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Editorial

Developers Really Need to Stop Announcing Their Games So Early

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With today’s games industry being much larger than it used to be, in terms of both the number of users and revenue, it makes sense that developers and publishers see a need to get early buzz about their title, to keep a game in the public consciousness well in advance of the game’s projected release date. This had led to the unfortunate situation of some games being announced years in advance of anything remotely close to their release.

There’s probably a couple of games you are already thinking of right now that fit this description, and I’d be quite surprised if one of them didn’t contain the words “Last” and “Guardian” in it (although perhaps not for much longer). As I said, it’s understandable in this age of gaming ubiquity that when games can have budgets in the tens of millions (or higher, in some cases) then they want to ensure as high a chance as possible that they are going to turn a profit on a particular title. This means getting the word out about the game, putting up a site for it, continually rolling out tidbits about the game’s story, characters, etc., and hopefully forming a community of other like-minded people who are equally interested.

Other than The Last Guardian (announced in 2009!), there are several games that have done this. A notable example that’s relevant today would be CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077. This was officially announced way back in the beforetimes of 2012, and right now is essentially limited to a single Youtube video which certainly looks cool… but that’s about it. CDPR recently stated that they did not anticipate giving any further details on Cyberpunk until 2017 at the very earliest, instead choosing to concentrate on The Witcher 3 for 2015 and 2016. So the earliest we would have details on Cyberpunk would be a full five years after the game’s announcement – and this would just be details about the game, not even the game’s actual release. I think it’s fair to say that CDPR certainly announced Cyberpunk too early. If it wasn’t their intention to provide almost any concrete details about the game then they did their fans (of which there are many – myself included) a disservice by announcing the game so far ahead of its release – whenever that ultimately turns out to be.

cyberpunk2077

Another game essentially missing in action is Half-Life 2 Episode 3. Considering that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was released in 2007 – 8 years ago – you would think Valve would have at least have said something with regards to Episode 3. Whether this turns out to be a new episodic game on an extremely sluggish release schedule, or a full sequel that would be considered Half-Life 3, the very words “Half-Life 3” have come to mean nebulous vapourware, almost the dictionary definition of a developer ceasing to discuss a particular title under almost any circumstances. I can only hope that when Valve choose to finally unveil the game officially, they choose 1st April to do so; this would be extremely fitting, and entirely appropriate.

The final honourable mention may actually see the light of day itself, shortly. Doom 4 was announced by id in 2008. Now seven years later, the game was rebooted by Bethesda (who’s parent company, ZeniMax, acquired id in 2009) in 2011. The game was officially “re-unveiled” at id’s 2014 QuakeCon, and is going to be showcased at this year’s E3. Whether a release date will be announced is anyone’s guess, but at least there’s a slow drip of information coming out (with the emphasis on slow).

I get it game developers, I do. It can be an expensive process, and you want to get people hyped and stay hyped for your game in the intervening years of you announcing something and finally releasing it. Keeping us hanging in some cases for literally years and years though, I don’t think that’s doing you any favours whatsoever. It may actually turn people against you in the long run by creating the perception that you are just stringing people along aimlessly. I’d like to see games announced no more than a year or two away from their projected release. This leaves plenty of time for communities to build, hype to be… er, hyped, and the game to actually be completed on schedule.

No more keeping people dangling for years, developers, if you can’t commit to delivering in a reasonable amount of time. Your fans, and this fan, will thank you for it.

I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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