So, I actually finished playing Epic Battle Fantasy 5 and my review of it is basically done. However, I want to save posting that for next week to build up a bit of a queue. A bunch of things happened or is happening in gaming and I just felt like writing a bit about that stuff.
Steam Next Fest
You probably knew this already if you opened up Steam in the last few days, but Steam Next Fest is currently running! Steam Next Fest is an occasional event where developers put up demos of their upcoming games that Steam advertises for greater visibility. Some demos tend to be exclusive to download during the event, so you’re encouraged to take the time to look around.
I previously looked at a few Steam Next Fest games the last time that happened. But well, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that again because the rest of the event will be running through my workweek, so I won’t have the time to check stuff out. That said, here are a few things that I would have liked to check out if I had the time:
- OTXO: An action roguelike made by Lateralis. An amnesiac man arrives at the Mansion, only knowing that he must search for his lost love there. With action familiar to fans of the Hotline Miami games paired with more fantastical offerings like time slowing powers and inhuman enemies, the game aims to offer a good action experience.
- SKALD: Against the Black Priory: An old-school RPG made more in the vein of stuff like Wizardry than the typical Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy-likes. Scape-IT AS’ take on the genre infuses Lovecraftian horror while aiming to satisfy players young and old.
- Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider: Joining JoyMasher’s repertoire of 16-bit action platformers (like Oniken), Moonrider continues the legacy with the story of its titular robot character rebelling against its programming and joining the fight against its totalitarian creators.
- Dewdrop Dynasty: Accompanying its recent Kickstarter, Goodgis’ cutesy Metroidvania now has a demo available to show off the fruits of its long, open development.
This iteration of Steam Next Fest ends on October 10th at 10 AM, so take the time to check some games out!
Fandom and guides
Remember when Wikia was just Wikia and when it wasn’t tied to Fandom with its incessant branding and ads? Unfortunately, Fandom has continued on its warpath of bringing nerd culture sites under its heels. In the field of gaming, GameSpot, GameFAQs, Giant Bomb and Metacritic were announced to have been acquired on October 3rd.
People were immediately concerned, given Fandom’s money making scheme of putting lots of annoying ads on content that other people made for free. GameFAQs, even today, has been seen as a helpful beacon for game guides and tips. This is especially when other examples are long YouTube videos that are more about entertainment than helping people and websites with unnecessary bits of writing for the sake of appealing to Google’s SEO – both of whom also having intrusive ads that GameFAQs doesn’t really have. But oh whoops, here comes the very valid possibility of GameFAQs getting flooded with ads under Fandom’s umbrella!
Fandom is a pain in the ass for indie games in general, since the easiest way to make a central place for collaborative information is through their wiki hosting services. Like, look at this. There’s a reason why I thought that mirroring information on Stands in 7th Stand User to this site would be a good use of my time – and I bet this is way worse on phones!
Ads aren’t the only concern, either. There’s precedent of Fandom taking down wikis that don’t regularly get traffic, so indie games that are already way smaller are inherently kinda screwed. But hey, what about guides? Will guides made for old games years ago suddenly be in danger of getting taken down for not bringing in enough ad revenue?
Anyway, this all sucks and Fandom is a blight on the internet. I’m mainly talking about guides here, but I’m sure that Fandom’s acquisition of all these other sites will also end up being bad since it’s a dogshit company. If I ever have the time, I want to continue putting guide content for some small games on here so that people can continue to have an ad-free guide experience.
ZA/UM became a beloved indie studio with the release of Disco Elysium, the grand tabletop RPG inspired story that stars the man with the distinct honor of being voted the biggest Pathetic Loserman in 2022. So, all that good will must be burned away, with ZA/UM involuntarily pushing out the lead creatives behind Disco Elysium.
Martin Luiga, a founding member of the ZA/UM cultural association that the ZA/UM company spun-off from, put out a statement announcing that the association disbanded – while also revealing that core founding members Aleksader Rostov, Robert Kurvitz and Helen Hindpere were ousted from the company last year. Rostov confirmed separately that the three are no longer at the studio. While not explicitly said why, it’s been heavily hinted that the business side of the studio pushed them out.
ZA/UM’s responded by doing what all studios do when called out for something: writing out a statement on a blank background with their logo. Specifically, they kinda deflected by upholding ZA/UM as a collective effort.
This prompted a bunch of discourse concerning “auteur theory,” pointing out that Rostov, Kurvitz and Hindpere weren’t the only ones who made Disco Elysium. And, yeah, it’s true that they aren’t the only people that made Disco Elysium, and it’s kinda wrong to insinuate that it was only good because of them. However, it’s also missing a bunch of things.
For one thing, it’s pretty weird that people are responding to the firing of a bunch of people with “eh, other people work on the games, it’s fine.” The attitude it gives off feels like, “as long as other people are still working on the product, I don’t care.” Like, yeah, the smaller names that worked on the game deserve to be acknowledged, but it feels like they’re being used as a shield against criticism.
Secondly, the creative leads legitimately are the backbone of Disco Elysium, if claims are true. The world of Disco Elysium was conceptualized by Robert Kurvitz since when he was a teenager, and he published a book set in that world, Sacred and Terrible Air, back in 2013. We should definitely acknowledge that this is a world that was built on by other people, but this was a world that he arguably started.
Hell, if you remove the individual from the equation, you have to remember that the world of Disco Elysium is a reflection of a life that he and other people had lived. The setting is a reflection of Eastern-European malaise after the collapse of the Soviet Union, something that Estonians like Kurvitz may have felt. Well, surely there are other writers around that still have the same lived experience, right? Oh, most of the original Estonian writers are gone now? Oh, ZA/UM’s prioritizing hiring in the United Kingdom? One of those positions is dedicated to monetization? Huh, okay!
I think it’s too early to say that the studio’s next game will be bad, and it’d be a disservice to team members that weren’t involved with whatever happened. However, I definitely think that whatever’s made next won’t be through the same perspective the original creative leads had.