Shacknews - Steve Watts

Ever reluctant to accept changes in the industry, Nintendo finally announced its plans for mobile game development this morning. It has been a long time coming, with pressure coming from investors and industry-watchers for the storied publisher to follow the shifting market. While the move makes financial sense, and Nintendo could certainly be successful by following the well-worn path created by other mobile publishers, it will lose a piece of its identity if it fails to break from conventional mobile norms.

Nintendo has always prided itself on custom-fitting its own hardware to its software. The synergy between its systems and games has been a selling point, and one reason why fans have known they can count on Nintendo for a rock-solid gameplay loop. For all the calls for Nintendo to put their games out on other systems, including mobile, the hesitance makes sense. Nintendo's strength has always been bolstered by the hardware equivalent of home field advantage.

Stepping into the mobile market, then, marks a big step outside of Nintendo's comfort zone. The risk it runs now is letting the company's discomfort with this new platform influence it into utilizing some of mobile gaming's bad habits.

Almost a year ago, Nintendo received what was possibly the worst advice ever given to it. In a well-meaning letter from Oasis Management's Seth Fischer in February of 2014, the hedge fund manager expounded on the potential to tap the free-to-play market. "We believe Nintendo can create very profitable games based on in-game revenue models with the right development team," Fischer wrote, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. "Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher."

(Take a moment to collect yourself after reading that last sentence.)

Mr. Fischer isn't a game designer, and so it's hard to blame him for giving input that so callously discounts the precision with which Nintendo balances its mechanics. Until very recently, it would have been easy to shrug off his bad advice. Nintendo's experiments with free-to-play had largely bucked the anti-consumer trends that define the term. That is, until the release of Pokemon Shuffle. 

Both Rusty's Real Deal Baseball and Steel Diver: Sub Wars shared one vital characteristic: there was a limit to how much you could spend. Even if you purchased all of Rusty's mini-games without earning a single discount coupon, you would eventually unlock them all and be done spending money. Sub Wars was even more straight-forward, with a single purchase. It was a demo version in all but the name. In both cases, to whatever extent you enjoyed the free content, you could play it to your heart's content. 

Pokemon Shuffle went a different and altogether unwelcome direction, relying on an energy mechanic. In fact, the F2P hook paired with the familiarity of a rather typical match-three game makes it practically indistinguishable from thousands of games on the iOS and Android App stores. It's the vanilla ice cream of video games: plain, easy, uncreative, inoffensive. In fact, Nintendo had previously announced a partnership to make a themed Puzzle & Dragons game, a series which has historically been another match-three with energy gates.

Energy mechanics have been unpopular in the mobile space, specifically because they're so clearly targeted towards monetizing compulsion. "You enjoyed your time with the game? That's nice, but now you have to stop and wait," they seem to say. "Or, well, you could pay us a little money." The barriers feel more artificial and arbitrary, based entirely around the monetization scheme. There has been such backlash against it that it was strange to see Nintendo adopting it at all, much less on one of its dedicated hardware platforms.

That kind of compromise is uncharacteristic of Nintendo, and raises some concern regarding today's news of mobile development. The company's step into mobile games means it will be in unfamiliar territory, and especially susceptible to following the trends of other mobile publishers. If it relies too much on the conventional mobile hooks, its efforts will inevitably be lost in a sea of the same-old. Given its willingness to try a monetization scheme that was already unpopular when Pokemon Shuffle came out, it may even be behind the curve of mobile trends.

Nintendo's entrance to the mobile games business is rife with possibilities. It could breathe new life into series like Pokemon and Pikmin, or revitalize underused ones like WarioWare or Elite Beat Agents. However, in entering a market that is already so crowded, Nintendo needs to keep its independent streak alive, and be a leader rather than a follower.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Another week is slowly coming to an end, which means Bungie has another weekly update to share regarding the future of Destiny. This week’s update includes information regarding Vault size increases, as well as support for the PlayStation 4’s new suspend/resume feature.

In next month’s update 1.1.2, Bungie will increase the Vault size dimensions to 36 weapons, 24 armor pieces, and 24 misc. items. This is certainly a nice bump in size from the current 20 weapons, 20 armor pieces, and 20 misc. items layout that’s currently available in Guardian’s Vaults.

Bumping up the number of gear Guardians can hold in their Vaults posed quite a challenge for Bungie. “Our challenge was to provide an increase in storage that fit within the memory constraints that limit how many items can be displayed on one screen,” Live Team lead M.E. Chun reveals in Bungie’s Weekly Update. “We opted for making sure that players would have enough slots for all Exotics from Launch through House of Wolves - thus the largest increase in slot space is for weapons.We know there are a bunch of players in the world who don’t have enough space for Armor and General items.  We’ll have a solution for you in the future.”

Bungie also says Destiny’s 1.1.2 update will feature some additional features, which includes new audio settings, a Colorblind Mode, and support for the PS4’s new suspend/resume feature.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Furious 7 will be released in theaters nationwide on April 3, and starting today, Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners can download a special Fast & Furious standalone expansion pack. Yes - that means you don’t have to own a copy of Forza Horizon 2 in order to get in on the Fast & Furious action.

Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious has racers being recruited by Tej Park, who is voice by Ludacris himself, to help him acquire ten special cars for the Fast & Furious crew. These vehicles just so happen to be the same cars that can be seen in Furious 7, and it’s your goal to acquire each of them by taking part in a series of challenges inspired by the Fast & Furious series.

The Fast & Furious standalone expansion pack will be available for free until April 10 on both Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Microsoft introduced us to the Xbox One’s April system update last week, which will include improvements to party chat, achievements, and more. Today, the company has highlighted some additional improvements they’re making in next month’s update.

In addition to last week’s improvements, the Xbox One will now be able to support voice messages, which was a long-standing feature on the Xbox 360. The option will be available when you’re writing a message to another Xbox Live member as a small microphone. Users will be able to record up to 15 seconds of audio, and best of all, voice messages can be exchanged between Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles.

Speaking of voice messages, Microsoft will be enhancing the party chat feature with its own dedicated chat relay servers. Having dedicated servers will ensure those with a history of NAT issues will be able to have a more reliable party chat experience.

The last improvement Microsoft is making to the Xbox One is the What’s On section. The What’s On section will now feature Staff Picks that are more personalized based on your recent game activity. New experiments with Twitter Trending TV and Game Clips are also being introduced.

These recent changes are now available for Xbox One Preview members while those outside of the program will need to wait until Microsoft officially releases their April system update.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

While rumors of whether Hideo Kojima will leave Konami after the completion of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain continue to circulate, Konami has issued an official response on the matter. Using the Metal Gear Japanese Twitter account (via Kotaku), Konami confirms that removing Kojima's name is part of a rebranding effort designed to put Konami at the forefront. However, the company avoided direct remarks about Kojima's employment, and whether he was working as full time staff or as contractor.

Furthermore, Konami has neither confirmed nor denied rumors of Kojima Productions staff being restricted from email and interent use. However, it is known that Kojima will be doing fewer interviews.

Konami states:

"In accordance with the recent change in production organization of all of Konami, Kojima Productions, as well as other internal production companies, has had its name, etc., changed to move into the corporate headquarters work structure...The name and organization has changed, but as before, MGSV: TPP is continuing as a work from director Kojima and the existing team members."

Although the statements don't actually reveal whether or not Kojima is staying or going, the company reaffirms that he is still hard at work on MGS5: The Phantom Pain development.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is expected to release in September for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.


Shacknews - Shack Staff

Pillars of Eternity is a massive game filled with interesting characters, beautiful environments, and plenty of things to do. However, unlike traditional role-playing-games Pillars of Eternity doesn't reward players with experience points for defeating enemies in combat. This makes exploration and quest completion the only ways to earn experience towards leveling up your party. Luckily, there are plenty of Side Quests and Tasks to be completed throughout Dyrwood, and these quests and tasks open up as soon as players reach the first stop on their journey, Guilded Vale.

We've broken the side quests up into the Acts in which the fall under, in order to make things easier to sort and understand.

NOTE: It should go without saying... but beyond this point there will be spoilers, lots and lots of nitty gritty beautiful spoilers.


Side Quest: A Mother’s Plea

This first side quest is found within Act 1. To get it started you’ll want to head to Aufra’s house in Gilded Vale. Speak with her inside to learn that she is expecting a child, and is worried that the child will be hollowborn. You can also share the news of the caravan being hit, as well as the death of her sister Calisca if you choose to. However, after speaking with her she’ll ask for your help, at which point she will offer you 20 CP up front to travel to Anslog’s Compass and speak with an Aumauan healer named Mother Ranga to obtain goods to keep her child from being born without a soul.

Accept the quest and then head out into town and continue with your main quest until you are able to travel to Anslog’s Compass.

New Quest Info: Travel to Anslog’s Compass and speak to Mother Ranga.

To reach Anslog’s Compass you’ll need to travel south through Magran’s Form and then make your way to the southern exit to reach Anslog’s Compass. Continue moving through this new area, taking out any roaming Xaurips you come into contact with, until you reach the camp where Ranga and her assistant have setup. Once you speak to Ranga mention that Aufra sent you, and you’ll be asked if you are the one who slayed the Xaurips on the way here.

Quest Info Updated: Clear out the Xaurips.

To advance the quest you’ll need to remove all of the Xaurip threats from the map. There are the two groups which you probably defeated on your way to meet Ranga, as well as a camp of them up in the northeastern area of the map. There are also a few guarding a Sea Cave nearby. While you’re busy clearing out the hostilities of the area, you might as well defeat the five Guls in the southeastern area in order to clear the peninsula so you can grab the items hidden there. Once you’ve defeated the Xaurips, return to Ranga, and you’ll then be asked to clear the Sporeling and Dank Spore threat from the nearby cave.

Quest Info Updated: Collect Dank Spores

The easiest way to deal with the Sporelings is to lure them away from the Dank Spore and around the corner. This will ensure your party isn’t taking damage from the Dank Spore, as well as removing the threat of any party members being charmed by the Dank Spore’s attacks. Defeat the Sporelings and then head around the corner and take out the Dank Spore before collecting all of the spores they drop. Now head back out of the cave and speak with Ranga again. Hand over the spores when asked to, and take the potion that she gives you. Unfortunately it’s a placebo, so you’re going to need to make a moral decision on things before this quest ends. Rest before you continue traveling – thankfully you can rest for free at Ranga’s camp – and then head back to Gilded Vale after buying or selling any items through Ranga.

Quest Info Updated: Return to Aufra

Head back to Guilded Vale and then move straight to Aufra’s house. Once you’re inside, speak with her, and hand over the potion. This is the tricky part, as you’ll need to decide which final quest decision fits your play-style and character better. You can either

A: Tell Aufra the truth and admit that the potion is simply a placebo. Doing so will net a 10CP reward (along with the 20CP you received at the start) from Aufra, as well as a Potion of Minor Regen, Potion of Minor Recovery, and a Potion of Minor Stamina from Ranga for killing the Xaurips.

B: Lie to Aufra, and allow her to believe that the placebo potion will help her. Doing this will net you 10CP from Aufra(along with the 20CP you received at the start), and a Cloak of Minor Protection upon your return to speak with Ranga.

Once your decision is made, select it in the conversation options and finish up the quest.

Side Quest: The Smith’s Shipment

In order to start his quest up you’ll need to head to the blacksmith’s shop ion Gilded Vale. To find it simply open up your map with M and locate the house atop the hill just to the right of the crumbled temple. Once you’re inside speak with Tuatana to learn that he’s been waiting for a shipment of supplies, which haven’t arrived yet. Agree to keep a lookout for his supplies while traveling to pick up this quest.

New Quest Info: Travel to the Black Meadow

This first quest objective isn’t hard. You’ll simply need to travel from Gilded Vale to Magran’s Fork, and then head out the eastern exit to reach Black Meadow. Just north and to the east alongside the road you’ll find an overturned wagon which is stuffed with crossbow bolts.

Quest Info Updated: Track down the shipment.

Continue along the road north as carefully as possible as there are enemies around this area. Continue northwest to the corner of the map, be sure to avoid the two trolls patrolling this area if you don’t want to fight them, and engage in combat with the four bandits around the camp you’ll find just east of the trolls. Now check the barrel, crates, and the Bandit corpses to find the supplies. The most important part is hidden within the crate with the barrel atop it.

Quest Info Updated: Return to Tuatanu

This final part of the quest is simple, return to Gilded Vale and enter the Blacksmith’s shop and speak with Tuatanu to return the supplies and gain a reward.

Don't see the quest you're looking for? Stay tuned we'll have more walkthroughs soon.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

The first episode of Life is Strange offered an intriguing teen drama, albeit one mixed in with some supernatural elements. But it mostly focused on a teen girl's struggle to grow up in a private academy and cope with all of the craziness unfolding around her. Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment stepped this idea up further in the second episode, titled "Out of Time." Max Caulfield's daily life only grew more complicated on her second day, as the mystery surrounding the approaching apocalypse only intensified.

For as much as the second episode focused on Max and her reunion with best friend Chloe, it was as much about classmate Kate Marsh, who was at the receiving end of a real world kind of harassment. She went to a Vortex Club party against her better judgment, she got into trouble that may not have been of her own doing, and her exploits were posted in an online video that went viral. All of this can be overwhelming to a young teenager and it's the kind of thing that hits very hard for anyone that experienced anything close to that kind of humiliation. While there are hints that Kate's trials are somehow tied to the overarching mystery of Rachel Amber's disappearance, this functions far better as a self-contained story arc and actually makes this episode function just as well as a standalone experience as it does a part of the greater narrative.

As one might imagine, decisions from the previous episode carry over to "Out of Time," though it may be difficult to notice. The "Previously on" segment even manages to omit any instances of major decisions made in the first episode. But Dontnod manages to continue the gradual progression of major plot points, including the slow reveal of Nathan Prescott's power over the school and the degree of control that David Madsen wants over student surveillance. As far as conversations with others go, Max's rewind powers feel like something of an afterthought, but they are put into use towards the end of this episode to some amusing results.

Dontnod also practiced a few different uses for Max's rewind powers beyond altering conversation courses. The main puzzle mechanic involved Max proving her abilities to Chloe, which led to a couple of memory-based puzzles. While in the Two Whales diner, Max had to take note of exactly what was in Chloe's pockets and later had to recall a sequence of events in specific detail before rewinding and pointing them out in detail. This was a practical and creative use of Max's powers and greatly added to the gameplay aspect of this episode. The gameplay aspect only took a dip when it focused more on silly fetch objectives, with one specifically having Max search for bottles around a junkyard for Chloe to shoot at.

But the biggest addition that "Out of Time" makes is the implication that Max's rewind powers are not to be abused and are even subject to failure. As the episode progresses, Max will get more and more nosebleeds as she strains herself through the overuse of her abilities. The episode's major climax (which will not be spoiled here) even sees her powers fail completely, meaning any decisions and fallout from them in this instance are absolutely for keeps. There are no takebacks in this instance, which undoes one of the major grievances from the last episode that Max could simply use her power as a crutch. Sometimes the power isn't there and if Max glossed over any details or brushed anything off, there is a very real price to pay.

After meeting a handful of new characters, getting to know a few familiar ones, and honing Max's abilities, the question of how all of the major story arcs converge isn't any more clear at the end of "Out of Time" as it was prior to its beginning. There's an apocalyptic tornado coming, there's a missing student out there, and Max somehow has the ability to rewind time, but how all of these events are connected is still a mystery.

"Out of Time" has some faults, like a few mundane tasks and dialogue that still feels very unnatural in places, but the greater narrative is picking up nicely. The memorable moments in this episode are ones that'll be remembered by anyone that remotely experienced anything similar, making "Out of Time" feel staggeringly human. The third episode should be an interesting one to observe, given that the climax will likely send players on two distinctly different paths, but if it's as emotionally gutwrenching as "Out of Time," players will want to mark their calendars for its May release.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

In Not a Hero, BunnyLord, an anthropomorphic character from the future, is running for mayor. In order to win over voters, he has pledged to reduce crime in the city, and you're a be a big part of that plan. As a both a professional assassin and campaign manager, you'll reduce crime by running into buildings and killing everyone you encounter.

That's really all there is to it. You select a character, each with different attributes like faster reloading or the ability to knock enemies down, then go dashing into buildings. Kick open door, slide to cover, and shoot everyone before they can shoot you. Sometimes you'll get to throw some explosives. Then head over to the getaway van, driven by the BunnyLord, grab breakfast and head into the next hilarious mission briefing. Each mission includes a number of (sometimes) random bonus objectives, like completing it within a time limit or getting a kill streak, but completing the primary objective is all that matters.

Your character starts at the entrance to a 2D building. Inside are armed criminals that are either casually standing around or on patrol. The action starts almost as soon as you open the door. Sliding and taking cover behind large objects will keep you from getting hit, but that won't stop them from walking up to you and knocking you over. Characters have access to special moves. For example, Steve can slide in and knock enemies over. Shooting an enemy from up close scores you a critical hit. Knocking them over gives you a chance to execute them in a violent fashion. Players must work their way through, floor by floor and room by room, to kill everyone and reach the mission objective. Sometimes there will be hinderances, like having to pull a far off lever to unlock a door. Random events, like a SWAT raid, will sometimes occur to mix things up, but I didn't notice anything during my playthrough of the early levels. Perhaps they'll become more prominent later on in the game.

Aside from movement, controls are very straightforward. Slide to avoid getting shot and to move behind cover, shoot, and reload. Different characters add a little variety to how you go about killing everyone in sight, and they may change up the optional objectives, but it doesn't matter who does the rampaging as long as it gets done. Although I played the game on PC, it doesn't appear as though keyboard and mouse controls are supported. You'll need to a gamepad to properly kill crime.

Missions become increasingly complex with more criminals and more floors to navigate. There may be times when you'll need to rush down a stairwell and get to cover as quickly as possible. At other times, you'll have to jump through a window or two. Missions are short, but intensely fun to play. This is perhaps one of the most addictive games I've come across in a while. Plus, the BunnyLord briefings are simply not to be missed. However, most of what he says is not fit to be repeated here.

But you'll have a chance to experience the fun of murdering on behalf of BunnyLord's mayoral race, while cleaning the streets of crime, when the game releases on May 7th on PC, PS4, and Vita.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Hearthstone will get its second Adventure expansion next week. Blizzard announced today that Blackrock Mountain will launch on April 2.

As previously reported, Blackrock Mountain will consist of five wings, and cost $24.99--$6.99 or 700 gold per wing--just like the Curse of Naxxramas adventure. It will also offer a new game board, and regular and Heroic boss encounters. Unlike that one, though, the first wing won't be free to try. The focus in this adventure will be dragons and cards that synergize well with them.

It will consist of 31 cards in total, including five Legendary cards and two class cards per class. Pre-orders have been open for about a week, offering a unique cardback. The first wing launching on April 2 will be Blackrock Depths, with another following each week afterwards. 

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Dota 2 fans have already marked their calendars for this year's edition of The International, set to take place at the Key Arena in Seattle, WA, from August 3 through August 8. Now the time has come for ticket sales, which Valve has announced will become available tomorrow.

The first batch of tickets will go on sale tomorrow, March 27 at 10AM PDT. For those that miss that window, a second wave will become available at 10PM PDT that same day. All tickets are general admission and will run for $99 a piece, with a limit of five tickets per household. It should be noted that tickets for last year's International sold out in less than an hour, so those looking to go will want to jump on this quickly.

Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster. For more, be sure to check out Valve's helpful FAQ.


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