Tag Archives: polygon

No, Pokémon Sword and Shield is not reusing models from recent Pokémon games

Game Freak’s highly unpopular decision to limit Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Pokedex spawned a rumor that the studio was reusing models from recent 3DS games, making it too much trouble to include older models. But an interview in Famitsu, recently surfaced on social media and the Pokémon subreddit, specifically refutes this.

Somehow, this wasn’t noticed (and Game Freak didn’t repeat these explanations in their response two weeks ago), but developers rebuilt from scratch all of the models for Pokémon Sword and Shield, meaning the reused-assets rumor is bunk.

According to a translation (last month) of the interview (also last month) Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori said that it was difficult enough bringing in a full Pokédex (now numbering 809) into 2016’s Pokémon Sun and Moon. The Switch’s improved graphics and visual fidelity has since lengthened the development time necessary to render Pokémon, they explained, so the decision to limit a game’s Pokédex would have been made sooner or later. It was made with Sword and Shield, so everyone’s getting this out of their system now.

A couple of finer points on this to remember: developments like Mega Evolution and Dynamax, which affect all Pokémon, have considerable effect on development, balancing and artwork, to give a sense of what Game Freak is staggering under after 20 years of games.

And further, the Pokémon Home storage system will be able to highlight Pokémon in future games even if they’re left out of Sword and Shield. That said, it’s uncertain whether Pokémon will be added to the games in post-release updates.

Source: Polygon.com

Watch this F1 multiplayer driver get Office Linebacker’d

One of the generic pieces of advice offered by Jeff, your race engineer in F1 2019, is to watch out for the first turn. Well, duh. But it is especially applicable to multiplayer racing. Watch:

Nearly every F1 course opens with a long straight that ends with a sharp turn and a one-way ticket to Lockup Island. But a few courses almost lend themselves to this kind of multiplayer headhunting, and the No. 1 hairpin at Bahrain International Circuit, where a goon can shave off the tip and T-bone someone unawares, is one of them. As one wit pointed out in the F1 subreddit, clearly this was on the victim for not noticing the dot on his minimap leaving the track and steaming directly for him.

Here’s the perspective from the victim themselves. As another wag said, this is the motorsports equivalent of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Here comes the pain train, baby! Choo choo!

Another course that’s good for this mayhem? Circuit Paul Ricard, which rejoined last year’s game and has the kind of huge run outs that accommodate MotoGP riders but make F1 drivers all grumbly. The train whistle F1 theme makes this video, IMHO.

And of course, everyone loves the long backstretch at Shanghai International Circuit.

This may look like multiplayer in F1 2019 is out of control and beyond any help, but after about 10 hours of track time, most of that ranked, I disagree. By and large, ranked multiplayer once you get to an A or S rating in the super license (sorry, licence) system (introduced last year because of multiplayer disruptions) is clean, with drivers trying to race honestly and brutally policing those who do not. I have been the transgressor many times, not deliberately — but leaving myself too little braking room for the uphill right at Austria, and plowing into the field like a fucking n00b is a sure-fire way to get run into a containment fence later. That has definitely happened, and I have definitely deserved it.

In other words, the safety rating doesn’t by itself cut out bad behavior, but it does put me in fields where breaking the code of clean racing means a meeting with Mr. Mayhem later, so I am, at minimum, trying not to mess other people up. Because if my S rating goes down to an A (or worse, B) it’s back to kindergarten where the dookie is really smeared on the walls. People with an S rating take it very seriously; it gets very uncomfortable when I’m just inattentive to what I’m doing on the track.

That said, I have never seen someone kicked out of a lobby. It takes a majority of the field, voting within a very short timeframe, to expel a driver, and with prime-time racing involving north of 12 drivers, good luck with that. Most of the time you head to track before the voting can finish. The closest I saw anyone come to getting kicked was yours truly, after I got plowed in Mexico by the same guy twice and decided to finish my race a full 2 minutes, 45 seconds after the winner, making everyone wait. For those who were in this room, my safety rating went up for this, so suck on that Tic Tac.

Others may disagree with my sanguine assessment of ranked multiplayer, and find it warped by idiots, risk-takers and other malefactors. They do have a point. My counterpoint is Baku. For every 99 or 100 backups when someone gets too cute through the Castle section, you’ll find one moment of pure poetry that makes it all worthwhile:

Source: Polygon.com

If you like Stranger Things, you should be reading Paper Girls

It’s easy to sum up the appeal of Stranger Things: Teens having adventures, mysteries, weird science fiction, a strong visual aesthetic, and, of course, the 1980s. And if that winning combination of flavors got you hooked on the Duffer Bros.’ Netflix hit, I have something to tide you over to Stranger Things 4.

You’ve got to read Paper Girls.

Paper Girls is a long-running Image Comics series about a group of four teenagers on the adventure of their lives. Writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y the Last Man, Saga) packs the plot with mysteries and plot twists, while artists Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson fill it with science fiction imagery. And, of course, it’s set in the 1980s.

[Ed. note: This post will contain a few spoilers for Paper Girls.]

From Paper Girls, Image Comics (2016).
“Hey, whichever dumb fucks just robbed our friend, if you can hear this, get ready…”
Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang/Image Comics

Meet (left to right) Karina “KJ” J, Mackenzie “Mac” Coyle, Erin Tieng, and Tiffany Quilkin, the paper girls of Paper Girls. (It’s Tiffany’s second walkie-talkie that got stolen.) They deliver the Cleveland Preserver in their hometown of Stony Stream, Ohio, and our story begins on November 1, 1988.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Orson Welles’ the War of the Worlds, and it’s also the most dangerous day of the year to be a paperboy or girl: The morning after Halloween. But it doesn’t stay November 1 for long. Where Stranger Things finds its sci-fi trappings in telekinesis, parallel dimensions, and scientific laboratories, Paper Girls is all about time travel.

As KJ, Mac, Erin, and Tiffany band together just to keep from getting mugged by older teenage boys, they get attacked by a trio of ninjas, their walkie talkie gets stolen, they find a spaceship in a basement, and things only get weirder from there. They find a telepathic square with the Apple logo on it, meet dinosaur-riding future warriors, and see tardigrades the size of kaiju.

Ultimately, they are swept up in a conflict between factions of time travelers, mistaken for a scrappy insurrectionist band instead of what they are: Confused 12-year-olds from just outside of Cleveland in 1988.

Vaughan’s characteristic flair for extended serial adventure stories with a mystery at their heart is in full force in Paper Girls, with the added complication of keeping the story’s whole time hopping, causality smashing story back to front. What helps is that our four protagonists — and the wealth of secondary characters they encounter — feel entirely real. Just like Stranger Things, you keep turning pages (or tapping “next episode”) not just to see if they survive, but how they grapple with, say, finding out that they die of childhood leukemia before they finish high school.

Cliff Chiang/Image Comics
The cover of Paper Girls #17, sans text.

And if you’re a fan of Stranger Things but wish the show handled its female characters, or its queer coding, or its rosy-eyed love of 1980s pop culture with a little more nuance more frequently, you’ll find a lot to like in Paper Girls.

The comic is about the 1980s, yes, but it’s not sugarcoated. Paper Girls doesn’t let you forget that realizing you’re gay in the 1980s, something Stranger Things has only skirted nervously, sucked. That everyone you knew was lowkey terrified of nuclear annihilation. That the Challenger disaster meant that not even space was a hopeful frontier anymore.

Paper Girls is certainly full of references to 1980s pop culture — it’s all its 12-year-old protagonists know — and let me be clear that there’s a lot of 1980s pop culture that still absolutely slaps. But one of the reasons it’s easy to idolize the 1980s now is because the decade was on the cusp of massive changes.

As the eponymous girls are thrust into deadly, dangerous adventure — hopping between the Stone Age, 1988, 2000, 2016, and 2171 — they are forced to leap towards adulthood, even as the world as they know it is about to be thrust bodily into the information age. As a couple of the girls meet and confront their unrecognizable future selves, they can’t conceive of how they grew up into that.

I’ve never met my future self, but I can still relate. It’s hard for me to conceive of how the year 2000 grew into the year 2016 — and I lived through it!

Paper Girls has been collected into five editions so far, with a sixth on the way after the whole story wraps up at the end of this month. All in all, the series has won two Eisners, and its collections have been nominated for the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for three years running. Just this week, Amazon Studios announced that it is developing Paper Girls for TV with a series commitment.

All this is to say: You should read Paper Girls. It’s Stranger Things, but all women and time travel. What’s not to like?

Source: Polygon.com

Vinland Saga is the vikings-themed anime you didn’t know you needed

Now that History’s Vikings is scheduled to end their final season sometime next year, its like Odin himself willed it that WIT Studio, the animation studio behind Attack on Titan, should helm the anime adaptation of Makoto Yukimura’s popular manga series Vinland Saga.

The historical-drama anime premiered its first three episodes on Prime Video earlier this month, and it is a violent and bloody good time with exquisite action scenes, fleshed-out characters and an intriguing story about coming of age in a cruel world that takes enough from real life to satisfy history buffs.

From the opening scene, the audience is thrown into a cruel and violent world, as Vinland Saga starts right in the middle of the actual Battle of Hjörungavágr in the year 987. As expected from WIT, the battle is one very bloody affair, but the choreography and fluidity of the movements as characters swings their swords left and right is awe-inspiring. The beauty of the scene and the blood-pumping thrills of the action may trick you into thinking that the show will glorify violence and the way of the Vikings, but the series has more on its mind.

A man with black hair raises a sword in the air. The sky is black and he is standing on a boat. Amazon Video

Vinland Saga doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of war and the foolishness of those who glorify it in their ignorance. The show puts its poignant philosophy front and center, as it directs its anger towards those who show cruelty to their fellow men. Thors, the first character we meet, is the perfect example: a renowned former mercenary, the Viking (or Jomsvikings) became disillusioned with his lifestyle and faked his own death during a battle, and now enjoys a peaceful and simple hobbit-like life in Iceland.

The story feels grounded and relies on historical facts to make us believe in these characters. Thors’ son, Thorfinn, grew up listening to stories from his father’s friend, Leif Erikson, who journeyed to a distant and bountiful continent to the west. Erikson also tells of the story of the colonization of Greenland Iceland by Norsemen escaping from war, and the second episode even shows the very real St. Brice’s Day Massacre in the Viking-colony of Northumbria, which will sound familiar to fans of Vikings. Given it is doubtful that the last season of the History show will span 200 years of history, Vinland Saga serves as the best sequel to that show.

Though only three episodes have aired, there’s already plenty of character development at play that teases a very tragic if intriguing future for the show. We see how the young boys from Thors’ village seem excited by the prospect of their first battle, while the village elders dread what awaits them. There are hints of a deeper backstory that connects Thors’ wife and the leader of the Jomsvikings, but the real standout is the parental bond between Thors and Thorfinn.

A father kneels with his hands on his son’s shoulders. They are in a log cabin. Amazon Video

Throughout the first three episodes Thors grows wearier of his son’s affinity for warfare and enthusiasm for battle, and the lingering shot of Thors’ disappointing look whenever his son talks about battle gives more insight into his character and what he has seen than any flashback could. Thorfinn’s eagerness to grow up despite the audience knowing better helps him avoid falling into “annoying kid” territory, while Thors will instantly make audiences think of Ed Stark, as both men escaped violent lives where they thrived in favor of peace and quiet in the far north, right before their old life comes knocking at the door.

Though the second and third episodes slow down on the action compared to the opening scene of the first episode, there is a sense of danger and dread that permeates the world of Vinland Saga. The show introduces us to a world where anything and everything can get you killed, and tension can come from something as simple as a character making eye contact with the wrong person, making even the non-battle scenes thrilling to watch.

A tall blonde man in a viking helmet holding an axe makes eye contact with a shorter man with black hair and a ponytail. Amazon Video

The one big problem with Vinland Saga so far is that the third episode ends on a huge cliffhanger that won’t get resolved for another two weeks. Even worse is that it comes right after the show introduced a promising villain in the form of Thors’ enigmatic and former friend, Floki, and the mercenary Askeladd (named after Norwegian fairytale hero). Both men come across as formidable and smart adversaries, so it will be interesting to see if the show maintains that conflict in future episodes.

This may have just been the prologue to what promises to be an epic story spanning decades, but Vinland Saga is off to a entertaining start that shows the horrors of being a Viking at the turn of the 11th century, while also serving as a coming-of-age tale set against the background of a bloody and thrilling war.

Rafael Motamayor is a freelance TV/film critic and reporter living in Norway. You can find more of his work here, or follow him on Twitter @RafaelMotamayor.

Source: Polygon.com

The 10 best animated movies streaming on Netflix now

There are so many animated movies on Netflix that the 2018 breakout Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won’t even show up when you search through the genre. To make sure you don’t miss it — as well as other animated gems currently available on the service, we’ve rounded up the 10 best animated movies you can watch right now.

The offerings range from the aforementioned computer-animated superhero shenanigans to the best in hand-drawn animation as well as stop-motion masterpieces, with recent hits as well as decades-old movies with such gorgeous art that they barely look a day old. And whether it’s childish fun or existential angst you’re looking for, this list has got something for you.

miles morales in spider-man into the spider-verse
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) swinging through New York City.
Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Doing something new in the realm of superhero movies is nigh impossible, and yet Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has pulled it off. The film, which stars the Miles Morales version of the wall-crawling hero (as well as numerous other iterations of him from other Spider-verses, hence the film’s title), is a bright, innovative delight, harnessing a visual style that hasn’t been seen before to tell a story that, despite treading some of the same ground, feels equally fresh.

With appearances from the likes of Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir, as well as a look into the parts of New York that haven’t yet been seen in other Spider-Man films, Into the Spider-Verse turns what could be a relatively rote story (characters from one dimension get stuck in another, and must work together in order to get home) into a mesmerizing blend of comedy, action and drama. The film is also keenly aware of the comic book history it’s pulling from, and builds some of its best gags off the way Spider-Man has become a staple of pop culture.

Miguel and Ernesto de la Cruz in Pixar’s Coco.
Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) and Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) in Pixar’s Coco.
Pixar/Walt Disney Studios

Coco (2017)

Pixar’s musical Day of the Dead fantasy took home two Academy Awards, winning Best Animated Feature as well as Best Original Song for its central tune, “Remember Me.” Even a briefest glimpse at the film’s stunning visuals make it clear that the acclaim is warranted — that the music is mix of Broadway-worthy tunes and thunderous Jerry Goldsmith cues is a cherry on top.

When would-be musician Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead, he’s forced to seek the help of his famous great-great-grandfather in order to make his way back, and attempt to bring music back into the lives of his family, who strictly forbid and discourage his musical ambitions. The story unfolds into something much bigger, just as the animated landscape does, turning into a tale about family, death, and moving on.

Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) in training.
Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) in training.
Walt Disney Studios

Mulan (1998)

Before the live action remake of Mulan hits theaters next year, why not revisit the original? Two decades later, the film is still a joy to behold, an adaptation of the legend of Hua Mulan, in which Mulan, a young woman (voiced by Ming-Na Wen), disguises herself as a man and takes her father’s place in the Chinese army.

With Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Harvey Fierstein, and Pat Morita (as well the singing of Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond) in the voice cast, the movie is a delight in almost every respect, and notable as the rare Western film to feature a woman of Asian descent as its lead.

incredibles 2 - holly hunter as elastigirl
Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) aboard a moving train.
Disney Pixar

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Nothing in this world is perfect (except the first Incredibles), which is both the message of and truth about Incredibles 2. Picking up right where its predecessor left off, Brad Bird’s sequel delves deeper into the philosophical arguments around whether superheroes are good or bad, and the collective responsibility to do the right thing even when it’s the hard thing.

Now that superheroes are back in the limelight, the next step is rehabilitating their public image. Unfortunately, the rise of the superhero also means the rise of the supervillain, and the tech-wielding Screenslaver is determined to see superheroes retired for good. Bird shows off his Spielberg-rivaling flair for action, making the big action scenes pop, and maintaining a sense of total clarity that’s rare in the contemporary CGI battle landscape.

Coraline exploring the Other World.
Coraline (Dakota Fanning) traveling through a portal.
Focus Features

Coraline (2009)

Even a decade later, stop-motion studio Laika’s very first feature film, Coraline, is a marvel. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, the film follows a young girl named Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning). Her family has just moved across the country, and she’s having trouble adjusting to the jump, a task that doesn’t get any easier as eerie magical influences start creeping into her life. Queen among the new influences in Coraline’s life is Other Mother (Teri Hatcher), a doppelgänger of her actual mother who just so happens to sport buttons for eyes.

The Castle of Cagliostro - Hayao Miyazaki
A car chase in The Castle of Cagliostro.
Manga Video

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

Before Hayao Miyazaki’s string of instant classics for Studio Ghibli, the animator took a crack at bringing to life one of Japan’s most famous manga characters: Arsène Lupin III. The Castle of Cagliostro finds the gentleman thief caught up in a counterfeiting scheme and looking to enact revenge. While Miyazaki’s sense of whimsy is mostly absent from his debut feature, his taste for spry, fluid movement remains, bringing to life gun fights, car chases and other Bond-like action.

Zucchini, a boy with blue hair, and a possible new friend.
Zucchini, with the blue hair, and a possible new friend.

My Life as a Zucchini (2016)

In the stop-motion film My Life as a Zucchini (or My Life as a Courgette), the young Icare is sent to a foster home after losing his mother in a grim accident. At the home, he goes by “Courgette,” his mother’s nickname for him. Initially, Courgette has a rough time, as he’s picked on by the other children, who want to know what happened to his parents. As time passes, however, he grows closer to the other children and even falls in love, slowly learning to open and trust others.

The stop-motion animation lends a sense of delicacy to Courgette’s story that is especially necessary given how awful the initial accident is, as well as how surprisingly frankly the children of the home discuss their respective situations.

the end of evangelion
A surreal scene from The End of Evangelion.
Toei Company

The End of Evangelion (1997)

An alternate ending to the cult series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the movie The End of Evangelion picks up where the 24th episode of the series and rewrites the ending. It’s probably best to watch the film once you’ve watched the series (handily also available on Netflix, though not without some problems), but even on its own, it’s a striking work of grief and giant robots. Watching Shinji Ikari’s struggle as the fate of the world comes to rest upon his shoulder is made all the more affecting by director Hideaki Anno’s talent for visual composition.

The steampunk Paris skyline.
The steampunk Paris skyline.

April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

The sci-fi adventure film April and the Extraordinary World presents a steampunk vision of the world — specifically Europe, with Paris boasting twin Eiffel Towers and the French Empire setting its eyes on Canada as the globe comes to depend on burning wood as a source of energy.

In the middle of it all, a young woman named April receives news that her parents, once thought dead, might still be alive. With her talking cat in tow, April sets off to find them, throwing herself into the middle of a conspiracy involving immortality serum, talking komodo dragons, and rockets.

The little prince standing on a planet.
The prince on his journey.

The Little Prince (2015)

This adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s iconic book combines the story of the titular Little Prince with that of a young girl who has just met the now-elderly aviator who serves as the main character of the book. The Prince’s half of the story is animated in stop motion, while the young girl’s half is computer animated.

While it might not seem necessary to add to Saint-Exupéry’s novella, which sent the Little Prince across planets to befriend foxes and roses, the film, directed by Mark Osborne, pulls it off well, making the tender tale a little more of an adventure, the better to translate to the screen.

Source: Polygon.com

How facial expressions could be the next game controller

I don’t usually care for infinite running games, but In the Same Boat is a bold exception. It’s an experimental project in which players use facial expressions to control a canoe, as it navigates obstacles along a river.

I recently played the game at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where it’s being partly developed by researchers and students as a joint project with the University of Saskatchewan. The team is part of a program run by Katherine Isbister, author of How Games Move Us, an excellent book on emotive game design.

Here’s how In the Same Boat works: A camera is placed on top of a PC, which monitors my facial expressions. On-screen emojis prompt me to laugh or frown or grimace. If I time my expression correctly, the boat progresses.

But that’s only half the game. In the Same Boat is a two-player game, so I’m connected to a another player who is doing the same thing as me. We have to coordinate our facial expressions in order to beat the game.

At first, I find it odd to simulate facial expressions, but after a few mishaps and triumphs, I find myself having a lot of fun. In fact, I begin to find it difficult to frown at the appropriate times, because I’m genuinely laughing.

The game begins to feel less like a goofy experiment, and more like a genuinely smart piece of work. It makes me feel the way I do when I play a fun new board game with my family.

The game’s goal, according to the game’s academic documentation, is to create “intimacy, trust, fondness, and affection over a distance through networked play.” Its use of coordinated action leads to “a heightened sense of social closeness between participants.”

“To the best of our knowledge, this game is the first to leverage physiological syncing over a distance,” states the game’s documentation. “It has the potential to help geographically-distributed friends, family, and partners to feel closer through playful interaction.”

In the Same Boat’s underlying tech is partly based on the work of Raquel Robinson, a former student at UCSC. Her project, All The Feels, is a biometric and camera-based Twitch overlay that analyzes how viewers are emotionally connected to the streams that they watch. This kind of real-time feedback isn’t merely a way to capture data, but a part of the streaming experience. It’s easy to imagine streamers responding to the biometrics that they inspire.

Isbister’s work on social and emotional technology ranges far and wide. During my visit I watched a presentation about a laser tag-style LARP game which turns the genre on its head by rewarding players for acts of kindness and generosity, within the framework of a narrative in which there’s a genuine “win” state. It points toward a future for games that isn’t so wedded to conflict as today’s commercial model.

“Lately, tech has taken a lot of hits for driving us apart and polarizing us,” said Isbister. “I believe games that bring people closer and that build emotional and social connections are not only extremely fun, but also could help bridge the gaps and mistrust that separate us.”

Source: Polygon.com

The Area 51 raid is unlikely, but the jokes are still fire

Today, the internet has been set ablaze by talk of a viral Facebook event that invites people to raid Area 51 together. As of this writing, nearly 500,000 people have said they’re attending the ill-advised occasion, with the host encouraging folks to “Naruto run” through the premises. “Lets see them aliens,” the post jokes.

Area 51 is an Air Force facility that has gained pop culture infamy as the place where the US government supposedly hides secrets, such as UFOs, aliens, and advanced technology. This is likely all rubbish, but even so, Area 51’s allure has remained over the years.

Given the flippant tone in the Facebook invite, this supposed raid of Area 51 is almost certainly just a huge goof. Everyone knows that military bases are a serious matter, and besides, efforts to visit the guarded base have been thwarted in the past. Many folks confess they have no real intention to show up.

Regardless, the joke has gone viral, and it’s prompting a number of memes around the web that make light of what people will find inside of Area 51. Games and nerd-related properties make heavy appearances here, which makes sense, given that we do like a good sci-fi.

Here are some of the best Area 51-related jokes we’ve seen around.

And just in case it’s unclear: Please don’t go to Area 51!

Source: Polygon.com

I feel less lonely when I play Dragon Quest Builders 2

At first, Dragon Quest Builders 2 struck me as odd. For what I expected to be a sandbox game, it sure made me sit through large amounts of dialogue. The non-playable characters, taken from the Dragon Quest franchise, will chat you up all day. At the start, this annoyed me but, as I progressed, it was these same characters that kept me playing.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 places the protagonist, a builder, in an alternate Dragon Quest reality. In this timeline, the Hero from Dragon Quest 2 — the 1989 NES game — betrays their quest and accepts the Dragon Lord’s offer to rule half the land. As it turns out, a world run by baddies isn’t all that terrible. When evil wins, there are still plenty of nice people left afterward. These are the characters we spend time with in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

Although it has a storyline, Dragon Quest Builders 2 borrows a lot from sandbox games. Among the many ways to play, you have the option to fight, build, mine, and farm. The game uses a block-building style, a la Minecraft.

However, what distinguishes it from Minecraft, and what made it meaningful to me, were the non-playable characters and the way they interact with the world. The characters in Dragon Quest Builders 2 made it easier to play single-player, because it didn’t feel as lonely as playing Minecraft by myself.

Square Enix

Playing Minecraft by myself feels isolating. There is no dialogue. You scarcely run into towns. It features a simple, contemplative soundtrack. It is relaxing, but it can start to feel lonely after a while. Because of this, I just could never get myself to sustain single-player for long. All the times I have binged Minecraft was with other people, in multiplayer mode.

Unlike Minecraft, other characters are central to playing Dragon Quest Builders 2. The player can only progress through the game by recruiting friends to help build up the town.

In Dragon Question Builders 2, each character does their own thing, and contributes to a larger cause — building a town — in a way that is relevant to their character. Depending on the interests of each character, the other townspeople will take care of different chores like watering, tilling the soil, or guarding crops from monsters. A character named Rosie likes gardening; so she’ll take care of tilling the soil and watering the plants while you adventure.

When you leave town, Malroth, the god of destruction, comes with. He runs around and helps you collect resources and fights battles alongside you. He is very reactive to the environment and will initiate battles, mine, and collect resources on his own. When you accomplish something in the game, he will always be there to give you a high five or to applaud you.

I found this NPC companionship made the game a great single-player experience for me. This was especially important because I only played it solo, on the go with the Switch. There is online multiplayer, a feature not in the original Dragon Quest Builders, but I was perfectly content to play by myself. I had the time to do what I want while still building an entire town. If I want to do something else like go explore the island, I needn’t worry. Each townsperson takes care of their own role and maintains the settlement.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 felt more like playing at home with my family, than it did a single-player experience. I wasn’t some god character, just the another character planting seeds as another tilled the soil. And in the end, I felt less alone.

Source: Polygon.com

Horror legend John Carpenter is writing a Joker comic

This fall, legendary director John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) will take on one of the greatest horror-tinged villains in the action movie canon: The Joker.

Carpenter’s The Joker: Year of the Villain #1 will be a part of DC Comics’ Year of the Villain event, in which Lex Luthor makes every villain — and some heroes! — in the DC Universe an offer they can’t refuse.

But nobody likes to be upstaged, especially not the Clown Prince of Crime. According to DC Comics’ announcement, the Joker isn’t waiting around for one of Lex’s handouts. He’s “on a mission to get his swagger back in a world gone bad by out-badding everyone else, proving that the greatest evil is always the one that leaves them laughing.”

Carpenter will co-write the 40-page issue with Borderlands 2 writer Anthony Burch — the two previously collaborated on Big Trouble in Little China Old Man Jack, a six-issue miniseries about “Jack Burton’s final ride in the Pork-Chop Express.”

“The Joker is the greatest villain in comics,” said Carpenter in DC’s press release. “I’m proud to be reunited with Anthony on this project.”

Philip Tan (Curse of Brimstone, The Black Order) and Marc Deering (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, The Black Order) will provide art for The Joker: Year of the Villain #1, which will be released on Oct. 2, 2019.

Promotional art for The Joker: Year of the Villain #1, DC Comics (2019). Philip Tan/DC Comics

Source: Polygon.com

Eve Online is changing how chat works, and that changes the game

The way chat works in Eve Online changes today, throwing a wrench into an entire strategic layer of the game. Here’s why that’s important, and maybe even why the change could be informative about the future of the influential spacefaring MMO.

First, a bit of background. New Eden est omnes divisa in partes tres … cough … Sorry. Old habits. I’ll begin again.

Eve’s galaxy, known as New Eden, is roughly divided into three parts. There’s the high-security area in the center, also known as highsec space. It’s patrolled by AI-controlled factions who keep the peace. Outside of that area is the null-security space, also known as nullsec. That’s where Eve’s major wars are always fought, with player-led factions duking it out on the lawless frontier.

The third area isn’t really a single, contiguous area at all. Referred to as Wormhole Space, it’s a series of randomly connected zones that shift in relation to one another in the background of New Eden. While highsec and nullsec are referred to as Known Space, Wormhole Space is also commonly called Unknown Space.

Up until today, communications worked differently in Known Space and Unknown Space. Once a player dropped into a location in Known Space, the game’s local chat channel would provide nearly perfect information about who else was in there with them, what sort of ships they were all flying, and whose side of the complex galactic power struggle they were on. That sort of information was invaluable to small-time players and big alliances alike, who would use it in real time to decide whether or not to stick around and fight, or turn tail and run.

Things worked very differently in Unknown Space. Local chat would only identify a player once they sent a message, and then it would only provide limited information about them. Big forces could hide out in Unknown Space pretty easily. Trouble was, and still is, that once they enter Unknown Space it’s sort of hard to get back out again with any certainty. But that’s beside the point.

The result was that Unknown Space felt dangerous. Anything could be lurking in the black. Meanwhile, Known Space — both highsec and nullsec areas — didn’t feel nearly as threatening.

So CCP Games, the Icelandic company who develops and publishes Eve Online, made a change. It’s now enforcing the same kinds of local chat systems in nullsec that it enforces in Unknown Space. That means players no longer have perfect information about who is in a nullsec system with them, and entire fleets of player ships can now be moved around much more easily without anyone knowing where they are.

The in-fiction reason is simple enough; with a recent alien invasion, there’s only so much 4-helium to go around. That rare material is needed to power the whosits and the whatsits that make faster-than-light communications possible in nullsec, and the ruling party in highsec wants to keep a strategic stockpile on hand for when the shit really hits the fan. So it’s turning off the juice, and enforcing a communications blackout in nullsec for the time being.

For large alliances, this means the calculus they used to plan their wars and fortify their holdings in nullsec has changed dramatically. How things will shake out is anyone’s guess. Right now some of the powers that be are likely planning bold maneuvers against their enemies. It should be heady times for those like me who enjoy following the political machinations of the game from a distance.

This change gives players more work to do, creating more opportunities for innovative gameplay within larger organizations. Now, instead of letting third-party tools skim data from local chat and spit out reports in real-time, organizations like The Imperium will need in-game spotters to track the movements of their enemies. Even Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco, long a big-wig in the world of Eve, is publicly praising CCP.

“I’m a fan,” Gianturco said in a tweet. “Free recon data […] cut down a vibrant part of the scouting and espionage meta.”

David “Matterall” Mora, who runs the Talking in Stations fan podcast, agrees.

“A lot of people [who are new to the game] will go straight to nullsec and live there,” Mora told Polygon in a call today via Discord. “They’ve been able to farm and create money and do their activities there with an incredible amount of safety. I think this is CCP’s way of shaking the game up and saying, ‘You’re too safe. We’re gonna rattle the board under you first. We’re going to scare you with what NPCs can do, and then we’re going to knock out the lights.’”

He compared it to an ecosystem with more space for diversity.

“You have a nocturnal setting now where animals can hunt at night,” Mora said, “but you also have a nocturnal setting that allows grazing animals to be able to be more stealthy when they are grazing.”

CCP is currently evaluating these changes to how local chat works in nullsec, and has said publicly that it may lift the communications restrictions at some point in the future. It’s also important to note that the company is actively working to upgrade the technology that underpins the entire game, including the local client and its server infrastructure on the back end. These kinds of galaxy-wide changes in how the game works show an appetite to experiment, and a willingness of the playerbase at large to roll with the punches.

Source: Polygon.com