Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.
June 30, 2022

It's Thursday. I hope you're having a good day.

Nasty online attacks over silence around video game release dates and unexpected art styles for new games are bumming developers out. Part of the unfair mental health tax of working in games, in which people acting awful to creators online is all too common.

Today's edition: 908 words, 3.5 minutes.

1 big thing: Surprise, your game is on fire

Video game screenshot of a dirt-bike and its rider in mid-air in front of a purple sky
Riders Republic. Screenshot: Ubisoft

Players who log into Ubisoft video game Riders Republic at some point in the coming months will discover that part of the extreme sports game’s virtual forest is on fire.

Driving the news: The in-game wildfire, which the publisher says won’t be announced in advance, is one of several initiatives video game companies are using to raise awareness about threats to the environment.

  • Many of those plans were showcased today by the Playing for the Planet Alliance, a consortium of game studios that formed in 2019 to work with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote green messaging through games.
  • The Ubisoft idea won a media-selected award at the Alliance's annual Green Game Jam, in which studios are invited to pitch ideas that can promote eco-friendly ideas to players.

Details: The Riders Republic plan, dubbed Phoenix, is designed to shock players over the impact of uncontrolled fires.

  • When players log in, they’ll see that the in-game sky has turned orange and their character is wearing a gas mask, according to a description of the effort posted by Ubisoft.
  • Sections of the game’s map, which is set across the Western U.S., will be blocked off from players. The idea is that nearby fires make it impossible to breathe there.
  • Players will then be able to reduce the spread of the fire through in-game activities during a “short and intense live event.”

More efforts: Many game jam efforts involved planting trees in real life, an action tied to in-game accomplishments in Sony’s Horizon Forbidden West, Wooga’s June’s Journey and PixelFederation’s Port City Ship Tycoon.

  • Other initiatives feature tree-themed video game levels in games as disparate as Pac-Man and Total War: Warhammer 3.
  • The UNEP’s top pick for the jam was an in-game event in Supercell’s popular mobile title Hay Day. It focuses on teaching players about regenerative farming that avoids the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

Between the lines: The jam’s projects are all realizable but also quite polite, focusing on the science of ecological problems without pointing fingers at the people or policies responsible for climate crisis.

  • On the edgier side is Imagine Earth, a planetary colonization game about trying to establish a healthy world and protect it from environmental collapse brought on by corporate recklessness and failed regulation.

The big picture: Game companies big and small are increasingly vocal about environmental causes.

  • Larger corporations such as EA and Activision have begun listing climate change as a risk to their business, while Ubisoft and others now regularly report their emissions — if not yet identifying successful ways to significantly drop them.
  • It’s unclear how impactful in-game messages are, but they're now a staple of game studios who say they care about being Green.

2. Fixing remake mistakes

Video game screenshot of a doctor standing next to a patient
XIII remake. Screenshot: Microids

The companies behind two bungled video game remakes are now attempting salvage efforts.

Why it matters: The attempts are another sign that the perpetual malleability of games through online updates can improve bad releases.

The toss-in-the-original approach: A day after launching a remake of 1997 adventure game Blade Runner to a scorchingly negative reception, publisher Nightdive Studios announced a patch that would add an option to play the original version of the game for free.

The remake-it-again approach: Microids, the publisher of the widely panned 2020 remake of 2003 first-person shooter XIII, says it has hired a new developer to overhaul that remake and update it in September, VGC reports.

3. Need to know

☹️ Unity is laying off 4% of its workforce, approximately 200 employees, to “realign some of our resources to better drive focus and support our long-term growth,” a company rep tells Axios. Sources told Kotaku (and Axios Gaming) that the layoffs are happening despite recent comments from the company’s CEO to employees that layoffs weren’t in the cards.

💰 Fire Emblem Heroes, launched in 2017, is the first mobile game from Nintendo to generate $1 billion in player spending, according to tracking service Sensor Tower (via GamesIndustry).

🖐 Razer plans to acquire haptics company Interhaptics to strengthen its offering of force-feedback gaming devices, the company announced.

🤔 1C Entertainment is changing its name to Fulqrum Games, the studio said in a press release that included this Archimedes quote: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” A rebrand was expected after parent company 1C sold 1CE to Tencent.

🎮 Bungie is literally Nerfing the most famous weapon in its Destiny game. (Helpful link for those who don’t get the joke.)

4. Amazing Zelda feats

Video game screenshot showing a character standing at a door during a speedrun. An inset of the person playing the game appears in the upper right as a timer ticks up
Screenshot: YouTube

I’ve been mesmerized by a 32-minute video by speedrunner Limcube, who has managed to beat Nintendo Switch hit Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in what might be the most arduous way.

His gambit: Clear every puzzle shrine in the game without using any of the in-game rune powers (stasis, magnetism, magical bombs, freezing power).

  • Basically, it requires one clever game-breaking trick after another, repeatedly ignoring how the game’s designers expected him to solve its challenges.
  • It took him 28 hours to clear the game this way, according to Eurogamer.

If nothing I’ve written in this item makes sense to you yet, just start the video. It begins with a quick demonstration of amazing ways people were shortcutting their way through the game with the rune powers.

  • Then Limcube begins to show how he found ways to clear the game’s challenges without those powers.
  • One of his best tricks: using hundreds of in-game balloons to gradually push a heavy door open.

🎁 Like the newsletter? Refer Axios Gaming to your friends to spread the word and get free stuff in the process. Follow the link here to begin.

🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

If you hate snakes, don't click.