So eh, I might’ve missed a Field Report. Don’t tell anyone, just act natural, DON’T LOOK. But yeah, you might’ve not missed it (and that’s good! Also bad, why don’t you miss my Field Reports?) but this huge pile of gaming news was starting to grow and grow. So when I finally had time to start, I felt a bit like Lara Croft (minus the good looks and posh British Accent): digging through an ancient trove filled with treasure. Also dust, so much dust. I managed to drag out an huge amount of treasure back for you, my dear readers. So let’s forget about who missed what issue, and focus on this EXTRA BIG EDITION OF FIELD REPORTS! LOOK AT HOW MANY ARTICLES!
Welcome to Field Reports number 30!
Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Bringing Ancient Egypt to You!
Another year, another Assassin’s Creed. There isn’t any major gaming franchise that’s so intertwined with and rooted in history like Assassin’s Creed, and hundreds if not thousands of presentation, articles, and books about history and video games discuss the series in one way or another. It might even be the main influencer for the historical perspective of many gamers, which is both awesome and worrying at the same time. This time, the player takes the role of Bayek, an Egyptian officer trying to protect his country against the army of Julius Caesar. And, surprise, he is really good at climbing stuff and killing people! It would be slightly awkward if one of the ancestors of Desmond Miles would be a very clumsy and slow clerk that trips and falls of a roof on his very first mission, wouldn’t it?
As always, Ubisoft (and especially their in-house historian Maxime Durand) have tried their best to create an authentic (but not entirely accurate) depiction of the setting. The Guardian has an article on how Ubisoft tried to achieve this.
Read that here on The Guardian.
The series likes to throw the protagonists into various famous battles and events, so Gameinformer made a list of 6 moments that took place during Caesar’s involvement with Cleopatra. The list was made before the game’s release, but they’re still interesting to read.
Compare the list with the game here.
Speaking of Cleopatra: everyone knows she’s a sexy and strong-willed woman that manipulated the Romans to do her bidding, right? Just look at her depictions in movies, books, and comics! Yeah, no. The popular image of Cleopatra is probably, most definitely, entirely wrong. Edward Saïd’s Orientalism says “hi!”, by the way. It’s a shame that Ubisoft perpetuates this misconception. Especially because, like I’ve mentioned above, that the games are a major influence to the historical perspective of a LOT of people.
Polygon did some research on Cleopatra’s depiction in the game.
And last but not least, IGN has a neat video on the history of Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
Watch the video here!
Half-Life is one of the greatest FPS of all time. You don’t need a reason to play through it all again, but if you want to explore more areas of the vast Black Mesa complex I’ve some good news for you! Half-Life: Caged is a mod created by a former Valve level designer who worked on quite some awesome games. The level design is outstanding, the firefights intense, the platforming challenging. And the best bit? Your melee weapon is a plunger!
Hop on over to the steam page and save planet earth once more!
SNES Classic: An Extensive Review
The SNES Classic has been released, and curious to know what Kotaku thinks about it? Well I don’t, BECAUSE IT’S SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. Yes, I’m sour about that. I mean, I still have my old SNES, but I just really want one, okay?
Okay, fine: Kotaku wrote a very long and interesting review on the SNES Classic, discussing the hardware, emulation, and games.
If you happen to have a store nearby that sells the SNES Classic and you’re not sure if you should buy one, then this is the review for you. Buy one for me too, while you’re at it, will you?
The review can be found here.
The official Nintendo page for the SNES Classic has a lot of information on the system but, more importantly, if you scroll all the way down it also has interviews with the developers of some of the games that are included with the system.
Scroll down and watch the interviews here!
Time to Strike Gold – The History of Pokemon Gold & Silver
So you have a massively popular franchise, kids and adults across the entire globe play your game, and the tv-series, manga, and movie are massive hits. Yet the ‘making a successful feature’ is proving to be harder than expected. This happened to Game Freak, the developer of the Pokemon series when they tried to make Gold and Silver. The development of the twin games is revealed in an article by Gameinformer. This article is part of an enormous feature of Pokemon that Gameinformer did, so be sure to check that out too!
Throw your poke(eye)balls at the history of Pokemon!
Games As a Teaching Tool
We here at VALUE have known this for years: video games are a perfect tool to teach students about a vast array of subjects. There’s a good reason why we’ve chosen Minecraft in our RoMeincraft project! From educational games to AAA entertainment, video games make a great platform to draw its audience in and teach them something at the same time. Although, granted, some are better suited for this than others. Gamasutra interviewed the CEO of TeacherGaming, a company that connects teachers with (educational) games. If you’re looking for some solid arguments to convince someone that video games are great for education, you’ll want to read this.
Head on over to Gamasutra and read the interview!
It’s a Cookbook! A COOKBOOK!
Twine has been mentioned here multiple times before: it’s a flexible and great tool to create interactive narratives, we even used it during our workshops! The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation has put together the Twine Cookbook, containing templates which developers can use to take their Twine story to the next level. It’s an open source repository, and you might want to take a gander at it.
Gamasutra has the info you need.
Saving Japanese Games – Race Against Time
The most popular computer (and therefore, gaming platform) in Japan was the PC-88. The system rarely crossed the distance to Europe and the States, and its software is rather rapidly disappearing. The Tokyo based Game Preservation Society, led by Joseph Rendon, does their utmost to collect and archive as many games as possible before they’re thrown away and/or destroyed. Rendon sees a myriad of challenges, both cultural and technological, that makes the Society’s mission harder and harder every passing moment.
We’ve seen similar preservation attempts in Europe and the States, and I’m glad more and more people are recognising the historical and cultural value of video games.
Read about this tremendous undertaking on Kotaku!
Although not quite as great as Stronghold (if you’ve never played this and like castles and medieval warfare, GET IT), Stronghold 2 is a fun castle-building, economy-running, army-training, resource-gathering, fortification-sieging game. Unfortunately when Gamespy shut down, so did the multiplayer part of the game. But now, Stronghold 2: Steam Edition sallies forth from the gates! The new edition holds new graphics, custom maps through Steam Workshop, and achievements. But even more important: working multiplayer!
Prepare the boiling oil, sharpen your swords, and nock those arrows.
Stronghold 2: Steam Edition is now available!
Moral Questions on the Edge of Survival – Also Steampunk
Survival means making difficult choices, and anyone who’s played the amazing This War of Mine knows this like no other. The same developer decided on a slightly less realistic setting for their next game: Frostpunk. You’re at the head of a small outpost in the freezing wastes, trying to survive and grow your city in one of the harshest environments imaginable.
I’m really looking forward to this game: it’s got steampunk, an interesting setting, city-building, and it’s made by the developer behind This War of Mine!
Kotaku wrote their impressions of the preview.
Some Man’s Sky – Andrew Reinhard is Digging Deeper
Andrew Reinhard had been digging in No Man’s Sky, but the limited nature of the game sadly stopped the project. After a year, patch 1.3 was released which brought massive improvements to the game. And made the project feasible again. Reinhard and has project have been mentioned in previous Field Reports many times, so I assume you are just as excited as I am for Reinhard!
For more information on the project, read Kotaku’s article!
Andrew, together with Catherine Flick and L. Meghan Dennis, have written an article on the No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey in the Orbit Journal (1st volume, 2nd issue).
Make sure to read it!
In other No Man’s Sky news, a community of NMS players have formed together to make the digital universe a better place. This community calls itself the The United Federation of Travelers, and do a better job at space-federating than Starfleet or the New Republic ever has. By mapping out systems, trading goods, and settling disputes these players hope to bring order in the weird and random space of NMS.
You can find more about this wonderful project here.
War And Peace – Looking Back How Final Fantasy IX Took on a Different Meaning
Final Fantasy IX looked at its two predecessors and said “Hah, nope.” and went back to the older FF games to look for inspiration. But behind the cutesy graphics, there’s a horrible story about war and ultimate destruction. Polygon drew comparisons between the game’s story and the present state of the world. A lot has happened between the release of the game in 2000 and now, and most of it isn’t really good. FFIX resonates much more with the world today than it did back then, and this realisation puts the game in an entire different light. It might be time to revisit FFIX again.
Read Polygon’s article on FFIX and its themes here.
In many games, architecture is probably the biggest NPC (or even antagonist, if you look at Blighttown) in games. People might forget names and faces, but never the path through Stormwind or around the Great Deku Tree. But architecture is more than that, in it lies links and hints to the rest of the game. The way a building or city is designed says something about the path the developer wants to guide the player through, or the importance it should take in the story. MetaSpace, a Spanish blog that looks at architecture in video games, knows all too well the importance of architecture. An English article on one of MetaSpace’s blogposts on Starcraft, Age of Empires, Diablo and Dungeon of the Endless argues why we all should pay a bit more attention to our digital surroundings.
Read this article on architecture in video games!
We Gotta Go Back, TO THE FUTURE!
Oh, a Back to the Future reference because we’re talking about time travel. HOW ORIGINAL. Well, you try writing all these articles while trying to be witty!
Aaaaaaaaanyway, board games are awesome and so is time travel! So combining the two should be just as amazing as combining pizza and hamburgers!
Gameinformer collected the best time travel themed tabletop games.
(heh, try saying that 10 times really fast)
From Ace Ventura to The Witcher – The Story of CD Projekt
CD Projekt is widely known for their amazing work on The Witcher series, but they started off as a small team that localized Ace Ventura for the Polish market. A game, by the way, that I fondly remember playing when I was young and had all but forgotten about until I saw this video! The studio then went on to localize (and produce) many more games, but Ace Ventura will always be remembered as their breakthrough opportunity.
The video is 30 minutes long and gives a very interesting insight in the Polish market and the general history of CD Projekt.
Path Out – The Story of a Syrian War Refugee
Having to flee your home and country is unfathomable for most people. The horrors, challenges, and burdens remain far removed from most Western audiences. But video games have this amazing power to put players in the shoes of others, and let them make difficult decisions and experience events that they’d otherwise never would have to make and experience. The story of Abdullah Karam, a Syrian refugee, has served as inspiration for the game Path Out. Don’t let the cute graphics and JRPG-style fool you, the game has an important message.
Read more about this unique game on Eurogamer.
The Little Drummer That Could
The Napoleonic Wars were terrible: thousands of men lining up in formations, shooting at each other. Cover? Who needs that when you have bright uniforms and slow rifles? Artillery never had such an easy time hitting enemies, and aiming wasn’t part of a soldier’s training. Drumming, though, was very important. And I don’t mean in a “Man, this metalband sure could use a drummer” way, but more in a “this keeps the men from running away screaming” kinda way. The power of music, and all that.
Holdfast: Nations is a realistic multiplayer game in which you take one of the many, many roles of one of the European Powers. Hope you like spending a minute reloading! Rock Paper Shotgun wrote an Early Access Review.
And it is hilarious, you should read it.
Ooooooohhhhija Boards – Scary or Nah?
Spooky scary ghost, are you there? I need to know something urgent. Will they ever remake Demon’s Souls?
NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! THAT CAN’T BE TRUE!
Because it isn’t. Ouija boards are stupid and if you believe you can communicate with a stupid board you’re stupid too! But sometimes, that pointer really does move. Why’s that? It’s because you make miniature unconscious movements, called ideomotors. Sorry, there’s no ghost guiding your hand
…everyone knows the only board that truly has mystical powers is the Jumanji board.
Read here how Ouija boards work!
Steam is Not Part of Your Inheritance
Eurogamer asked the question “What happens to your steam account when you die?”. Because you don’t own any game you buy on Steam, you instead buy a licence, and the account can’t be (legally) transferred to another person.
Follow Eurogamer’s investigation on their website.
The Technology Tree – How Tech-centric Games Work
No, you can’t build that tank yet because you haven’t researched combustion yet. And no, that building is off-limits until you first build a barracks. And how do you think you can evolve Hydralisks without first building a Hydralisk Den? Technology-centric board and video games require you to develop a certain understanding of the technology it portrays, be it fictional or not.
Wired has collected few of the best tech-centric board games for you.
Papers and Tickets, Please!
Papers, Please is an amazing and depressing game, putting the player in the unlucky shoes of a border agent in a fictional Soviet country. GLORY TO ARSTOTZKA!!! By balancing time, safety, rules, morals, and his family back home, the border agent struggles to keep both his country safe and his family fed.
An official short film is in the works, and judging by the accompanying trailer, it does justice to the source material.
Don’t Forget Age of Empires Definitive Edition
With the announcement of Age of Empires IV, it’s easy to forget that the very first Age of Empires is being re-released with updated graphics and mechanics. However, rather than rushing for the deadline of October 13th (yes, you guessed it, they missed it) they postponed to release in order to test the game more.
Read why and how on the game’s website.
Mythology – A Fancy Word For Fun Stories
Somewhere, sometime, someone came up with the basis for one of the amazing mythos that we know today. Who told the story of Hercules and to what end? What’s the deal with Odin and his raven buddies? What lesson was taught when the Ramayana was first told?
We’ll probably never know, but we will know how your very own mythos came to be. Because in Moon Hunters, you shape stories and stories shape you. Are you a greedy and insufferable backstabber, or do you try to protect and support your fellow villagers? How do you bring the news of someone’s passing? And how do you portray your enemies?
Find out more about Moon Hunters in this write-up.
Defining African Identities – Comics and Video Games in Ghana
Africa as a continent is woefully underrepresented in modern entertainment. Except for a few African characters or a level or two, Africa is mostly ignored. And that still doesn’t give the Africans a voice: everything’s seen from a Western perspective. In the last decade or so, middle-class youth in Ghana have begun producing comics and video games with one goal in mind: defining a ‘new African style’ by combining African stories with a modern style free from preconceived ideas on what constitutes as ‘African’ for a global audience. This idea clashes with a more traditional group in Ghana, that sees this new style as Westernized and un-African.
Tessa Pijnaker wrote an article on video games and comics like Africa’s Legends, the development of this new African style, and the clash between tradition and new technologies.
Read her article, pusblished in Critical African Studies, here.
It’s-a Me, a New World Record!
Super Mario Bros. has been out since the dawn of mankind. I’m pretty sure I found a Roman text by Polybius explaining his readers on how to beat the first level. Therefore it’s pretty surprising to learn that people are still setting new speedrun records: I figured they’d grown a new human strain that could play the perfect path. Speedrunner Darbian managed to set the record of 4 minutes and 56.528 seconds during his 27,474th(!!!) attempt. This is waaaay faster than his previous record, 4 minutes and 56.878 seconds. Yes, feel free to compare the two. According to Darbian, no game is ever truly solved. There’s always a glitch or trick to be found. But seriously, if the difference between two records is 1/3rd of a second you’re going to hit the ceiling sometime soon, right?
Kotaku interviewed Darbian on his amazing feat.
Naming Games – Not As Imaginitive As You Might Think
Names can make or break a video game: boring or hard-to-remember names might cause a shopper to skip right past the title. So there’s got to be a lot of thinking and planning behind the titles of all these amazing games, right? Nope! Not according to a Twitter discussion in which developers revealed the story behind their title’s name!
Read and weep/laugh/facepalm!
The Greatest Game of Them All – Europa Universalis IRL
Europa Universalis is a gaming franchise that allows you to pick just about any region in Europe (and through expansions, the Americas, India, and the rest of Asia) and, through politics and war, conquer the rest of the world between 1444 and 1821. But what if you put 40 players in a Polish castle for a 4-day marathon. Players can walk over to, conspire with, betray, and barter with each other in a historical setting.
How that all turned out can be read in Rock Paper’s Shotgun multi-part report.
Indigenous Cybernoir – Representing Two Minorities in Gaming
Purity & Decay is a cybernoir detective story set in 2262, but the interesting thing about the game is that it’s developed by a team of 5 women, 4 of which are Indigenous. In an interview with the CBC, the developers talk about their inspirations and goals.
Read more about Purity & Decay here!
Sucker Punch studios, most famous for their game Infamous (yes, you saw what I did there) has announced their new title Ghost of Tsushima. Three words: “samurai” and “feudal Japan”. See? You already know what to expect. Not much is known about the game yet, but it’s set during the Mongol invasion of 1274 (let’s just hope that a hurricane decides to destroy the Mongol fleet again) and that it’s open world. Not much information, but more than enough to get me excited.
You can read an interview with the creative director on the development process here!
Can’t Spell Civilization Without Khmer
Okay, so maybe that one doesn’t work. But the Khmer civilization is back in Civilization VI, and it has one of the best perks I could hope for. Build temple -> claim nearby land. I’m going to cover the world in Temples! And in between the temples? Endless armies of War Elephants!
Hardcore Realism Games – Eastern Europe Says Yes Please
I really like realism in my games: I love flight simulators with realistic physics and flight-models and I definitely don’t mind having to take bullet-drop in account when I’m trying to snipe someone. But there’s a category that takes things a weeeee bit far. And they all seem to be originating from Eastern Europe. Why do these games get made? Who wants to play this hardcore games? Why am I terrible at games?
Answers to the first two questions are answered in this article on Gamasutra!
The Path to Realism – How Games Achieve Realism in Different Ways
For many video games, realism means historical accuracy: the colour of a certain button in the cockpit of a Spitfire or the velocity of a round fired off by a 17th century canon. But there’s more ways to achieve realism, and realism doesn’t always mean the same thing. In this Rock Paper Shotgun article, write Tim Stone looks at a narrative WW2 docu-game in which real memories are presented, but also at a train simulator that didn’t have proper physics. What approach do you prefer?
Read and decide for yourself!
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