The victors will be announced on March 26 after both fan and expert panel verdicts, but really, all six entrants are winners, because holy shit every single one of them is pushing the envelope about as far as can be pushed without folks mistaking these for production shots from an Overwatch movie.
What’s cool here is that each entry is a little bit different, meaning across the six there’s a fantastic mix of what constitutes top-level cosplay in 2019. Some use a ton of make-up, some are using massive prop constructions, some are combining them, and all of them are just absolutely incredible.
Rebirth is a short film made by Quixel that shows where we’re at in 2019. It’s “a real-time cinematic” running in Unreal Engine 4, and while it’s just an animation and not something playable, it is using technology that games today are using, so playing something looking like this might not be that far off into the future.
If you think the landscape looks like Iceland, that’s because it is, in a roundabout kinda way. The natural environment here is comprised of enormous scans of actual Icelandic terrain.
Earlier this month, speedrunner Hugo One streamed himself trying to beat Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. But he made it possible for his viewers to, at any point, activate cheat codes using Twitch chat. The end result is a hilarious speedrun filled with some wild moments.
GTA San Andreas, like all other GTA games, includes multiple cheat codes players can activate. These codes can give players extra weapons, spawn vehicles, change the look of C.J. or even alter the rules of the world, making cars hover or pedestrians riot. Letting random viewers activate any of these codes at any point in the game adds a whole new level of challenge to completing a San Andreas speed run.
For example, at one point Hugo One was trying to complete the valet mission that occurs halfway through the game. In this mission, the player is tasked with parking cars until the District Attorney’s car shows up. Then they place a bomb in it and you can probably figure out the rest.
Throughout the mission fans, as usual, tried to stop Hugo One using various cheats. But they were unsuccessful. During the end cutscene for the mission, Hugo One jokingly mocked his fans for “blowing it.” Then someone activated a code that blows up all cars, including the cars featured in the cutscene. This perfectly timed cheat code ended up soft locking the game and forcing Hugo One to load a previous save.
Another point, much later in the game, has the player chasing a firetruck. One fan was able to use the code that spawns a tank to perfectly block Hugo One during the high-speed chase. Using a vehicle to block Hugo was a popular way to throw a wrench into his plans. At another point in that same mission, a player spawned a large semi-truck and trailer, which totally block Hugo and caused him to fail the mission.
To activate these cheats, his fans needed to use a currency that Hugo One uses for his channel called “duckets”. These can be earned by watching his streams or donating to this channel. According to Hugo One, viewers during the stream activated over 2000 cheats and spent over 10 million duckets. The different cheats would cost various prices, with more powerful cheats like the suicide code, costing 100,000 duckets.
The “fight” between Hugo and his fans is not really a serious one. The whole stream is a fun experience between his audience and himself. Throughout the game, his fans find new ways to stop him or hinder his speedrun and through it all, Hugo is (mostly) laughing.
Not all users were activating cheats to stop Hugo. Some players would activate cheats just to mess with Hugo or make him laugh. One great moment happened early on. When Hugo took C.J. to the barber shop to get a hair cut a viewer-activated a perfectly timed costume change.
Some viewers would even activate codes to help Hugo, sometimes giving him more weapons or fast vehicles or other advantages.
Eventually, after spending hours on the last mission Hugo One was forced to disable some cheats as certain viewers were making it impossible for him to finish the game. The entire stream is a really interesting twist on Grand Theft Auto speedrunning and filled with little moments of victory and defeat.
Much as we ride roller coasters because we like to be frightened, we solve puzzles because we like to be challenged–and the more complex the puzzle, the more satisfied we can expect to be when it’s finally solved. Baba is You has a prodigious capacity for frustration. This deceptively simple-looking indie puzzle game, by Finnish developer Arvi Teikari, swiftly approaches the heights of difficulty scaled by such vexing modern classics as Stephen’s Sausage Roll and The Witness, and shares with those games an uncompromising attitude that isn’t afraid to alienate newcomers intimidated by a challenge. It’s a puzzle game fan’s puzzle game in other words, as grueling as they come. It’s a sharper mind than mine that can make it through its later puzzles without misery. Whatever Baba is You’s shortcomings are, ease isn’t one of them.
Baba is You has an appealing conceit. The basic gameplay resembles an ’80s top-down puzzle title like Sokoban or Adventures of Lolo: you control a kind of sheep or rabbit character called Baba, who moves around a fixed environment, pushes objects, and pursues a goal. But many of the rules that govern the game–including what can be traversed, what can be moved, what’s hazardous, what’s the objective, and even what’s under your command–are represented on screen as blocks of text arranged into phrases that work as commands. These blocks can be manipulated and the phrases rearranged, empowering you to eliminate restrictions, neutralize threats, and redefine the conditions of victory. In this way, the solutions for the puzzles in Baba is You are found through rewriting the terms of each problem.
Most words refer either to things (such as “wall”, “lava”, or “flag”) or to properties of things (such as “stop”, “push”, or “win”). When a thing is connected to a property with the verb “is,” that thing adopts that property, and can be modified with various conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, and adjectives, all of which follow the logic of a programming language. For example, suppose on a stage “Baba is you,” “flag is win,” and Baba and the flag are on opposite sides of a lake of lava. If “lava is hot” and “Baba is melt,” then Baba can’t pass the lava to reach the flag. But if “lava is push,” you can push the lava out of the way to reach the goal. Better yet, if “lava is you,” you can reach the flag as the lava, leaving Baba behind entirely.
Baba is You is never better than in these moments of sudden realization–when it dawns on you that you can rewrite the rules and change, get rid of, or become the obstacle in your path, allowing you to figure out what can be done to solve a challenging puzzle. Most of these moments occur early on, as you familiarize yourself with the game’s mechanics and start to understand the way that it wants you to approach its puzzles. Baba is You encourages lateral thinking by the nature of its design, and after 15 or 20 stages, you begin to get a feel for its peculiar problems and the oblique strategies they require. The game’s surprises are genuinely delightful, but they are primarily front loaded.
The aesthetic is lo-fi in the extreme, though not without its charms. Its crude lines and simple blocks of color look like a child’s rendition of a NES game in crayon, every letter of the words that make up the commands scrawled in a shaky hand. In later, more complex puzzles, when instructions are crowding the screen and different objects are teeming all around you, scrutinizing this primitive style for clues can feel a bit like looking for codes in an abstract expressionist painting.
Less successful is the music, which is bland, simplistic, and incredibly repetitive. Modeled after retro game soundtracks, it sounds like a poor approximation. It had such an adverse effect on my concentration that it wasn’t long before I muted it and listened to my own music.
As the game progresses, and especially as the language involved gets more complex, words are ushered in whose meaning seems vague and whose purpose remains hazy, and that can make certain puzzles infuriatingly obscure.
Baba is You is lean, stark, and conspicuously light on instruction. New words and conditions are introduced without commentary; what things mean is never explained, and how things function is yours to learn in practice. Such hard-lined rigor makes you feel your intelligence is being respected. It also has the tendency to leave you completely bewildered and confused. The genre’s best games aspire to teach you how to solve their puzzles as they are presented to you, parceling out crucial information elegantly, and subtly, as you proceed from one challenge to the next. The ideal is a kind of unspoken guidance, acquainting you with rules and parameters in a way that feels totally intuitive and clear.
Baba is You doesn’t always do this so well. The earliest levels of its overworld map–including a preliminary stage that offers control prompts for how to navigate, undo actions, and reset–show a few simple approaches to the game’s unique brand of problem-solving. But as the game progresses, and especially as the language involved gets more complex, words are ushered in whose meaning seems vague and whose purpose remains hazy, and that can make certain puzzles infuriatingly obscure. It’s one thing to be confounded by a puzzle, and quite another to be uncertain how the puzzle works or what the puzzle wants. Often, I thought I knew what an ambiguous word did only to find that it didn’t actually do what I thought. More than once I solved a puzzle without understanding why.
For instance, every level has a “you.” Usually it’s Baba, but it can also be a wall, flag, or a little red avatar called Keke. It’s clear almost immediately that you can assume control of any number of different objects by replacing the noun in the sentence that ends “is you,” and that, what’s more, something has to be defined as you in order to continue playing at all. Less clear to me was that “you” is always a property rather than a thing. This means that, while “Baba is win” can be a condition of victory, “win is you” and “you is win” are not. So much of the vernacular of the game I picked up only in fits and starts. For example, I only know from happening upon it that “crab and Baba is you” will allow you to control both a crab and Baba despite being grammatically incorrect, while something like “Baba is you is win” doesn’t work as expected.
This matters because you need some sense of why something does or doesn’t work in a puzzle game in order to truly own your accomplishments. In one later puzzle, I managed to walk over a body of water unharmed by pushing a pillar into the water and stringing together the phrase “pillar on water is sink.” The property “sink” usually seems to make anything that touches the sinkable object disappear. I have no clue what happened here. Of course, I am sure this does “work out” in the technical sense, and that there is an explanation I’m simply not getting. But I shouldn’t have to stumble through a fog of incomprehension in order to find the solution to a logic-based problem. Why does “box has box” clear a path through a lake of water? I couldn’t say, but I gathered it was what I had to do eventually. This feels fundamentally different than merely being stumped, and it doesn’t satisfy in remotely the same way.
A-ha moments are precious things. Their relief can feel miraculous–but only so long as you understand what you’ve done and feel you’ve earned the victory. For the most part, Baba is You’s most brutal stages do offer this balance of challenge and reward. By puzzle 50–there are 200 in all–levels are flipping upside down, rules are compounded elaborately, and sentences are sprawling out to command things like “wall and hedge and key and flag is word,” to take one real late example. It can be torture, but of course in a puzzle game such torture is fun. Baba is You is among the most seriously arduous games of its kind I’ve played, and when its rules are clear and its instructions legible, it’s gratifying in a way only hardcore suffering can be.
I was only about 10 hours into The Division 2, a game that I expect I will play for dozens of hours when I realized something about the perks in the game. I was going to be able to unlock them all easily once I hit level 30 and the final perks became available to grab. Suddenly, I didn’t care about what I picked. These perks became a checklist that I barely thought about. By giving me the option to get everything, I stopped caring about any of the options at all. Games, stop doing this.
It is wild how quickly I went from planning which perks I would grab to literally just unlocking them in order from first to last in the menu. I knew that I would probably be able to unlock most of them if not all of them eventually, but having that moment happen so early and be so apparent completely killed any interest I had in that part of The Division 2. This isn’t the first game where I’ve encountered this same issue.
Fallout 4 was another game where I realized I could eventually unlock nearly every perk if I played enough. Just like that, my idea of working on a specific build evaporated. Unlocking a perk became less exciting and eventually, I would even forget to unlock new perks and let them build up before remembering that, “Oh yeah I have some perks to assign.”
It’s just hard to care about picking specific perks or abilities when it becomes clear you will get them all. Sure, early on I still focused on certain things, although eventually, I stopped caring because I was just going to get them all anyway. The more recent Far Cry games also have this issue. I usually get more health or combat moves first, however towards the end of the game, I’m just randomly picking stuff without much thought.
By letting players unlock everything, the game robs the player of any meaningful choices in how to build up your character. But it also makes it harder for me to remember what I even have unlocked. I feel like some of the perks I have in Fallout 4 I completely ignored because I didn’t think about them when I unlocked them. Same with other games that let me get every skill.
Compare this to the feeling of leveling up your character in something like Fallout New Vegas.
In that game, I would plan out builds. I would do mental math in my head to figure out how many SPECIAL points I should assign in combination with a later perk to max out a stat I cared about. I would have to make hard choices to really get a skill or strong perk. I also remember getting really excited when I leveled up. It was a few more points I could spread across my build. Each new perk or skill I gained felt memorable too and to this day I still remember certain characters I created and how much fun or how terrible they were.
In contrast, I’ve never felt compelled to create a new character in Fallout 4 because eventually, they will end up with all the perks as my original character.
I understand that part of the reason games like The Division 2 have unlockable skills and perks is to give players a sense of progression. Yet, if everyone and every character ends up in the same place I feel like that does a disservice to that feeling of progression.
In The Division 2 I also became less motivated to explore and grab some of the in-game items because I didn’t need them. I don’t require any more SHD Tech, the tokens used to unlock perks because I’m already drowning in them and have nothing to unlock. Maybe future updates will add more perks or ways to use SHD Tech yet, for now, I’m stockpiling something that feels worthless.
Good choices in video games aren’t about offering you something, but about making you choose to sacrifice something. Yeah, you can take this perk to gain more ammo capacity, though you will miss out on this perk that gives you more accuracy. MOBAs actually do a great job each match of pushing the player into picking things and making important choices.
I wish more games would see the value in limiting players and making them think about their choices.
The next character for Final Fantasy fighting game Final Fantasy Dissidia NT has been announced. Revealed at the Final Fantasy Fan Festival in Tokyo today, the character Zenos from Final Fantasy XIV is coming to the PlayStation 4 and PC fighting game starting later this month.
Zenos will be available first for Final Fantasy Dissidia in Japanese arcades starting March 26, while the character is coming to the PlayStation 4 and Steam editions on April 11. People attending the Fan Fest this weekend in Tokyo can have a first crack at playing Zenos.
Zenos is the main antagonist from Final Fantasy XIV: Online’s expansion, Stormblood.
More to come…
Disclosure: Square Enix paid for GameSpot’s flight to Tokyo and accomodation.
Today at Day 2 of the Final Fantasy Fan Festival in Tokyo, Square Enix made a series of announcements about Final Fantasy XIV Online, including the start-date for the game’s crossover event with Final Fantasy XV.
The crossover event, which was announced previously, is called A Nocturne For Heroes, and it begins April 16. This news was confirmed during a behind-the-scenes “Letter From the Producer” event featuring producer Naoki Yoshida. The event brings a number of Final Fantasy XV gear and items to FFXIV, including the game’s first-ever four-player mount. You guessed it, the mount is the Regalia, which is the car the main characters drive in FFXV. The other items include FFXV-themed gear and a hairstyle from the game.
The #FFXV collaboration event, A Nocturne for Heroes, begins on Tuesday, April 16! #FFXIV
In other news, Square Enix confirmed that Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.56, which is called “A Requiem for Heroes Part 2,” will launch very soon–it’s due out Tuesday, March 26. Coming after that is Patch 4.57, which adds the new World Visit system, and it’s launching on April 23.
You can see a full schedule of important dates in the graphic below, which covers all the big proceedings leading up to the release of Shadowbringers on July 2 (or June 28 with Early Access):
Yoshida and main scenario writer/world lore creator Banri Oda answered a series of fan questions during the panel covering a range of topics. You can re-watch the panel here on Twitch.
Fan Fest Day 1 yesterday brought a lot of big news as well, including the next race for Shadowbringers, a new raid, more screenshots, and a fresh trailer–get all the details here.
Keep checking back with GameSpot for more from Fan Fest today and Monday, including a gallery of some of the best cosplay we’ve seen. Disclosure: Square Enix paid for GameSpot’s flight to Tokyo and accomodations.
One of the big announcements that Apple could make during its reveal event on Monday is a new video game service. According to Bloomberg, Apple is creating a “premium games subscription” service for the App Store. Unlike the recently announced Google Stadia, or PlayStation Now and Microsoft’s xCloud, Apple’s service is not cloud-based.
Instead, it will focus on iPhones and iPads and bundle together paid games from different developers that consumers can access for a monthly fee,” Bloomberg reported.
One source said Apple will pay developers based on how much time users spend playing their title. The report goes on to claim that the service would only feature paid games, not free-to-play titles. The report also says the service may not be announced on Monday, but instead during its developer conference in June. That timing would be intriguing, as it’s just before E3.
According to analyst Serkan Toto, this kind of package offering is already available in Japan. He also points out that, if free-to-play games are indeed excluded, then Nintendo’s upcoming Mario Kart Tour wouldn’t be eligible. As you may recall, Apple partnered with Nintendo in a big way to promote and release the free-to-play Mario game Super Mario Run.
Problem is: if the article is to be believed, F2P content is excluded. For Mario Kart Tour, both Nintendo and DeNA confirmed (not only one time) it will not be a paid game. Let’s see.