We made a bit of our own news this week when we revealed that our friends over at Giant Bomb would be joining us as part of the GameSpot Network along with their Whiskey Media stablemate Comic Vine. This had plenty of significance for longtime GameSpot fans (and haters) as it gave us the opportunity to address an unfortunate time in GameSpot's past. After the news went out on Thursday morning, we livestreamed a conversation later in the afternoon in which erstwhile GameSpot editorial director and Giant Bomb editor-in-chief Jeff Gerstmann was able to discuss the circumstances of his departure from GameSpot in 2007 for the first time. Quite handily, we have an archive of that video that you can watch right here.
Diablo III Finally Got a Date
No, not that kind of date, silly. A release date. May 15 is the big day but, as has previously been reported, the game will be launched without its multiplayer player-versus-player arena component. That part of the game will be delivered digitally to gamers at a later date via a patch. When the multiplayer component is launched, it will include "multiple arena maps with themed locations and layouts, PVP-centric achievements, and a matchmaking system," as well as a "personal progression system." Excited? Preordered? Wondering what a "personal progression system" is? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Zoiks! An Elder Scrolls MMO Game?
If there's one thing we would love to be able to take on pure, blind faith, it would be a new massively multiplayer online game based on the Elder Scrolls franchise. The rumors have been circulating for a while that Bethesda is working on "something" in the online space, but things kicked up a notch when an "industry source" spoke to technology news and reviews site Tom's Guide this week suggesting that the Elder Scrolls MMOG--to be imaginatively titled Elder Scrolls Online--will be revealed this May. Not in June at E3 as you might expect, but a month prior, which does make the whole rumor thing seem a bit iffy.
The Elder Scrolls MMOG--to be imaginatively titled Elder Scrolls Online--will be revealed this May. Not in June at E3 as you might expect, but a month prior, which does make the whole rumor thing seem a bit iffy.The source claims that the game will be set an entire millennium before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This timeline would put the new game several hundred years in front of any Elder Scrolls game. Additionally, the source says Elder Scrolls Online will sport three playable factions. Details are thin concerning these roles, but the tipster said each will be represented by animals: a lion, a dragon, and an unspecified bird of prey. What do you think? Do you believe it?
Speaking of Bethesda, it stopped fighting about the whole Scrolls name with the guys at Mojang this week because it finally won the argument. Mojang managing director Carl Manneh announced the news on the company website last weekend, saying, "We have settled the lawsuit over Scrolls, and Mojang and Bethesda are friends again." As part of the deal, Mojang's forthcoming title Scrolls will be allowed to keep that name, but it must surrender the Scrolls trademark to Bethesda. "For us, this was never about a trademark, but being able to use Scrolls as the name of our game, which we can," Manneh said. Mojang founder Markus Persson shed further light on the matter, saying on Twitter that in addition to the above, Mojang has agreed to not make an Elder Scrolls competitor using the Scrolls name.
Baldur's Gate Returns
When we mentioned that there was something new happening with Baldur's Gate a couple of weeks ago, you all seemed to be understandably quite excited. This week, after a joke circulated on Twitter that publisher Atari would be turning the franchise into a Facebook game, it was finally revealed that the developers at Beamdog subsidiary Overhaul Games would be doing exactly what their name suggests; overhauling the game using a "reforged" version of the famed Infinity Engine. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition will be released this summer and will later be followed by its sequel in Enhanced form. Details are thin concerning the project, but Beamdog's Trent Oster shed further light on the game via Twitter. He said Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is "going to have new content for the game you love, made by some of the original team members." Additionally, the developer revealed that the enhanced edition will include the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion. As for Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, it will include the Throne of Bhaal expansion and will ship at a later date.
Erstwhile Sony Guru Goes to Microsoft
OK, dubious segue here: Phil Harrison, former non-executive director at Atari (see? Baldur's Gate, Atari, Phil Harrison…it works, right?) but more significantly erstwhile president of worldwide studios at Sony Computer Entertainment, has joined the Xbox team as head of Microsoft's European Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB). "As the senior IEB leader in Europe, Phil will not only lead the Microsoft Studios European organization directly, but will also influence the broader performance of IEB's European business through strategic partnerships and by bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future," the company said in a statement. This means he will also be overseeing British-based game developers at Lionhead Studios, Soho Productions, and Rare. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Rare still exists.
Despite the proximity of this news to that of Peter Molyneux's departure from Microsoft Studios, it seems that Harrison is not filling his shoes. "Is Phil Harrison replacing Peter Molyneux?… No," tweeted Xbox's Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb. "Phil's role on the IEB leadership team is completely unrelated to Peter's departure."
If you're not clear on why this is a big deal, Harrison was ultimately responsible for many of the more progressive game-related moves made by the PlayStation organization between 2005 and 2008. This included the support of titles such as Little Big Planet and MotorStorm and ensured that PSN was a haven for imaginative and sometimes avant-garde indie titles. His vision and passion for games that break traditional boundaries will no doubt have a significant impact on the Xbox organization in the coming years.
Despite being only five weeks old, the game has already been downloaded 20 million times, and right now it's the number one free and paid app in the App store as well as being the number one free app on Android.
The new iPad shipped this week, so we have a good excuse for mentioning our favorite iOS game of the moment: OMGPOP's Pictionary-like asynchronous picture/word game Draw Something, which has quickly become one of the fastest-growing games…well, ever. Despite being only five weeks old, the game has already been downloaded 20 million times, and right now it's the number one free and paid app in the App store as well as being the number one free app on Android. OMGPOP boss Dan Porter says there are "only" 12 million players actively playing the game, but even so over a billion pictures have already been drawn in the game. If you haven't tried it out yet, we highly recommend you do.
Obligatory Weekly Mention of Mass Effect 3
Yes, we know some of you are bored with all the Mass Effect chat of late, but given how astronomically popular the game is right now, it seems there's an appetite for this stuff. We'll keep it brief. Remember those folks who felt so strongly about the ending of Mass Effect 3 that they were circulating a petition to try to convince BioWare to change it? Well, they added a PayPal donate button for Child's Play to their efforts and have now managed to raise over $35,000 from more than 1,400 contributors. Will this do anything to further convince the studio to address the group's concerns? Probably not. Here, our own Laura Parker takes a stab at explaining why that likely won't happen. "Art does not side exclusively with the artist, nor does it side exclusively with the audience," she concludes. "A work of art is brought into being by the creation of a two-way relationship between both entities. A video game like Mass Effect 3 cannot be fully realized until it is played by an audience that must be allowed to react and respond to the work."
Mass Effect 3 executive producer Casey Hudson defended himself on the subject, stating, "I didn't want the game to be forgettable, and even right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the endings have had with people--debating what the endings mean, and what's going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in," he said. "That to me is part of what's exciting about this story. There has always been a little bit of mystery there and a little bit of interpretation, and it's a story that people can talk about after the fact."
It hasn't just been the ending to the game that has fans bent out of shape about Mass Effect 3 though. There's the whole matter of the day-one DLC too, which pissed off an awful lot of people. Plenty of fuel was poured on the fire when PC users found that they could unlock the new character featured in the From Ashes DLC without actually downloading anything. Electronic Arts issued a statement this week, saying, "As stated previously, in order to seamlessly integrate Javik into the core campaign, certain framework elements and character models needed to be put on disc." It went on to explain, "We did something similar with Zaeed and Kasumi in Mass Effect 2." It was not made clear if the parts of the From Ashes content are included only on the PC version of Mass Effect 3 or if PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 copies also host the content. Hudson addressed this also. "I think people get it now," he said. "They get the fact that sometimes the way that things work in game development isn't known very well by a lot of people, so there's an opportunity for misunderstanding, including the fact that as a multi-studio team and company, we have many projects that are ongoing. When we finish a game, we finish it many months before it actually hits the shelves and the team goes on to work on something else that in those intervening months represent millions of dollars of development time, which either goes toward the next game that you might not see for several years or a different game that they might go to work on like Dragon Age or The Old Republic."
[UPDATE:] Since we started pulling together the week's news for this roundup, the Mass Effect Community has, as of Saturday morning, raised over $58,000 for Child's Play from more than 2,700 contributors. Thanks to GameSpot user experience_fade for bringing this to our attention in the comments. While we're updating this story, let's also mention this:
Brendan Sinclair tackled the subject of on-disc DLC this week in his editorial On-Disc DLC Outrage Is Off the Mark in which he concluded, "The solution to the problem is to let publishers know that they've already blown past the pain point and to tell them we've had our fill. But it can't just be about on-disc DLC, or day-one DLC, or collector's editions, or season passes. It needs to be communicated to the publishers in sweeping fashion that gamers want a complete experience for a fair price or we simply won't pay. We need to tell them to present us with information on all extraneous content ahead of time--including pricing and release dates--so that we can make a more informed decision on whether to hand over our money. We need to tell them not to cut up expansions into a dozen $5 add-on packs, not to claim the retail game is a complete stand-alone package one week and the story-based DLC meaningfully fills in gaps the next."
Weekly Next-Gen Update
It all got a bit silly this week. First of all, in an initially hyperbolic but ultimately prescient quote, outspoken Twisted Metal dev David Jaffe told Edge in the UK that he "couldn't care less about next-gen." He continued, "I started at Sony Imagesoft doing Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games, and I went through that to PS1, then PS2, PS3, Vita… You go through the cycle enough and you realize today's 'Oh my f****** God' is tomorrow's 'Ehh, whatever.'" As the Internet collectively rolled its eyes, he went on to explain, "I'm no longer that excited about next-gen technology; it means budgets go up." He continued, "It sucks. The biggest thing I want is what you get from the PSP and the 3DS; it's always on, there's a sleep mode and I can just hit a button and I'm right back where I was and I don't have to go through all the boot-up s***."
How convenient, then, that the real next-gen news this week is similarly negative and kind of depressing. After all the teasing and rumors of developers seeing nearly finished hardware, Microsoft peed on our parade this week with the statement, "While we appreciate all the interest in our long-range plans for the future, we can confirm that there will be no talk of new Xbox hardware at E3 or anytime soon." What? C'mon…surely they're just f-ing with us, right? Nope. The company representative said that 2012 will be "all about Xbox 360." And, presumably, the further forcing of Kinect functionality into a variety of games.'