Sep 16, 2021

Axios Gaming

Megan Farokhmanesh with your Thursday edition of Axios Gaming. For the first time in months, I simply have too many games to play. Has anyone considered adding more time in the day?

Today's newsletter is 942 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: A beautiful, doomed world

Image courtesy of Heart Machine

"Solar Ash," indie developer Heart Machine's followup to its debut hit "Hyper Light Drifter," is expanding the team's talent for creating beautiful but dire stories.

The details: "Solar Ash" follows Rei, a Voidrunner fighting to save her planet from destruction.

  • Its neon-drenched world is set within the same universe as the team's first game (though it's not a sequel) where players tackle massive, mountable bosses.
  • "Solar Ash" is a leap forward for the studio, in terms of the game's ambition as well as its move into 3D projects.
  • It places a huge focus on movement and scale: "We want the player to feel small," said Heart Machine founder Alx Preston. "Not just feeling a little lost, not just feeling a little alone ... but feeling like you're up against insurmountable odds."

The "dumb" pitch, according to Preston: "'Mario Galaxy' meets 'Shadow of the Colossus,' and then sprinkle on a little bit of 'Jet Set Radio.'"

  • That's "not entirely accurate, but at least evokes some ideas for what this game is."

What's next: The action-platformer is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5 and Windows PC on Oct. 26.

The bottom line: "A lot of our lives feel like we have a lot to go against, and we're not sure how to tackle it. But if you have perseverance, perhaps you can get through it."

2. Former Destiny composer owes the company $$$

Image courtesy of Bungie

"Destiny"'s former composer, Marty O'Donnell, must pay Bungie tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees after using "Destiny" assets on platforms such as YouTube.

Why it matters: Bungie fired the high-profile composer, whose work includes "Halo" and "Myth," in 2014.

  • The news was first reported by Eurogamer, which notes that O'Donnell was found in contempt of court relating to a previous lawsuit between Bungie and O'Donnell over his firing.
  • O'Donnell won that lawsuit but was required to return all material that related to "Destiny" and "Music of the Spheres."
  • He owes Bungie nearly $100,000 for what the court calls a move that "intentionally disobeyed" its orders; the amount is currently in dispute.

What's next: The court has ordered O'Donnell to remove the material in question and submit to a court-ordered investigation of his electronic devices.

  • The composer also has to release a message clarifying that he didn't have the legal authority to share those materials and ask anyone who downloaded those assets to delete them.
3. How accessible is "Deathloop"?

Can I Play That? founder Courtney Craven posted a worthwhile Twitter examination of Arkane Studios' latest game, "Deathloop," covering everything from its text readability to control scheme.

Why it matters: When it comes to reviews, many outlets do a poor job covering games from an accessibility standpoint.

  • Examinations from outlets like Can I Play That?, which specifically approaches the medium for disabled gamers, offer crucial information for players with certain needs.
  • Craven notes that the game's text is so small "you'll probably need binoculars," as well as issues with the game's directional audio and inability to remap its controls.
  • "I think the most disappointing thing in 'Deathloop' is how much was clearly inspired by 'Dishonored,' from the stealth to some UI aspects, but none of the bits of 'Dishonored' that made it accessible by design seem to have made it into 'Deathloop,'" Craven said.
Image courtesy of @CyclopediaBrain

In a follow-up thread, Craven noted that barriers don't exist because devs just don't care or because they're actively trying to exclude people.

  • Developers may not be aware of problems, for example, or be working under time and budget constraints.
  • "Just because some game 5 years ago solved a problem one way doesn't mean every game in the future will solve something the same way," Craven tweeted. "Developers don't play every game in existence and there's not some secret barrier solution repository."
4. Need to know

🚨 "Undertale" creator Toby Fox is releasing "Deltarune Chapter 2" tomorrow.

🕴 Warner Bros. Games has named David Hewitt, Sony's former director of product development, as the vice president and studio head of Monolith Productions.

🎮 Arkane is currently investigating a "stuttering" issue with the PC version of "Deathloop."

🎸 "Rocksmith+" is delayed into 2022.

🏎 "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" star Anthony Mackie is starring in a live-action adaptation of "Twisted Metal."

💰 "Pokémon Unite" has been downloaded more than 9 million times on Nintendo Switch.

5. Worthy of your attention
  • ‘God of War: Ragnarok’ Shows How Games Can Get Black Hair Right (Gita Jackson, Waypoint)
Over the past two decades, black women wearing their hair the way that it naturally comes out of their head has gone from a rare occurrence to the way that some of the most famous black women style their locks. In that time, video games have struggled to accurately represent black hair of any kind, let alone the huge variance of styles that black women wear. As this humorous viral tweet demonstrates, so often black people who play games have to make do with a dated caesar fade, cornrows, a perfectly circular afro, or baldness.
  • How Arkane Studios Designed Prey (Noclip)
In its latest documentary, Noclip interviewed team members at Arkane Austin about "the best game most people haven't played," 2017's Prey. The hour-long video gets into level and enemy design, storytelling, and more.
6. A very practical reason to avoid a trilogy

Image courtesy of Sony

"God of War: Ragnarok" is set to wrap up the bright and sunny father-son story of Kratos and Atreus, capping the story as a duology rather than a trilogy like previous iterations. The reason? Time.

  • According to former "God of War" director Cory Barlog during an interview with YouTube's Kaptain Kuba, the first game took five years to make, and the sequel may close in on roughly the same.
  • "We're talking a span of close to 15 years of a single story and I feel like that's just too stretched out."

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🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

"I'm too old for this s#*t." -- Kratos, probably