Sunday, January 27, 2013

For Sale: One Game Publisher (Slightly Used But In Good Condition)

It seems like the dust has settled on the fallout from THQ's bankruptcy sale, and it's not great news all around (see below).

THQ were initially going to sell to one company, set up as THQ2 and continue life fairly unchanged, but the bankruptcy court decided that if separate bids on all of THQ's assets exceeded the $60m bid already tabled for the entire company then a piecemeal sale it would be, and that's precisely what happened.

The two biggest items when it comes to PC gaming concerned South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Vigil Games.  Ubisoft picked up the rights to publish South Park, but the matter has been further complicated by South Park Studios filing a motion with the court to invalidate the sale of the rights to Ubisoft, stating that their own contract with THQ prevents any transfer of the licence they granted, provided they repay all monies received from THQ to date.  Theoretically this would mean they could "buy back" the game from THQ and then shop it around to any publisher they wanted, which would likely be an easy sell since the game at this point is probably almost complete.  The court has yet to rule on SPS's motion, and it is unclear when they will do so.  The cynical part of me expects this to be resolved by Ubisoft throwing a pile of money at SPS to make their objections go away.

The second aspect of the sale was the sad news that Vigil Games (developers of the Darksiders series) received no bids and have therefore been shuttered.  Vigil were also developing the Warhammer 40k MMO, which was later scaled back to be a single-player game, before THQ stopped talking about it completely.  This probably means that the game will never see the light of day, especially now Vigil is defunct, although THQ stated that they would continue to make "every effort" to sell those assets which have not yet been disposed of (presumably including Vigil).  Vigil was a solid developer and both Darksiders games were well-received by gamers and the industry, so it's truly tragic that no one decided to buy them.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the South Park situation pans out, and whether Ubisoft get to keep their publishing rights or if they revert to SPS.  Either way, it's now highly unlikely the game will make its March 2013 release date.  I would expect this to be pushed back to much later in the year, perhaps late summer at the earliest.  We can only hope that the game itself does not suffer as a result of this.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Upcoming Games of 2013 - Part 2

Continuing my round-up of the most interesting and appealing PC games due to launch in 2013.

Starting us off...


Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Expected: 1H 2013

Cryptic's first game following their takeover by Chinese game company Perfect World Entertainment, Neverwinter is an MMORPG set in the town of...Neverwinter...and will utilise a modified form of the 4th Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset.  As with all of Perfect World's games, it will be fully free-to-play with no charge for either the client or a recurring subscription (although expect an optional subscription to make an appearance).

The game itself was initially billed as a co-op RPG, in that you could build a group of up to five players and then go dungeon crawling to see what you could find.  Recent updates have indicated that the game has been restructured into a full MMORPG at Perfect World's behest, resulting in its delay to the current release date of "early 2013".

Neverwinter is also notable for its "Foundry" system, which will allow players to create their own adventures, quests, and locations for friends and other players to try out.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Expected: Q4 2013

One of the breakout hits from E3 2012, Watch Dogs is an action-adventure game which posits that information has become currency and that technology is becoming increasingly connected.  Similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dishonored, you will have objectives to achieve in an open world but will able to choose your own method of achieving those goals.

You can hack various computer systems, such as traffic lights and cellphones, and will be able to pull up information on your mobile computer about NPCs, such as their current financial state, and their propensity for violence.  This will help you decide how exactly you wish to approach scenarios involving certain individuals.

Watch Dogs is probably the game I am most excited for for 2013.  We have been treated to a gluttony of exceptional action-adventure open world games recently (such as the aforementioned DE:HR and  Dishonored, together with Thief 4 in development and also the Assassin's Creed games) and this looks to be the next evolution.  There is also talk of there being some kind of co-op (online?) included in the game, as the video below seems to indicate.  With Ubisoft having abandoned their stupid PC DRM then you should have no excuse to check this out, hopefully towards the end of this year.

Developer: Trion Worlds
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Expected: April 2013

In what will be a gaming first, Defiance, a co-op MMO (FPS?) will be launching alongside a SyFy TV series this April.  Both the game and the show are in parallel development, with each intended to influence the other as events unfold.  The TV show is set in St. Louis, whereas the game is set in San Francisco, so there is that separation, but crossover is expected from both sides down the line.

It's an intriguing idea, and I am very interested to see how it works out.  No spoilers here, but in brief terms the show (and presumably the game too) tells a futuristic story of several alien races who come to Earth seeking a new home, and chronicles how these aliens and humans attempt to co-exist in such a new paradigm.

That's all well and good, but what if the game bombs but the TV series is great, will that continue standalone?  Or what if the TV series just can't keep up with the heady heights of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or The Jersey Shore and gets pulled, but the game does well, can / will the game carry on by itself?  Ideally they will both be good, but (a) I'm a realist, and (b) I don't want to push my luck.  Either way, it's a fascinating experiment and I look forward to seeing how this unfolds.  The game is being made by Trion Worlds, notable for their successful MMORPG Rift, so the pedigree there is solid.

Those interested in the Defiance beta can sign in here with their Trion Worlds account (or make a new one if you have never played a Trion game before) to be considered for the first beta event, which begins on 18th January.

Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 5th March 2013 (NA), 8th March 2013 (EU)

The latest game in the SimCity series, the 2013 version comes courtesy of a new simulation engine known as GlassBox, which allows for more accurate representations of what is actually happening in realtime in your city, as opposed to pre-rendered animations that are chosen as the closest match to your current activity.

The game itself looks very pretty, and the new 3D rendering engine does an excellent job of showcasing your city, including (for the first time!) roads that are actually curved, instead of straight as in every other SimCity game to date.

Unfortunately, you have to be connected to EA's servers at all times to be able to play the game, even when playing in single-player.  You would have thought that in 2013 this was dead and buried, but apparently not. Nothing turns me off a game more than this, and this is no exception here.  Devs can talk all they want about "value-added" and "how it's good for the gamer" but I'm afraid I'm not buying it, both literally and figuratively.  It's disappointing to see a solid game starting from two steps back just from its DRM, but there you go.

Remember Me

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Capcom
Expected: 4th June 2013

Perhaps the sleeper hit of 2013 waiting to happen (this year's Dishonored?), Remember Me is a futuristic platformer / action-adventure title, set in a future where memories have become a commodity to be bought and sold.  You play as Nilin, a so-called "memory-hunter" on the run from her previous employer, Memoreyes, who have seen fit to erase your memory for reasons unknown.  You must reclaim your old memories and find out why they were taken from you in the first place.

The first game from Paris-based studio Dontnod Entertainment, Remember Me (initially known as Adrift) garnered much attention at Gamescom 2011, which ultimately led to no less than four different publishers trying to pick the game up.  Dontnod eventually signed on with Capcom with a view to releasing the game in mid-2013.

I always have a soft spot for new IPs trying to plow their own furrow in the endless seas of Modern Warfares, Battlefields, and Assassin's Creeds, and Remember Me certainly looks like one to watch.  It's notable for what you won't be able to do, which is wield any guns (you use fighting styles only, no weapons) or even die.  On paper this looks like a rough path to take, especially for a new game from a new studio, but four publishers apparently thought differently.

And that's your lot, folks.  Nine games that look like the cream of the crop for 2013.  No doubt every single one will be delayed to 2014.