W-AI-ZARDS OF THE COAST: With the publishing of Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants! people noticed that some of the art looked…suspicious. It was revealed that the artist in question had used AI-engines to “enhance” the art they created for the book. Our hosts dive into this discussion and branch out from there.
WEEK IN GEEK: It’s all about television this week as Andrew finds a lot of great Fallout vibes in the AppleTV+ show, Silo, while D. Bethel finds it sad that the great Amazon Prime adaptation of the hit Image Comics series, Paper Girls, will never get a second season.
DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY:Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim turned 10 years old this week, celebrated with yet another re-release of the game across all gaming platforms. Andrew and D. Bethel talk about this milestone for a brief bit.
PLEASE STOP: NFTs continue to rear their ugly heads as major gaming publishers announce their interest in integrating blockchain weirdness into their games. After an explanation of the whole mess, D. Bethel and Andrew discuss NFTs’ possible impact on video games.
RIP DEAN STOCKWELL: After a long and storied career, actor and writer Dean Stockwell passed away this week. Nerds know him best as Al from Quantum Leap, but his strange choices and charismatic performances made him an actor everybody surely has a fond memory of in some way or another.
A screenshot from Reddit outlining the hit cryptocurrency may take after the institution of the recently passed legislation (via the Twitter account @CoinersTakingLs):
Tweets from @outstarwalker about how NFTs may not be the game changer some people think they are:
BETHESDA, WA: In a surprising turn of events––in the same week that Sony gathered all the attention for announcing the prices and release dates of its upcoming console(s)––Microsoft announced its acquisition of Bethesda Softworks––developer of the The Elder Scrolls series and the Fallout series and publisher of franchises like Doom and Wolfenstein––for a price tag of approximately $7.5 billion. Andrew and D. Bethel ruminate (and, at times, speculate) at what this could mean for Bethesda, and gaming, for the future.
This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. Today we have our other co-host, Andrew Asplund, looking at the 2019 that was (to him).
For all intents and purposes, 2019 was a big year for all things nerdy and geeky. There were big movies, big video games, big TV shows, and big just about everything. When I looked back on the year, something stood out to me and it is encapsulated pretty well by my experience at PAX West back in September: despite being at one of the biggest game conventions in the United States, my notable memory from that event was my experience at the nearby parallel event, the Seattle Indies Expo.
What I realized was that 2019 became the year in which I began actively seeking out small studio and independent video game titles in lieu of more standard, big studio content. This isn’t mean to suggest that I never really played indie games before or that I entirely eschew big studio content. It’s more that my overall preference (at least with respect to video games) has changed enough that I noticed.
Exceptions aside, it’s hard not to see the AAA video game market as a testament to … playing it safe. It’s a place where companies are willing to spend millions (or tens of millions) of dollars on a game title, which means their willingness to deviate from the standard of “what works” is minimal, to say the least.
From Indies With Love
In contrast, my interest in indie content, whether it be small studios of one or two developers or larger “triple-I” studios, has increased significantly. This year, I have dedicated seemingly countless hours to playing indie games. And, to an extent, I feel like that’s what has come to define my memory of 2019, at least insomuch as it relates to nerdy and geeky content.
It’s not that I’m on some adventure to play especially bizarre video games. I’m far from somebody who is looking for video games that are #hashtag #edgy. As important and envelope-pushing as a game like Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please is, it’s not the kind of game I want to spend hundreds or even tens of hours playing. But, there’s something about a lot of these indie titles that I engage with. So often, these are games that a small group of people put a lot of work and feeling into. Not to say that big budget AAA games don’t have work and feeling. It just resonates with me that indie titles feel more less like a million dollar dog-pile and more like something that I could do with my friends.
It helps that 2019 was also the year that I completed a certificate in web development. What I originally started as something that might help me build a cool cooking website turned into something else entirely. An in-class assignment putting together a basic adventure game opened my eyes to the web as a tool for delivering game content; this eventually took me down a path of extremely amateurish game development. I started to really relate to the … allure of indie game development.
Perhaps, for all intents and purposes, that’s why the Seattle Indies Expo became such a benchmark for my 2019 and a reflection of something that had been going on for me since the year began. Getting to actually meet the developers of games like Wildfire Swap, The Wind and Wilting Blossom, or Monster Jaunt really gave it all perspective. Maybe it’s just a little dose of childhood fantasy given perspective. As a young person I always dreamt of making games “when I grow up.” In a sense, 2019 was the year that I finally remembered that.
In the end, my look back on 2019 is a personal one. I have been playing a lot more indie games than I used to. I have started following more indie developers on Twitter and other social media. Honestly, I’m just trying to pay more attention to all of the creative people out there making their mark on gaming. And, as we move into 2020, I hope to start getting more involved in those communities as well.
THE LAST FIRST:Fallout 76 continues to accidentally grab headlines or, at least, grabs headlines it doesn’t want. After a year of toiling in player complaints, bugs, and marketing schemes gone awry, the game seemed to have found a balance for those still enjoying the experience. Then Bethesda announced (and released) “Fallout First”, a premium subscription for players that would get them a whole host of goodies. In true Fallout 76 fashion, it didn’t take long for this to fall apart in big, bad ways.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the trippy but artistic and engaging new Amazon Prime show, Undone starring Rosa Salazar, while D. Bethel––amidst all of his academic toil––finds time to be challenged and charmed by the actual roguelike deckbuilding phone game, Meteorfall: Journey by SlothWerks.
E3 2019: This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been a strange one with big players absent and new hardware on the horizon, but it’s still bringing announcements and trailers to make our jaded hosts excited.
Games discussed: Cyberpunk 2077, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Fallout 76, Pokémon Sword/Shield, among others.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew goes back to the wasteland for the first time as he plays Fantasy Flight’s board game version of Fallout, while D. Bethel does a postmortem on the X-Men-based Fox television show, The Gifted, after its second (and final?) season finale [SPOILER ALERT].
WEEK IN GEEK: For once, both D. and Andrew are playing new games at their release! Andrew shares his experience diving in to the buggy but compelling world of Bethesda’s foray into MMO gaming with Fallout 76 while Dan finds a groove playing Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 and finds himself getting lost in it.
D. Bethel’s “Spotlight: ‘Masterpieces’ Are Better With Flaws.” (04 April 2018) Where D. discusses that, sometimes, games with a lot of ambition but sometimes questionable execution are better for the medium and culture than games that get it “right.”