Tom Marks: Home on the range
Like last week, my high these last seven days has been Stardew Valley. It’s seriously brilliant, and I’m continuing to have a blast with it. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up but has a lot of little things to learn, so you never feel overwhelmed but are always progressing. And it hooks me with the “just one more day…” loop that makes the Civ series so addicting as well. How can I stop now when my blueberries are ready to harvest?
But what made Stardew my high for the second week in a row is how developer Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone has been patching the game since it came out. In the 48 hours after launch last Friday, he pushed four or five patches to the game, and more have come since. When people tweet at him that their save file was corrupted, he asks them to send him the file and manually fixes it. And he’s already teasing and talking about coming features for the game, like a way to zoom out—though I spent yesterday making a guide on how to get your whole farm on screen at once before the zoom feature arrives.
With co-op and content updates already on the way, and Barone showing no signs of slowly down development, I get the feeling we’ve really only seen the tip of the iceberg with Stardew Valley. The game has “Terraria” potential, in that it’s entirely possible for people to be playing it years down the line—and for it to look like a much bigger game at that point. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of meticulously planning my farm layout.
Samuel Roberts: Alan Wake returns?
Alan Wake, the deeply unlikable but also somehow charming protagonist of Remedy’s great action game, appears to have returned via the medium of the in-game TV show in the upcoming Quantum Break. People who played the game recently picked up on a TV screen showing Alan facing his creation, Alex Casey, who in the Alan Wake universe is a thinly veiled substitute for Max Payne. A trademark filing for Alan Wake’s Return also has people talking—I’ve also noticed that the game’s fictional band, The Old Gods of Asgard, just put their album on Spotify and other digital platforms for the first time two weeks ago. Bit suspicious for a 6 year-old game, eh?
My theory is this: there is no Alan Wake sequel because Remedy put it to one side a few years ago and there’s no guarantee a follow-up would sell a lot more. Instead, Alan Wake returns inside Quantum Break as a running TV series in that game, much like Address Unknown from Max Payne 2 or Night Springs in Alan Wake itself. It’s a way to give players a little of what they want, in a cross-media way that’s very Alan Wake-esque, without the need to invest tens of millions in a proper sequel.
[Editor’s note: Sam wrote this high hours before news arrived that an Alan Wake TV show within Quantum Break (not an Alan Wake sequel) is exactly what the trademark filing meant. Good guessing, Sam!]
Chris Livingston: Go, Man: Fly
"You know this is a Playstation event, right?" was I joke I heard more than once when introducing myself to people at the No Man's Sky event this week. And sure, I would have preferred seeing the game on PC, especially since I had to keep looking down at the PS controller to see which button was marked with a square. It was still great to finally get to try a game I've been curious about since 2014.
Despite the fact that even after my session and my interview with Sean Murray I still have a lot of concerns about No Man's Sky, I feel like I did get to experience a little of its potential magic as well. In a game so reliant on procedural generation that even its soundtrack is assembled by an algorithm, finding something interesting feels like it might depend on a roll of the dice. At the same time, I did have a moment of real excitement and a genuine feeling of awe-struck discovery I rarely feel in games. I'm already looking forward to my next trip.
Tyler Wilde: Merry land
I flew to Maryland this week, got a puppy, and am now uncomfortably typing on a desk made of cardboard boxes because Amazon’s one-day delivery failed me. But it’s OK, because I have a puppy! In gaming-related news, I also loved this new Planet Coaster footage. I don’t love how they dance around mod support (“we will absolutely look into doing it"), but what we see in little, detailed props and animated characters is fantastic. It’s a long stream, but if you just skip through you’ll find rides, parks, and people that look simultaneously slick and adorable. I’ll just have to lose track of time designing my Stardew Valley farm until it comes out.
Evan Lahti: The VR party
The notion of VR being more isolating than ‘normal’ gaming has persisted since the Oculus Kickstarter. We’ve been trying out the Vive this week in the office after unboxing it on our weekly livestream show, and what’s exciting at this early stage of commercial availability is how social using VR has turned out to be. It’s partly because the experience of having two screens wrapped around your face is still novel, but what strikes me about VR is how instinctive it is to want to share and show it with other people and compare experiences. Every time we booted up the Vive people gathered around to gawk, take turns, and watch the mirrored monitor output of what someone was playing. Really, it’s much more entertaining to watch someone solve a puzzle in Fantastic Contraption than it would be to watch someone play an equivalent puzzle game like Portal 2 via Twitch or over their shoulder. I think VR parties will totally be a thing. Wherever VR takes us, the future of gaming won’t look like people grabbing feeding tubes and plugging themselves into Matrix-like isolation pods.
James Davenport: Bloodborne is coming to the PC
DECEPTION! Bloodborne isn’t exactly coming to PC. My console of choice, the PS4, is just getting a firmware update that will enable remote play functionality on PCs. It may seem silly, but I can’t stop replaying the Souls games, and it pains me to have to plug in a different machine just to play Bloodborne. Now I can keep the PS4 in the living room and play it from the comfort of my cheap Amazon desk chair, because I hate couches. Alt-tabbing between Bloodborne and Fuller House will soon no longer be a dream, but an incredible 2016 snake person reality. Imagine playing one of the many metal covers of the Cleric Beast theme while actually fighting the Cleric Beast. Feeling blessed.
Remote Play is also reassurance that the PC singularity is on the way. Soon, we’ll all have government-mandated PC cubes surgically inserted into our chests, there will be no exclusives ever again, VR will run on ‘em without issue, GPU upgrades will come in pill form, and they’ll hit 4K without skipping a beat.