Gaming News Issue 15

Hello everyone! Welcome to the newest issue of Gaming News where this week we’ll be talking about the upcoming games Balan Wonderworld and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. We’ll also be talking about a brand new modified controller meant to bring back the old feeling of playing on an oldschool arcade machine. Lastly, we’re covering an interview with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell as he talks about a new groundbreaking technology that’s in the works and possibly in the future of our ever changing world! Let’s take a look at it!

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

Game dev company Daedalic, known for immersive thrillers such as Hidden Deep to cute puzzle games such as Felix the Reaper and Unrailed to the popular point-and-click series Deponia, is in the works on a game in the Lord of the Rings IP. This time around they’re looking into a stealth platformer game where you play as everyone’s favorite split personality Gollum. The game will take place in the years after Gollum found the One Ring, and before his fateful encounter with young Bilbo Baggins, leading us to believe the story will be centered around Gollum’s internal struggle to retain his original identity of Smeagol and his desire to hold onto the ring.

The devs have stated that stealth and subterfuge will be your biggest tools in the game, so there likely won’t be a large repertoire of battle skills to gain. Another big feature of this game will be the dichotomy of Gollum and Smeagol as choices you’ll have to make in the game. From what I can gather, it doesn’t seem like the choices are as clean cut as good or evil, but the devs have stated that it may change the ending depending on what choices you make.

The main complaint so far with the game has been from the screenshots that Gollum looks almost cell shaded and cartoonish. It’s definitely a different design choice for the character than what has previously been used. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was planned for this year, but recently announced they will be delayed until 2022, but hopefully we’ll get more details this year!

Image taken from Steam Store page

The Brain-Computer Interface

Probably one of the biggest stories of this week was an interview with Valve Co-Founder Gabe Newell where he discusses the future of BCI (Brain-Computer Interfaces). The concept has been touched on before with Elon Musk’s Neuralink which is presented as a surgically implanted chip that allows a person to manipulate a computer with their brain. Valve is now working on a similar technology that may be less invasive.

The primary idea is to create a device with the capability of reading the brain and allows for programs to make changed based upon what it’s reading. For instance, in a shooter game, it may detect that you are moving your finger to fire your gun and begin performing the action before you even press the button. Or if you start to feel bored playing a game, it may turn up the difficulty to increase excitement.

This concept alone is incredibly exciting for gamers who may be imagining a future of VR games where you don’t even need to move yourself, but just control your character in your game with just your mind. And you’d think that idea may be enough to work towards, but Gabe Newell discussed going further than this into something even more remarkable and maybe a little frightening.

Image taken from Wikipedia

During his 12 minute interview, Gabe Newell started to discuss the potential of a future technology that could not only perform reading functions on the brain, but writing functions as well. He gives a couple examples of what that may mean, such as the scenario of feeling bored and unmotivated and using a program to change your brain into becoming more motivated and driven. A more mild application of this that he described was if you have an app on your phone where you could input what time they want to sleep, how long they want to sleep, how much REM they’d like to have, and with a push of a button this app could force a person to sleep.

As far as people’s concerns go, Gabe stated that it would all come down to a matter of how much you trust the company using this technology. He equated it to modern companies being in control of our money and assets such as banks and if any of those companies screwed up it would be like tossing consumer acceptance off a cliff and we’d no longer have any trust in that company. He stated that technology such as this would never and should never be made mandatory and will always be a choice and that the security for such programs would have to be top of the line.

There is no estimation of when this technology will be available, but with the exponentially grown rate of technology the past few decades, I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to see working prototypes by 2030. Of course, it takes a greater mind than my own to do any explanation of this technology justice, so if you want to check out the interview for yourself, you can find it on the One News article by Luke Appleby here, and they even have the 12 minute interview recording right there on the article. Or, you can watch the video below for a detailed analysis of BCI technology as explained by the GDC (Game Developers Conference.)

Arcade Controller

8BitDo is a company known for making customer gaming controllers and peripherals mostly made around the classic Nintendo and Sega systems. The controllers they have on offer are mostly made for Nintendo Switch, retro consoles, PC, and mobile devices.

They’re most recent product is a big one though, both in its size and what it can represent. The Arcade Stick controller is a large wireless controller built to represent an old quarter arcade machine with a large joystick and rows of big red face buttons. It’s listed as being compatible with Windows, Steam, and Nintendo Switch and even has custom button mapping functionality. It also boasts a battery with 30-40 hours of playtime and a 4 hour charge time, as well as the ability to connect over a wired USB-C connection, a wireless 2.4g receiver, or over bluetooth.

Now for the real reason I wanted to talk about this new controller as I don’t actually know if this was intentional in it’s design. The fact that the controller is flat and purposed to be set down, as well as giving it giant controls makes this controller incredibly viable for people with physical disabilities such as muscular dystrophy or arthritis. Controllers built for allowing accessibility to physically disabled people isn’t a new concept, but it’s always great when we can get something new to allow accessibility to as much people as we can. The Arcade Stick is available on Amazon for $89.99 in the US and will soon be available in Europe.

Image taken from the 8BitDo official site

Balan Wonderworld Demo

Many people found themselves immediately invested upon the announcement trailer to Square Enix’s upcoming game Balan Wonderworld. A lot of people pointed out that the very nature of the game gave a lot of nostalgia for the Sega classic NiGHTS Into Dreams. As more of the story is being revealed, it look as though there’s also a lot of Psychonauts as the main characters Leo and Emma will explore worlds that represent the inner feelings, dreams, and memories. And although the game at first will seem bright and colorful, it seems like it will also hit you with some sudden hard feeling moments.

Tomorrow a big demo will be going live for Balan Wonderworld covering roughly 2 hours of gameplay. In this demo, Square Enix plans to take you through some areas of world 1, 4, and 6. The full game is stated to have 12 worlds in total, so this demo does represent a good chunk of what the game will be. Within these three worlds you’ll explore the emotions of three characters from the farmer Jose Gallard, the boy who loves the sky Chang Haoyu, and the girl who loved her kitten Cass Milligan. You’ll learn their stories, and help protect their hearts from the villainous Nagati who fill people’s hearts with worry and negative thoughts. You’ll even get a chance to take on the first boss in this demo named Barktholomew (possibly a reference to the apostle, or maybe they just wanted an ancient sounding name.)

As I said, the demo will be available tomorrow, and the full game will be releasing on March 26th. You can pre-order the game on Humble Bundle here!

Healing Potion: Stackup

This week’s gaming charity is Stack Up, the organization that brings gaming and therapy to deployed troops and veterans worldwide to help fight against isolation, depression, PTSD, and suicide. As most gaming charities go, you can raise money through direct donations, streaming on their behalf, or sponsoring if you have a viable platform. This money will go toward several different projects meant to help out troops and veterans alike.

Supply crates are care packages of games and consoles sent to deployed troops to help give them a pass-time and bring them together. You can even donate your own old games and consoles to be shipped out. Air assaults refer to all expense paid trips for veterans to all manner of geek community conventions such as Comic Con, E3, and PAX. The Stacks and the Stack Up Overwatch Program (StOP) are both designed to offer veterans communities and access to emergency help to prevent depression and isolation.

If you want to know more, you can check out the official site here, or you can follow the Stack Up official Twitch channels for the organization or its founder!

Mobile Game of the Week: Infectonator

With the recent death of Flash, we’re fortunate that some of the more popular flash based games have transitioned to either full fledged console/PC games (such as Celeste and Henry Stickmen) or have gone the way of Armor Games and put their games into mobile versions such as what they did for Infectonator.

Infectonator is somewhat of a puzzle/incremental game where you launch out a zombie virus at any space full of civilians and then let the RNG determine how good of a job your zombie virus does at infecting the general population. As you play, you’ll earn coins which you can use to upgrade your strand of zombie virus to increase their speed, strength, health, infection rate, and how long they last before they decay and die. You’ll also gain some consumable equipment and special summon zombies that can be made at any time. The game is full of pop-culture references, funny dialogue, and the good old fashioned incremental progress feeling that keeps you wanting to play more and more. Infectonator is available on Google Play and on the Apple Store.

And that’s all I have for this week! I hope you all enjoyed the read and be sure to check out next week’s news articles to keep informed on what’s going on in gaming!

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