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Filed under Entertainment, Opinion

2018- Gaming Royale!

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2018 was a pretty busy year for the video game industry. Numerous highly anticipated games were released throughout the year. Some of them lived up to the hype, while others turned out to be an utter disappointment for many video game enthusiasts. We also saw the popularization of the battle royale genre- a last-man-standing game mode that stems from third party game modifications for many popular titles such as ‘Minecraft,’ ‘ARMA’ and ‘DayZ.’ Overall, 2018 has been a busy year for the video game industry.

Here are my personal, top five hits and misses of 2018.

The worst of 2018

  1. Lawsuit Royale (January – July)

When good ideas come along, others will seek to copy it, and that’s why in January 2018, PUBG Corporation sued Epic Games through the Seoul Central District Court. Bluehole’s vice president Chang Han Kim stated that he is “concerned that Fortnite might be replicating the experience that PUBG was known for.”

The game ‘Fortnite’ is often regarded as the less violent version of ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.’ Both games have the same objective; players are forced to kill each other until there is only one survivor left.

The irony of this lawsuit is that PUBG was built on Unreal Engine 4, the game engine that was developed by Epic Games, as well as the same engine that Fortnite used. Also, it appears that none of the assets or codes that PUBG contain have been stolen by Epic to develop Fortnite.

Kim’s statement sparked a question within the gaming community: Can someone own a game mode as an intellectual property?

The similarity of gameplay between the two is obvious. One hundred players spawn on a flying vehicle over an island with no equipment. They jump out, then scavenge for weapons and utilities. A circle slowly closes in, forcing engagements. Finally, the last player standing wins. That’s where the similarity end. Fortnite’s combat and movement mechanics are completely different than PUBG’s. Fortnite has a building mechanic that PUBG does not. PUBG has a more robust vehicle mechanics than Fortnite. The target audience of the two games are different as well, since Fortnite appeals more to a younger audience with its cartoony character designs. The case was eventually dropped in June 2018 for undisclosed reasons.

Since then, there are more developers jumping onto the battle royale bandwagon, including Hi-Rez Studios with ‘Realm Royale’, which itself is a spin-off to their ‘Paladins’ game, similar to Epic Games with ‘Fortnite.’ Valve, too, added Danger Zone mode to their flagship shooter ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.’ Independent game developer Landfall released a genre spoof with ‘Totally Accurate Battlegrounds.’

  1. Jacksonville Landing shooting (Aug. 26)

Sadly, gun violence crept to the gaming industry in 2018. At an ‘NFL Madden 19’ tournament held in Jacksonville Landing Mall, 24-year-old David Katz opened fire in the GLHF Gaming Bar, the tournament venue, and killed two players in the venue; 22-year-old Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton of Woodland Hills, Calif. and 27-year-old Taylor “Spotmeplzz” Robertson of Ballard, W.Va. At least ten people were wounded in the venue. Katz committed suicide afterward.

Katz was one of the tournament participants. He lost a few rounds in the tourney, which excluded him off the playoffs. According to his fellow competitors, he was acting strangely and refused to shake hands after losing the competition. He used various handles online, such as “Bread” and “Ravens2012Champ.”

Electronic Arts cooperated with local authorities’ investigations. EA expressed condolences to the families of the victims. Other gaming-related event organizers such as PAX, Electronic Entertainment Expo and several other eSports organizers announced that they would take extra security measures in the wake of the shooting.

  1. Farewell, Telltale (Sept. 21 – Nov. 14)

On Sept. 21, adventure game giant Telltale Games abruptly closed its doors during office hours due to financial issues. Ninety percent of its present workforce (around 220-225 employees) were abruptly sent home, they were given 30 minutes to pack, and received no severance.

Among all of the employees that were sent home that day, one of them was Melissa Hutchison, the voice of Clementine, the main character of Telltale’s ‘Walking Dead’ series.

She received the news of the closure during a recording session, which abruptly ended. That afternoon at 4:30 Telltale tweeted stating that the company is closing its doors. It also stated that there would be around 25 employees staying that day to fulfill obligations; one of them was to finish ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ interactive media project for Netflix.

Three days after the company’s shut down, Vernie Roberts, a former employee sued Telltale Games on behalf of 275 other employees. Roberts cited that Telltale Games violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies to announce their closure 60 days in advance.

Telltale has not officially commented on what will happen to their work-in-progress games, but they did release the second episode of ‘Walking Dead: The Last Season’ as scheduled on Sept. 25. Finally, the company filed bankruptcy on Nov. 14, marking the end of what was once the leader in the adventure game industry.

  1. Diablo: Immortals launch fiasco (Nov. 2 – 3)

Unfortunately, BlizzCon 2018 was an utter disappointment for many Blizzard fans this year, as  Blizzard staffs on stage got booed by the crowd. When Blizzard fans paid over $200 for entry ticket, and paid $50 to watch the event’s stream, people were expecting Blizzard to announce something more than big enough to become the event’s headliner. Instead, they got a free-to-play mobile game that carries the ‘Diablo’ brand called ‘Diablo: Immortals.’ It’s not hard to understand why BlizzCon 2018 was such a disappointment; a mobile game released by a well-renowned PC game development company doesn’t really fit into their demographic.

The majority of Blizzard fans are veteran gamers who have been part of the PC gaming community since the iteration of Blizzard’s classics such as the first Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft.

So, when Blizzard announced that they’re going to release a new Diablo iteration, there were a couple of things that went into Blizzard’s fans’ heads; a Diablo II remaster, a new Diablo III expansion, or even Diablo IV. Sadly, Blizzard fans are getting none of these for this year.

It’s important to remember Blizzard’s demographic. For them, ‘free-to-play mobile game’ means low-quality, microtransaction-riddled games that are usually played to pass time instead of something that has a high replay value.

It might seem good for Blizzard that they want to follow the market trends, but it seems that they’re unaware of their own demographic. Hopefully, this year’s BlizzCon will have a bigger headliner.

  1. Glitchfest 76 (Nov. 14)

Sadly, Bethesda’s first multiplayer entry to the ‘Fallout’ series didn’t turn out well. Many Bethesda fans had their hopes high and pre-ordered the game, but the game turned out to be a glitchfest. The disappointment to Bethesda’s fans was unimaginable.

 

“Pre-ordering ‘Fallout 76’ was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in 2018,” senior and gaming enthusiast Calvin Lehr said. “I kind of liked the game. But it’s definitely something that I won’t be playing for a long time.”

Upon its release, Fallout 76 was met with mostly negative reception. The most common criticisms from the critics toward the game are the lack of NPCs, poor performance and sparse in-game world.

 

 

The best of 2018

  1. Overwatch League Inaugural Season

In the world of competitive gaming, 2018 was marked as the inaugural season of a new eSports league in the scene- Overwatch League.

Overwatch League
A match between London Spitfire and New York Excelsior taking place at Barclays Center, New York City.

What sets apart Overwatch League from other eSport leagues is that it follows the same format as American sports- using a set of permanent, city-based teams instead of using promotion and relegation commonly used in traditional eSports. Each team franchise is backed by an owner and tied to a major city.

In its debut week, the league held an overall peak of 441,000 concurrent viewers. Throughout the regular season, the league averaged 80,000 viewers. And during the grand finals, the league held over 331,000 viewers, making the new league an instant success in the eSports scene.

2. Burnout Paradise: Remastered (March 16)

I wrote an overview of Electronic Arts’ remake of the latest entry to EA’s ‘Burnout’ series in Fused’s Fall 2018 Print Edition. Put simply, it’s one of the best remake titles I’ve seen so far from a AAA game company.

Aside from improved visuals and audio, the remastered version of ‘Burnout Paradise’ retained the feel of the original game. The handling, the controls and most importantly, the core gameplay, are unchanged. What makes the remastered version even more promising is that it comes with all of the downloadable content from the original game right out of the box, which means you don’t have to pay for them.

What’s impressive about the PC version of this remake is that it can run on various hardware configurations, even with its impressive visuals. I ran this game on an old dual-core laptop with integrated graphics on very low settings, and I could get above at least 20 frames per second.

Overall, if you’re a racing game fan and never played a ‘Burnout’ title before, you can start exploring the series by playing ‘Burnout Paradise: Remastered.’ Or, if you’re a long-time Burnout fan and had already played the original game, but wanted to play it with improved graphics, I would recommend buying this game as well.

  1. The creation of North’s eSports team (September)

Bloomington North is one of the few lucky schools around Indiana to have an eSports team. To know more about North’s eSports club, click here.

  1. Smash Ultimate (Dec. 7)

Nintendo’s long-anticipated sequel to their flagship fighting game series was finally released on Dec. 7 of last year, and it definitely lived up to its hype. With a roster of 76 Nintendo characters, new game modes and stages, it is no wonder why it was lauded by many critics as the best game in the series, as well as one of the best games ever released in 2018. Before its release, it was one of the most pre-ordered game for Nintendo Switch. Three days after its release, it sold over 3 million copies in the United States, making it the fastest-selling Switch game in the nation.

 

  1. CS:GO Danger Zone (Dec. 6)

Last but not least is Valve’s Holiday gift to the Counter-Strike community; the Danger Zone update.

Along with making CS:GO free-to-play, Dec. 6 update also brings in Danger Zone mode- a fast-paced, competitive battle royale mode

Along with the decision to make ‘CS:GO’ free-to-play, the Danger Zone battle royale mode is a welcome addition to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The battle royale experience that Danger Zone offer differs greatly from other battle royale titles in terms of pacing, mechanics and map design.

Compared to PUBG’s two largest maps, CS:GO’s Blacksite map is about 100 times smaller.

First off, Danger Zone is much faster-paced than any other battle royales in the market, because each game only last up to ten minutes. Players are pressured to scavenge resources (with ammunition being the most scarce resource) and move around the map often due to the game mode’s close quarter combat nature.

Unlike other battle royales, players are only facing against 14 competitors instead of 100, which means games are over rather quickly. Combined this with the game mode’s small and closely packed map (0.06 square miles, about 100 smaller than PUBG’s largest maps), Danger Zone is a uniquely fast-paced battle royale experience.

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2018- Gaming Royale!