The Best Video Game News This Week: weird Switch wheel, BioWare’s secret plans, and diversity in video games

The Best Video Game News This Week: weird Switch wheel, BioWare’s secret plans, and diversity in video games
Imogen Donovan Updated on by

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It’s Friday! Or is it? Time is a social construct, so I could tell you it’s Wednesday today, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s Friday because it’s the fifth day this week, but when did this week start? Can’t prove that either, I’m afraid. Well, the calendar in the bottom right corner of the monitor says it’s Friday. Who told the computer that it’s Friday? Anyone could change that display in the settings. What I can say, for certain, is that events occurred and news transpired in this indefinable time period, and it’s been turned into bite-size chunks, here in the round up… 

I am always very conscious that I listen to my music too loudly in the office. I don’t set it to a deafening volume, it’s more to do with the high quality headphones. And it’s an emotional anchor, for sure. To kick the day off on a positive, I’ll listen to Bastille’s latest album, Doom Days. All bias aside, it’s brilliant, but try not to listen to the lyrics too closely. If the news is about wrestling games, I’ll balance that out with the ‘This is … Ariana Grande’ playlist on Spotify. I maintain that self care is the Daenerys Targaryen themes from the Game of Thrones soundtracks. And, to be unintentionally contrarian, news writing is done to the timeless tunes of Assassin’s Creed. 

BioWare teases ‘super-secret’ projects are in pre-production

BioWare general manager Casey Hudson posted an update on the studio’s plans for Anthem and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The studio acknowledged that ‘fundamental improvements’ must come to Anthem’s Cataclysm event if the sci fi shooter is to reach its full potential. Hudson said, ‘I believe in Anthem and would love to see its world grow, evolve, and thrive for years to come.’ As for the Star Wars: The Old Republic Onslaught DLC update, it seems that everything is on track for its launch on October 22. And then, Hudson revealed that BioWare has several unannounced projects in the pipeline. ‘I wish I could tell you more about them, but they’re mostly super-secret right now,’ he stated. ‘I can say however that one of our projects has a large and growing team in Edmonton working through pre-production, and based on the progress I’m seeing, I can confirm that indeed the Dread Wolf rises.’ This is a definite reference to Dragon Age 4, so we might see something on the next game sooner than we previously thought.

Homeworld 3 announced and has a crowdfunding goal of $1

This is an odd one. At PAX West, Gearbox and Blackbird Interactive confirmed that classic space flotilla strategy sim Homeworld will receive a third installment. A crowdfunding campaign for Homeworld 3 was started on Fig, with a goal of just $1. Not a typo. Gearbox stated why the company has set the low goal: ‘we want it to be clear that the game is on a solid foundation, funding-wise.’ The publisher wants to give fans ‘a chance to invest in Homeworld 3's success and help us understand the game they've been dreaming about.’ At present, $601,980 has been raised, and what is planned for the extra $601,979 is unknown.

Gears 5 will ‘challenge expectations’ with its largest campaign to date

As well as this, one of the maps in the new game is fifty times the size of any previous Gears of War level. Cor. And The Coalition’s plans to support Gears 5 won’t stop there. The Escape mode for multiplayer will be updated with new Hives every week from its launch, and the Map Builder feature will allow players to create their own Arena and Hive maps to share with others. In a panel at PAX West, studio head Rod Fergusson said that player choice is very important to Gears 5, and extends beyond its narrative and into gameplay. The Skiff is a steampunk, all-terrain wakesurf-type of vehicle that lets players explore the environments in their downtime from saving the world. And, Dave Bautista will be a playable character in its multiplayer modes from September 15. ‘Challenge expectations’, indeed.

New report says video game representation of race, gender and disabilities has ‘a long way to go’

A study conducted by Currys PC World into diversity and representation in video games has concluded that, although portrayal of race, gender and disabilities has improved, there remains bias toward the young, white, heterosexual male. Games of the Year and E3 standouts were analysed for their representation within these categories, and just three per cent of these games followed the story of a nonwhite protagonist. There has been a rise in games that explore anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder in their stories, but many uphold an idea that those with physical disabilities can be ‘fixed’ with powers or prosthetics. The prevalence of playable female characters has increased by 189 per cent in the past decade. And, between 2009 and 2018, there has been a 300 per cent rise in the frequency of LGBTQ+ storylines in games compared to the previous decade.

Ikumi Nakamura has left GhostWire: Tokyo studio

At Bethesda’s E3 showcase, Ikumi Nakamura’s infectious enthusiasm won over the audience as she described the premise of upcoming GhostWire: Tokyo. Now, Nakamura has departed her role as creative director of the project, and announced the news on Twitter. ‘After 9 years as creative director & art director at Tango and Zenimax – I felt here is one of ends of the journeys,’ she said. ‘I learned from the talented people I've worked with and I respect. Contact me if anyone wants to work with me!’ Bethesda confirmed that she has left the studio in a separate statement to IGN, and it seems that GhostWire: Tokyo will take a different direction without Nakamura’s input. 

Yakuza 7 will be more than ‘just’ an action game, says RGG Studio

Yakuza 7’s ‘live command RPG battle’ system is a leap of faith for studio Ryu Ga Gotoku. Departing from the previous entries’ standard combat encounters, Ichiban Kasuga will battle alongside his companions in a RPG centric turn-based set up, and will even include elemental weapons. ‘Enemies, party members, and even the city will remain in motion,’ chief producer Masayoshi Yokoyama said. ‘Characters will turn towards nearby enemies and keep their distance. And naturally, since these battles take place in the city, characters will fall if they bump into things like street signs or bicycles.’ Yokohama is around ‘three to four times bigger’ than Kamurocho, and Kasuga’s friends can be given quests to complete around the town. Each party member has their own strengths and weaknesses, so some are more suited to certain tasks than others. Although this is quite the chop and change for the Yakuza series, Ryu Ga Gotoku is confident that the new game is a ‘true successor’ to Yakuza Kiwami 2.

Nintendo's new Switch peripheral is a weird flexible exercise wheel

The September 4 Nintendo Direct was all we could have asked for and more, but just one day afterwards, Nintendo posted a video of an … innovative peripheral coming to the Switch very soon. It looks like a flexible wheel that comes with a slot to place one Joy-Con, and a strap to tie the other Joy-Con to your leg. Players sprinted on the spot, compressed the wheel, played balance games, and did V sits. It would be safe to assume that this new wheel thing is a peripheral for an exergaming title, like the Wii Fit. Perhaps the most impressive feat shown in the trailer is that some of these fitness bods did their frantic exercising in jeans. Nintendo assured us we’d learn more on September 12. 

Chucklefish responds to allegations of unpaid labour during development of Starbound

Damon Reece, a writer on Chucklefish’s procedurally generated starship exploration game Starbound, claimed that the developer generated ‘unbelievable amounts of money off of my labour, and that of around a dozen other unpaid workers.’ Graphic artist Rho Watson and concept artist Christine Crossley supported Reece’s account, and Chucklefish acknowledged to the allegations in a statement to PC Gamer. ‘Both the core crew and community contributors were collaborating via a chat room and dedicated their time for free,’ it said. ‘Community contributors were under no obligation to create content, work to deadlines or put in any particular number of hours. Everyone was credited or remunerated as per their agreement.’ Reece responded, ‘If your game sells over two and a half million copies and your only excuse for not treating people ethically is, “but the dozens of teenagers whose labor we exploited signed contracts,” you may need to do some soul-searching.’