitable starting location where I could wrestle with all the daft new faff. None of this would be communicated to someone coming in cold, who would be left to assume that either the game was idiotically difficult, or broken.

The game’s controls and feel especially overloaded as Walker says:

Each menu seems to have contradictory controls, leaving me never knowing if I’m supposed to be left clicking, holding down left click, or pressing E, F or X, and even something as simple as moving items between your inventories is now a confusing jumble of both. Once where you could open a green box on the ground by just pressing a single key to get its contents, now you have to press X and select a menu to move some “rusty parts” out of the way, before it then dumps the item inside into a menu of its own choosing. It’s like they went through every single system and pondered how they could make it far more of a fiddle.

Despite all of the flaws, I love No Man’s Sky particular brand of exploration, quirks and all.

A Brief History of Casual Games

Jake Birkett of Grey Alien Games (Shadow Hand, Regency Solitaire, and more) has a good article up talking about the history of casual games for personal computers from a developer’s perspective.

Tetris is, to me, the pinnacle of casual gaming. Experts can have so much skill to be at the higher levels, but it was always as approachable as less demanding puzzle games. Maybe people who balk at “casual games” would hesitate to slap the title on Tetris because they recognize how important it was as a foundational element of the modern gaming era.

Birkett ends his article by talking about what he wants from Steam:

However, Steam isn’t very appealing to casual gamers with it’s dark “gamer” theme and the inability to easily view old-fashioned casual game categories like match-3, HOG, card game etc. on a single landing page. If you browse “casual” on Steam, you’ll get a huge variety of games including “naughty” visual novels.

If Steam fixed that and basically made a really nice CURATED casual game landing page I think could poach a huge amount of sales from the casual portals.

The entire Steam storefront is a game for Valve to exploit the maximum profit from users. The only curation Valve’s team is interested in is the kind that users and journalists do without Valve paying them. If you’re not going to buy anything this second, they want you to look at a selection of games and tell their algorithms if the games are any good. If you get a virtual trading card for doing that you can sell it for 7 Steam Cents to someone else and they’ll end up with the majority of the sale. Steam will never be presentable to regular people because the theme is part of the game. Decoupling the theme from the program and website would unmask Steam for the nightmare exploitation machine that it has become.

No Man’s Sky Is Back & On the Xbox One

Hello Games’ No Man Sky is two years old, but if you are like me and tried it out back then only to move on before finishing the main quest then you might want to check out the latest updates. Hello Games has added multiplayer, Jack wrote that they have also added third-person options, base buildingbiological horrorsredone all of the story progression, and so much more to the game.

I liked NMS when it was just a 1950’s sci-fi book cover simulator about lonely astronauts exploring space, now I’m even more interested. Or, maybe Hello Games changed just one variable:

Nearly two years after it first released, the incredibly lazy developers at Hello Games have finally bothered to open up their fucking computers and set the ‘make_game_good’ variable in the code of the game to ‘true’.

Point & Clickbait understands that lead developer Sean Murray finally decided to make the game good after accidentally turning on his computer for the first time in two years and saying “Oh, haha, yeah, shit, that thing.”

There are a bunch of details about the content of the update at the No Man’s Sky site, the update is live now on Windows (via gog, Humble, and Steam), PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One.

There’s no cross-play between platforms, unfortunately. The DRM-free versions on gog and Humble don’t have multiplayer yet.

C64 Mini Gets a US Launch Date in October; Is Still Garbage

The people behind the US launch of the C64 Mini today announced an October 9th US release date for the C64 Mini that we last talked about more in-depth way back in April:

The miniaturizing nostalgia shrink ray is sprayed at everything now: Cars; entertainment systems both super and conventional Nintendo; iPads; arcade cabinets… There’s also now a The C64 Mini, not a Commodore 64 Mini or Classic Edition, but strictly The C64 Mini. Apparently they couldn’t get the name Commodore 64.

It doesn’t appear that much has changed since April, so this is your reminder that besides being a tiny clone of the original Commodore 64, it still has a completely non-functional keyboard and barely functional joystick, and is probably not worth buying. No price has been announced for the US yet.