This Week in Games
Starting Over from Zenless Zone Zero
by Heidi Kemps,
Hello again for another fine Week in Games! It's been a little while since I've done shameless self-promotion. So, before we begin, I'd like to point you over to my review of Eiyuden Chronicle Rising over on Gamespot, as well as mention that I wrote a big feature on one of my favorite retro games, Taito's amazing Bubble Symphony, for the UK magazine Retro Gamer (which your local Barnes and Noble might carry in the States). Please go check them out!
Anyway… you know what I love? Those times when everybody on social media comes together to do something fun. Like, remember Bowsette? That whole period when everybody was doing Bowsette art was delightful. Everyone was rallying around a concept and enjoying it. That was great! Oh, and Jack-O posing, that was fun too!
Why do I bring these things up? Because something similar happened last week. But rather than celebrating a fan-created character or a goofy animation, gamers of all stripes were drawn together to a different cause: mocking the latest stupid thing Activision-Blizzard did. And boy, was this one a doozy!
IT IS ALWAYS JUSTIFIED TO DUNK ON ACTIVISION BLIZZARD
Oh dear, where do you even start with this one. Okay, so, out of nowhere, Activision Blizzard made a blog post touting its latest technology, developed by their mobile game team King (the Candy Crush guys). Folks, I present to you: The Diversity Space Tool!
The internet took one collective look at the blog post and the accompanying pictures and stared at it in slack-jawed disbelief. Certainly, Activision Blizzard—who have been no stranger to controversy over the past year—are keen to start rehabilitating their image. And what better way to prove that they were committed to becoming better than to show everybody their proprietary diversity-creating technology? After all, diversity is a hot, positive buzzword!
But that's not the reaction ATVI got. Instead, what they got was a resounding “What the actual shit is this?” followed by many, many, many dunks and essays explaining how absurdly stupid the very idea behind the Diversity Space Tool was.
Now, there are a lot of essays out there explaining how this sucks a lot, but what folks found most peculiar (and most painfully hilarious) was the existence of points assigned to various characteristics of a character, like culture, race, age, body type, sexual orientation… just look at that image up there and you'll see what I mean. This is supposed to “delineate between token characters and true representation.” But how do these points work? Is there some kind of quota being aimed for? Is there someone manually grading this, or is there some algorithm looking at a design and judging based on data samples it's been fed? (Probably the latter.) It all comes off as a real-life representation of this famous dril tweet.
I am now fully convinced that they have an emergency stock of overwatch characters that are contained in a glass case that says: "break in case of new scandal being brought to light".— Ebonic Plague @ Combo Breaker (@EbonicPlagueBB) May 13, 2022
But perhaps the most insulting thing about the Diversity Space Tool is that it's a complex solution to a problem that is very easily solved. Here's what you do: hire employees of different backgrounds, make sure you don't create a hostile work environment for them so they stick around (this one's important!), and then ask then for input and feedback about character designs. It works better than any kind of algorithm, and it makes employees feel like their input is valued and respected. Everybody wins!
The social media mockery was so swift and merciless that Activision very quickly edited the post to remove certain images and references to games in development like Overwatch 2, but this was long after everyone had already archived the hell out of everything. Several employees at the company had words about the whole thing, and now Activision, in its attempt to harness the goodwill of diversity, has come out looking even worse. That's quite the accomplishment!
MIHOYO'S ZENLESS ZONE ZERO IS LOOKING MIGHTY SLICK
Hey, have you heard about Genshin Impact? I'm sure you have, because it's a massive global hit that rakes in literal millions of dollars each day for its developer, China-based miHoYo. miHoYo doesn't seem content to just collect oodles of Genshin gacha money for the foreseeable future, however, as they announced a brand-new title as their new “HoYoverse” branding initiative. Here's our first look at this new game, Zenless Zone Zero.
Aesthetically and settings-wise, Zenless Zone Zero is a marked departure from the fantasy worlds of Genshin and Honkai Impact. Instead, we see a pop-futuristic futurescape filled with wild architecture, wonderfully ridiculous weaponry, and striking fashion. It makes me think a lot of the “cheery apocalyptic” design sense of the Splatoon games, and I wouldn't be surprised if miHoYo looked to those titles for some visual inspiration. It does look very impressive—the Genshin money is clearly being put to work.
The character designs are buck wild too. Catgirls, masked street punks, little girls wielding huge hammers, and furries all feature prominently in the trailer. miHoYo's clearly been studying which character archetypes have mass appeal to the wider internet.
We only know the name of one of the characters so far, though. Anby Denara is the gray-haired lass you see above. She lives in New Eridu, the last standing metropolitan area after a global apocalypse. Basically, everything's been wrecked thanks to the Hollows, an alternate dimension that spews its supernatural spawn into the world to cause destruction. The only reason New Eridu's survived is thanks to Proxies—specially trained guides and combatants that collect resources from these outer dimensions.
Anby's a proxy, and she's part of a gang called the Cunning Hares. She and her partners compete with various rivals (individuals, other gangs, and mega-corporations) for prime quarry and the rewards that come with them. And guess what—your player character is a Proxy too! Suffice to say, Anby and her companions aren't the only crew you're going to be hanging out with on your cross-dimensional adventures, but we're going to have to wait until miHoYo doles out the deets to learn more about the other wonderful weirdoes the trailer introduced us to.
ZZZ is a live-service game, and much like miHoYo's other offerings, it will likely be free-to-play with gacha elements. Platforms aren't specified yet, but PC and smartphones are obvious targets, given how much success other miHoYo titles have found in those spaces. There is currently a sign-up for a “tuning test” (basically a closed beta) set for some unspecified point in the future, so if you're interested in trying ZZZ out early, click that link and give miHoYo your info!
Will ZZZ be as big a hit as Genshin? It's hard to say this early, but miHoYo's development prowess and marketing power mean that this one will be on a lot of folks’ radars at the very least. I'm definitely hoping it'll be as fun to play as it is fun to look at.
SONY LISTS A BUNCH OF GAMES YOU'LL BE ABLE TO PLAY ON THE NEW PS PLUS… YAY?
We won't have to wait much longer until the newly-segmented PlayStation Plus service is available. As you might recall, the new PS Plus tiers are Sony's effort to compete with Microsoft's massively popular Xbox Game Pass, which gives subscribers a huge selection of downloadable games (including new-release titles) for a monthly fee on Xbox and PC. Sony's initial announcement was met with rather tepid reception, with many folks wanting to see what games would be available on the service before deciding if they'd want to spring for the more expensive service. Well, the list has come out, and it's kinda… okayish?
Rather than post the whole list here, I'll link you to an earlier ANN newspiece with the full listing of PS4/PS5 games. There's certainly some good stuff in there, like both the Gravity Rush games, Demon's Souls, Ghost of Tsushima, Patapon and Patapon 2, Resogun, Soul Calibur VI… but at this point a lot of those games are cheap and/or popular enough that most folks who want to own them already do. Sure, a service like this would lead people to try games they might not otherwise, and Sony's likely hoping that the timed demo service for new titles that also comes packed in with higher PS Plus tiers will help folks discover interesting new releases, as well. Compared to what Microsoft's offering, however, it feels pretty anemic. The PS1/PS2/PS3 games available on the highest tier (which you can check here) aren't terribly exciting, either.
It feels like Sony is trying to play catch-up here, but they're still lagging way behind. One of Game Pass's biggest selling points is access to new releases, which Sony is unwilling to do, and they don't seem to have much third party support beyond a few companies like Bandai Namco, CAPCOM, Ubisoft, and Square Enix. Most of those companies aren't giving access to their “crown jewel” titles, either—where's Final Fantasy VII Remake? Dark Souls 3? Monster Hunter World? Street Fighter V? If Sony wants this to be a viable competitor to GamePass, they've got a lot more work ahead of them.
- There's a new Fairy Fencer F game coming. Fairy Fencer F was an RPG first released back on the PS3 (with later enhanced ports to PC and Switch) that was made by Idea Factory's Compile Heart studio. It was very much a Compile Heart game, and you can interpret that statement however you want. The follow-up, Fairy Fencer F Refrain Chord, shifts the genre to strategy-RPG and gains a new codeveloper in Sting, whose work I tend to enjoy but who's been stuck doing contract work for the past several years. Maybe this'll turn out good?
- Also announced: Project Code Name M, a new adventure from NOVECT (formerly Novectacle), creators of beloved visual novel The House in Fata Morgana. Not much to go on yet, but knowing this exists is enough to get a lot of folks excited.
- In an interview with website Noisy Pixel, producer Mei Erikawa stated that Koei Tecmo would “definitely like to consider releasing English versions” of Ruby Party otome games to follow up Touken Ranbu Warriors, which is dropping on Switch and Steam next week. I've been crowing about the importance of Ruby Party's output to the history of gaming for a good while, so I'd really like to see some sort of organized campaign to get their titles localized. We can do it!
- There are a bunch of Silent Hill-related rumors that I don't really want to dig to far into until something gets confirmed. Disappointment and Silent Hill go hand-in-hand, after all.
NEW NOVECT GAME IN DEVELOPMENT— NOVECT (Novectacle) (@NOVECT_EN) May 13, 2022
Detective and Killer,
deduce a serial murder case from both eyes,
in downtown Tokyo.
Murder and Detective Adventure
“YOU planned the murder scenes”
Project Code Name “M”
Trailer https://t.co/fQLPfmZ9Et#NOVECT #M pic.twitter.com/gkms47mjAT
Another week draws to a close. Have any thoughts about this week's topics? I welcome any and all mockery of Activision Blizzard and all the stupid, horrible things they do on the forums, linked below. But if you just want to talk about Zenless Zone Zero or whether or not you're upgrading your PS Plus subscription, that's cool too. Or anything else related to gaming, really. It's all cool. Have a great weekend, and keep on gaming!
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