I bought a PS4 on Friday. I chose to buy a new console, and a PS4 specifically, for a number of reasons, and I’m not playing it for one really big one. But we’ll get to that.
This PS4 is my first console since my Windwaker Gamecube bundle back, oh, a long time ago. I didn’t buy an Xbox 360 or PS3 because at the time I had a pretty great gaming PC, an interest in upgrading that gaming PC, and none of the games on either console really interested me. So, I’ve been gaming on that PC (and iterations thereof) for a good long time. But now, finally, I decided to pull the trigger on a console.
Why? Because I had the money, and the new consoles seem interesting, and I can do reviews for OnlySP. No real reason, just because I felt like it, really.
Why did I choose the PS4 in particular? I’m still primarily a PC gamer, and Titanfall is on PC as well as Xbox One. I figured that a number of Microsoft exclusives would come to PC as well as Xbox One, so I’d probably get the most value out of the PS4. The Dualshock 4 apparently works well on PC, too, so that’s added value for me. The PS4 lineup doesn’t look as appealing as Xbox One’s, but it’s a little premature to judge a console based on launch lineup. But, the deciding factor was stock. Amazon spontaneously released new PS4 stock that promised to arrive within a week, instead of having to wait until next year to get box, at the right price point for me.
So I’m no Sony fanboy, I have no brand loyalty in this instance (I’ve never owned either an Xbox or a Playstation, in any form), and my choice was made on a whim based on price and availability.
So why am I not playing my Playstation 4 with Killzone bundle right now?
The reason is because I don’t physically have my PS4. I ordered it from Amazon, and shipping is taking between 2-5 work days. I ordered it Friday night, so it should be getting here on Wednesday – or, more likely, Thursday. That’s not my gripe – I expect shipping to take a certain amount of time, and it would be incredibly unrealistic and unfair to expect it to be here already.
No, the reason I don’t have my console now is because the PS4 is not going to be released in Australia until November 29th.
Why? Because reasons.
I watched the Spike TV PS4 launch event, streaming through the internet from halfway across the globe. I saw the excitement of everyone there. I watched the new trailers and reveals and the hype machine in full-flight. I had to – had to get the news up. And I saw that Sony, releasing one week before the Xbox One, snagged the majority of next-gen hype. And I knew, I knew I would have to wait two more weeks until Australia got the PS4.
Well, sort of. There was a PS4 launch event in Sydney – strictly industry invite only. Some big media outlets and Sony partners had a big shindig with PS4s in the city. And they celebrated the “launch” of the PS4, despite knowing, as I knew, that the only place that the PS4 had launched in was America. Australia’s – and Europe’s – official release date for the PS4 remained the 29th.
And I say “official”, because there are one or two caveats. Firstly, some PS4s leaked out early, due to street breaks. This isn’t uncommon for new hardware or games. Secondly, there’s a little thing called globalisation.
This means that someone from, say, Australia, can use a global communication service, say, the internet, to contact an overseas company, say, Amazon, to buy a product, say, a PS4, and use that company’s local release date, say, November 15th, to purchase it when it gets released overseas. Pay the, say, $28.99, for express shipping, and voila – I’ve ordered myself a PS4 that will arrive before it’s officially released in my country.
This begs the question – if Amazon can physically send a console from America to Australia in 2-5 days, why can’t Sony?
Sure, there’s shipping to take into account. Sony has to physically ship all those big heavy boxes all over the world, and that takes time. I understand that. But I also understand that the company who organises the shipping and distribution also sets the entirely arbitrary release date. Why would Sony want to release the console in the US market two whole weeks before the rest of the world? Obviously it’s not to test the consoles, since the release dates are so close together that zero changes can be made based on US userbase feedback. It’s not to bolster revenue from regional currency exchange rates – the PS4 earns more money per unit everywhere in the world compared to the US price, and those who are impatient (like me) will resort to purchasing US consoles for US prices (like me). It’s not to capitalise on the global first adopter excitement, since in non-US countries the PS4 is released one week AFTER the Xbox One. And it’s not to be consumer friendly, because regional release dates are never consumer friendly. To top it all off, Microsoft seems to be capable of pulling off a simultaneous global release no worries, since everywhere in the world is getting the Xbox One on the same date – the 22nd (well, excepting Japan and a handful of European countries).
In an increasingly global economy, a delay in distribution can be devastating – just look at the piracy rates of cable shows that have no legitimate global digital distribution platforms. Australia is the Game of Thrones piracy capital of the world, due to the fact that the first few seasons were unable to be purchased and accessed digitally for a comparable price in a reasonable time.
Obviously, a physical product is different to one distributed digitally, but it doesn’t have to be treated differently when it comes to simultaneous global releases. Sony could have capitalised on the one week jump ahead of the Xbox One and swept the field. Sony could have received even more initial revenue, more market share, and even more future revenue by releasing the PS4 globally on the same date.
Why Sony didn’t do this is a mystery.
I should have been able to walk down to my local store and pick up my PS4 on November 15 (after preordering, of course).
Still, I’m pretty darned excited to get my hands on the fancy black rhombus. Expect lots of next-gen reviews in the very near future.
“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun
The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.
The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.
With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.
OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?
Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.
OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.
OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?
Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.
OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?
Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.
OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?
Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.
OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?
Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.
OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?
Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.
The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.
OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?
Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.
OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?
Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.
OnlySP: “Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world
Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.
OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?
Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.
OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.
Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.
If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.
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