This Week in Games
The Secrets of Nintendo's Mirror House Cornflakes

by Heidi Kemps,

Hello again! How're you all doing? Still playing games? I'm just about done with my first playthrough of the Trials of Mana remake. Maybe I'll wind up talking about it here in the future! Also, I reviewed the excellent Streets of Rage 4 over at Gamespot, so please give that a read (and maybe buy Streets of Rage 4). Anyhow, things are happening this week, so let's investigate!

THE FULL SCOPE OF THE NINTENDO LEAK MAY BE KNOWN AND IT'S *BIG*

A couple of weeks ago, there was word floating around the internet that some Nintendo servers had been hacked and a massive amount of Pokemon development material had been secured. Source code for Pokemon Blue and Yellow, early Gold and Silver Pokemon sprites, even development and localization material revealing internal communications and scrapped early English names for Pokemon. Also, apparently at some point a Pokemon Pink was in planning stages to accompany Pokemon Yellow.

While this all has proven to be treasure trove for die-hard Poke-fans, it turns out that the hackers who got ahold of this stuff (and that 1997 Pokemon Gold and Silver demo ROM from a little while back) obtained far, far more than just Pokemon stuff: they acquired a treasure trove of sensitive Nintendo development information.

Specifically, they acquired a lot of stuff related to development on the Nintendo 64, GameCube, and the Wii, including source code and details on how various components in these platforms work. If you're curious about the particulars, then you might want to take a look at this video from Modern Vintage Gamer, who breaks things down nicely and explains what this might mean for projects like emulators and FPGA devices.

Among the more strange and amusing things discovered is this development demo for the N64 called Mirror House Cornflakes. It's a game about a very hungry boy lost in an amusement park maze looking for food, and it's got serious “my first 3D programming project” vibes.

There's also a multiplayer Snake/Nibbler-type game, as well as a lot of demos showcasing geometry, texture-mapping, and shading functions in the hardware. As crude as it all looks now, I'm sure many a designer of the era appreciated these demos giving them an idea of what they could do with the hardware.

What's even more interesting is that this might not be the last of what's been acquired – some folks are claiming there's plenty more where this came from. While I absolutely can't condone obtaining these sorts of things through illicit means like hacking, and revealing very deep trade secrets about the system hardware makes me very uncomfortable, I must admit that part of me is glad those weird, ancient N64 demos and Pokemon development materials have been preserved online.

Speaking of leaks, Sony has gone on record saying that The Last of Us II's leaks did not come internally from anybody at Naughty Dog, which is what I suspected from the start. Some people are still skeptical, saying “how could Sony have such lax security?” but I'm over here looking at the size and scope of the Nintendo leaks thinking “Well, if it can happen this badly to Nintendo, one of the most secretive companies in gaming, it can definitely happen to Sony and Naughty Dog.”

SUMMER GAME FEST MIGHT BE OUR BEST REPLACEMENT FOR E3

In retrospect, Geoff Keighley deciding he was bowing out of E3 this year was likely the canary in the coal mine for the E3 2020 cancellation. I mean, it would have happened anyway, but having a big-name host who was the face of what was the best part of E3 for the past few years (E3 Coliseum) drop out? That's a bad look.

Since Keighley announced he was bailing on E3 months ago, folks were wondering, “is he planning something else?” And the answer is… yes!

Summer Game Fest is an online event that will span four months’ worth of online presentations, demos, interviews, and other content. Basically, it's like an E3 livestream that goes on until August. In fact, as you read this, Microsoft is set to be showcasing some stuff on the Xbox Series X on the Summer Game Fest website, so if you need to stop reading and go watch that, be my guest.

…done? Okay, cool. So, I don't know if this was something Keighley was working on before the COVID-19 convention apocalypse, but it's pretty awesome that this exists and is running for such a long time. Instead of publishers and developers all competing in a three-day span to see who can get the most attention, everyone can get some time to shine over the course of a few months, and fans can always know they have something to look forward to. Frankly, that's fantastic, and I hope this event lives up to expectations because this is the way I'd like gaming news to be delivered from now on.

EVO 2020 GOES ONLINE, AND THE COMMUNITY GOES “…what”

Everybody in the fighting game community suspected that EVO 2020 wasn't going to happen, since basically every fighting-game-focused event since mid-March cancelled. So when EVO announced late last week that the Vegas event had been cancelled, folks were disappointed but not terribly surprised.

But to assuage fans and viewers, EVO announced that EVO 2020 would be going totally online this year!

Well, that makes everything a-ok, right? Ahahahahaha, oh goodness no. No, it does not.

You see, the online netcode in most of the official EVO titles this year is awful. While some fighting games have made the shift to rollback-based netcode, almost all of the EVO 2020 lineup is still using delay-based netcode. Delay-based netcode generally works OK if you're in close proximity and have good internet… you know, like if you were Japan.

Unfortunately, as anyone in North America can tell you, it is generally awful when everyone lives hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other and has potentially iffy internet, as it introduces painful lag that makes it difficult to properly react. Rollback-based netcode solves this issue, but it's tough to implement if a developer doesn't know what they're doing. Many devs haven't considered rollback “necessary” at all until very recently. Since offline gatherings haven't been happening, players have been forced to compete online, and many of them are very dissatisfied with what they have to deal with.

Now, imagine running a major international tournament completely online with this kind of netcode. Imagine competing for worldwide fame and a massive prize pot when, at any moment, an ill-timed lag spike or input delay could completely screw up what you wanted to do. All pretenses of legitimacy immediately go out the window – if you won, you'd have a big asterisk next to your “champion” title, because who knows how much online environmental factors played a role? Even rollback netcode isn't 100%, and if someone believes that a problem with netcode cost them a big win, they are absolutely going to challenge the validity of the results.

Yeah, this sounds like it has the potential to be disastrous. Of course, I realize that EVO probably cut deals with some of the publishers to feature the game in the tournament and they have to fulfill that obligation somehow, but unless a miracle happens and every game in the lineup gets a netcode update by year's end, I can't foresee this turning out very well. It's a shame, too, because I was looking forward to seeing Granblue Fantasy Versus on the big stage this year. I hope that game manages to carry some momentum through all this because it's really solid!

NEWSBITS

  • The North American and European versions of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town are getting a new addition to the game: same-sex relationships! Yup, none of that weaselly “Best Friends Ceremony” crap, you can now get hitched to anyone you please. Nice!
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ sees the addition of Ultra Instinct Goku on the 22nd of this month! He rounds out the second season of DLC characters. Here's his trailer!
  • Meanwhile, Mortal Kombat 11 is getting a massive update called aftermath, with new story content, returning fan favorite characters, and ROBOCOP. Ah, the power of having a major media company as your publisher!
  • A listing for Yakuza: Like a Dragon has appeared on SteamDB, a popular site that details literally everything that has or will be on Steam. I guess you can look forward to that one on PCs, too!

Alright then, I think that's everything for this week! What are your thoughts on the Nintendo leak? Is Mirror House Cornflakes the best game name ever? (Yes.) Do you plan on watching Summer Game Fest or playing in online EVO? Join us in the forums for some healthy discussion, and I'll be back next week with more fresh gaming goodness!


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