Push to Smart Water Cooler: Highs and Lows of Gamescom 2014

Between surprise announcements about two beloved franchises, Gamescom was an emotional roller coaster. Join us in speculating about the future of Tomb Raider and the star-studded Silent Hill we deserve.

Transcript below the cut!

JAYLEE: It’s Gamescom 2014, and did it surprise us! While we got to hear a lot about some games we first saw at E3 and Comic-Con, there were two big announcements that threw us for a loop in the best and worst way. So: good news and bad news. Which would you like to do first?

STACEY: Let’s start with the bad news ‘cause I’m so excited about the good news!

JAYLEE: I know.

STACEY: I don’t know how I know…

JAYLEE: And it all happened on the same day.

STACEY: I know! (laughs)

JAYLEE:  And I was working and I got the news mid-shift from you, and it, like, ruined my day. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: And that news, of course, is that Rise of the Tomb Raider is going to be an Xbox One/360 exclusive, which has been relegated to a timed exclusive now. I’m guessing in part because of the huge backlash it’s been getting.

STACEY: Well that was, like, the worst part. They first announced it as just Xbox exclusive during… I think it was during the Xbox press conferences. We didn’t sit and watch them this time like we did at E3. And so it was like, there was no other information about it. So… And I know, my brain immediately went to Xbox One exclusive. And it’s just like, what? Why? And the next day they kind of sat down with some journalists and Eurogamer reported that it was in fact A) a timed exclusive, and B) Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Which still begs the question of what Microsoft thinks is going to happen. Because… I’m not a business person; business school dropout. In my mind it doesn’t encourage people that already have a 360 to upgrade to an Xbox One.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: And it’s not going to encourage me… There are some Xbox One games that I’m really interested in, but I’m not ready to commit to it, especially since they did a lot of backpedaling when the first announced with the Kinect and things. “This thing can totally tell you’re in the room and totally target you for marketers! Not that we’d do that, but we could totally do that!”

JAYLEE: Yeah!

STACEY: That kind of freaked me out and put me off it for a while. So at least we have the hope that it will come back to PlayStation 4 eventually.

JAYLEE: Mhmm.

STACEY: Or other consoles. I’m not sure if they’d go back to the PlayStation 3, since PlayStation 3 was so notoriously difficult to develop for, so maybe it would just be PlayStation 4 and PC that’ll get it eventually.

JAYLEE: I don’t know, I feel like if they already… They’re probably going to use a similar engine to the first game, so if they already have that all in place, the framework for the game, then it probably won’t be that bad.

STACEY: I don’t know.

JAYLEE: Just for shits and giggles I went on Tumblr in the Tomb Raider tag.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: And I was like, is anybody happy about this decision? And the answer is a resounding “no.”

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: Not even Xbox owners. And I was thinking, if it was a Sony exclusive, because we both have PS4 or PS3s…

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: …Would I be okay with it? And I don’t know. I’d probably be more okay with it, I’m not gonna lie. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs) Yeah.

JAYLEE: But it does kind of feed into something you and I talk about a lot, not particularly on this show, but how female-led games are set up for failure…

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: …In a lot of ways. And then they point fingers at it like, “Oh, look at this game. It didn’t do well. That’s why we can’t have females in games.”

STACEY: Right. Which Ben Kuchera over at Polygon posted an article this morning I think it was, that explained at least from Square Enix’s perspective why this makes sense. So I’m still unable to wrap my brain around why Microsoft would do this, but by becoming an exclusive, Microsoft is probably… We don’t know exactly, but they are probably helping to take the burden off a lot of the development costs, they might be reducing royalty rates, things like that. So it definitely makes sense from the publisher’s perspective. And I think it took something ridiculous like six million copies to recoup the development costs for the original Tomb Raider. Or, the most recent reboot Tomb Raider. So this will hopefully help Square Enix recoup those costs earlier and not immediately write Lara Croft off as a failure. I think the first one did something ridiculous, like a million in the first week. Something completely ridiculous, and they were like “Ugh, not enough!”

JAYLEE: I know, it did so well and it was still like, “Oh, it’s a failure!”

STACEY: Right, it’s so hard for me to wrap my brain around. But I’m hoping that if there’s any silver lining, it’ll help Square Enix recoup those costs and then step away and let Lara Croft still be the awesome hero she always is on other consoles and let us enjoy it and maybe continue to publish these other games in the series.

JAYLEE: Yeah, they almost immediately sent out this kind of press release, because obviously people were upset.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: And they said something along the lines of “We think have it exclusive for Xbox is going to give it a wider audience,” which makes zero sense. Because Xbox One… Like PS4 announced at GamesCom that they’ve sold over 10 million consoles.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: And Xbox is still around 5 million. So it’s like, that’s just not true, guys!

STACEY: That whole statement was just BS.

JAYLEE: Yeah. And then they’re like, “Oh, but at least we have the multiplayer games coming out!”

STACEY: Yeah! (laughs)

JAYLEE: Which, admittedly, I loved Guardian of Light and I cannot wait to play the next one, but it’s not the same! (laughs)

STACEY: I think people would be pissed either way about this decision, but I feel like… It was a press release, but it was a Tumblr post, was what it was. The head of Crystal Dynamics got on the official Tomb Raider Tumblr and posted this letter. And I feel like the intention was to kind of talk to fans and be like, “Hey guys, I’m on your level!” And it just… It was so transparent marketing speech…

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: …It just stung that much more.That fact that they’re like, “Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you! We have this other game, which admittedly is cool, but has nothing to do with this game that you want and that is in question here!” (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: So it’s like, that’s great, I’ll still probably still get Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris I think it’s called, but that doesn’t help me understand why Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t going to be something I can buy. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah. And it’s also just unfortunate that it was such a critical darling when it came out.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: People loved the game. So many people were happy to see an actually fleshed-out female character in the lead. Particularly Lara Croft rebooted with that level of respect. And it’s just unfortunate that she’s going to have such a smaller audience for the next game. At least in the beginning.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: But, the same day, something that literally had us screaming and weeping.

STACEY: Ahh! I’m so excited!

JAYLEE: A huge announcement from Konami. If you would take us away, Stacy.

STACEY: Okay, so again I wasn’t there for the press conference, but apparently Sony did something kind of like what they did at E3 with Entwined. They were like, “We have something on our PlayStation Network you could download right now! It’s this cool thing called PT from an independent studio you’ve never heard of!” Hours later, someone finally gets to the end of PT, which I have not done, I’m still stuck. And it reveals PT: not some random horror game from an independent developer that nobody’s heard of. Actually the new Silent Hill game from Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro…?

JAYLEE: (helps Stacey with pronunciation) Guillermo.

STACEY: There we go.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: And starring Daryl from The Walking Dead. It’s called Silent Hills. And I’m so excited! (laughs)

JAYLEE: I’m torn in a lot of ways just because I’m so excited that Silent Hill is freaking finally back on their radar as an important franchise, because it’s just kind of been bandied about between developers, and it hasn’t really been given the respect or prestige that it’s deserved. But Guillermo del Toro! I mean, that’s just kind of like dream developer right there. I mean, if you look at any of his movies, his monsters are ridiculously cool and creative and his characters are awesome and if there’s one thing that I think will be able to temper Hideo Kojima’s terrible history with female characters, I think it’s Guillermo del Toro. So I’m very excited for it.

STACEY: He always does a really good job of having these completely monstrous worlds, but at the center they’re very sincere.

JAYLEE: Mhmm. Exactly.

STACEY: And they’re very empathetic to their characters, who a lot of time are women, from Pan’s Labyrinth to even Pacific Rim with Mako Mori. So that’s really interesting. But it was so funny because I was just having a discussion in the comments with one of our commenters, ReverieNightengale, about how awesome it would be for him to do Parasite Eve and literally an hour later this news came out. And it was like, aahh! We still want him to do Parasite Eve because that would be perfect for the reasons you just discussed, but…

JAYLEE: Mhmm.

STACEY: Aaahh! So excited!!

JAYLEE: I’m still anxious because of Hideo Kojima’s involvement in the project. I… I love the Metal Gear Solid franchise, but there is a lot that’s problematic about it, particularly with the female characters. They gave Hideo Kojima the Castlevania franchise, and when he rebooted it I just thought it was kind of soulless. Like, it was kind of problematic because the female character, she died before the game even started to, you know, motivate the main character, and it felt like a hollow shell of what the Castlevania series was. So that kind of freaked me out about Silent Hill. But! Guillermo del Toro.

STACEY: Yeah. And the demo is really good. Again, like I said, I am stuck at the part where I think now everybody is stuck, where you’re trying to get the baby to laugh. And apparently there are rumors now that you have to have a microphone hooked up so it can hear you screaming and that’ll make it laugh. And then the phone will ring and then you’ll finally be able to finish the game. I’m stuck there. (laughs) But have you played any more of the demo? I know you had started it this morning when I talked to you.

JAYLEE: Played about 3 minutes of it.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: So the thing about first person horror games is that I can’t do them. I just can’t. Because third person horror games, they’re fine because you have that kind of buffer between you and the terror. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: But with first person it’s just… It’s too much. It freaks me out. I just cannot do it. I tried Outlast. I’m saving up all my first person terror for Alien Isolation.

STACEY: (laughs) Oh yes! I’m so excited for that too!

JAYLEE: Because that’s the only game that I’m willing to be like, okay, I have to play this game.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: Even if it is first person and I’m probably going to poop my pants. I have to do it.

STACEY: (laughs) I know. I’m laughing, but my Steam library has me clocked at Amnesia for like 6 minutes and 35 seconds. (laughs)

JAYLEE: (laughs)

STACEY: So I am not very good with horror games either. But I love Silent Hill, and I really like this demo and the things that it did. Even though… We kind of talked about how it’s first person. I don’t feel like the actual game will be first person because they have Norman Reedus. They’re not going to pay for him and not show him, I don’t think.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: So my assumption is that is it’s either all going to be third person or it’s going to be like The Room: Silent Hill 4, where there are sections that are first person. And the other thing I really liked about it is just the fact that the puzzles don’t make any sense. Even though I’m frustrated by the fact that I can’t make the baby laugh. You know, we talked in a previous episode about abject horror and the idea that the abject is where meaning collapses. And games are a really potentially very good medium for exploring that and what it means to be horrifying. Because they’re just systems, they are these systems of meaning. And when they stop working, what happens? Do we get frustrated or does it scare the crap out of us? And I think that this game does a really good job of kind of playing with that just enough to break it, quote-unquote, and just scare us. I really hope the main game does more of that too.

JAYLEE: And so now we’re just going to take a look at a couple of the other games that were announced at Gamescom, or elaborated on. First off, Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil creator Michael Ansel revealed information about a new PS4 exclusive called Wild, and I’m very excited because it takes place on this island and there are all these cool creatures, skeletons and stuff, but the big draw is that you can basically play as any sentient creature. People have been saying it’s like Tokyo Jungle but without the Tokyo. Except also with goddesses and stuff.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: (laughs) I’m just really hoping that there’s a pug in there…

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: And then I will just log hours and hours as a pug. But one of the big things… Well… It’s a small thing that to me is big, is that they say that this isn’t Ansel’s next project, which means that maybe Beyond Good and Evil 2 is his project, because…

STACEY: Oh god!

JAYLEE: …Because this is a debut effort from his studio, Wild Sheep. So it’s not his next Ubisoft offering; his next Ubisoft offering is still unknown.

STACEY: It will remain unknown…

JAYLEE: Forever! (laughs)

STACEY: Forever! Ten years. (laughs) The Last Guardian of Ubisoft. I watched the trailer after you sent it to me. I didn’t realize that you could just be any animal.

JAYLEE: You can be anything! Any sentient creature.

STACEY: So I guess next game is Hellblade by Ninja Theory. The trailer looked a lot like Heavenly Sword.

JAYLEE: A lot like Heavenly Sword! Even to the odd hair.

STACEY: Yeah, it looked a little bit of Devil May Cry’s devil stuff thrown in. Which is basically, Ninja Theory is doing what they do. And I love Devil May Cry, like DMC Devil May Cry.

JAYLEE: And I pretty much loved Heavenly Sword when it came out. I thought it was a pretty… pretty solid little launch title for the PS3. ‘Cause I definitely wanted to see me of Noriko and Kai, but you know, this… It almost looks like a successor to the game.

STACEY: Yeah.

JAYLEE: So I’m really looking forward to it. They know how to make really fun action games.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: And I’m just excited for more. And lso I think it’s cool that they’re doing this independently. They decided they wanted to do a triple-A game that’s not going to be really expensive or anything. So I’m gonna see how it… I think it’ll be an interesting project to keep an eye on.

STACEY: I didn’t know that about the independent thing. I just saw the trailer and I was like, sold!

JAYLEE: Yeah! (laughs) Exactly.

STACEY: (laughs) Another game, I’m not sold on this one but it just kind of surprised me: Until Dawn by Supermassive Games. It was originally announced as a PlayStation Move game.

JAYLEE: Oh yeah!

STACEY: Actually, some of my former classmates worked on it and have since left the company. So I assumed it was just shelved, and then all of a sudden it showed up at Gamescom for PlayStation 4!

JAYLEE: With Hayden Panettiere.

STACEY: Yeah! Which, we have not had a good slasher, high school horror game. There just has not been one. They had one, I think it was called like Obscura, and those were terrible. So I’d really like to see a good one. I’d really like to see SWERY do a good one, because I think that would be awesome.

JAYLEE: (snickers) You’d really like to see SWEARY do everything.

STACEY: I would! I think he should take a stab at every genre.

JAYLEE: Speaking of not being sold, I think I’m anti-sold on Bioware’s new game, Shadow Realms.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: Which looks the most un-Bioware game… (laughs) I have maybe ever seen.

STACEY: It looks so boring!

JAYLEE: It does! It looks so boring. It looks kind of like an arcade game, like a Left for Dead, hack-and-slash four-player game.

STACEY: Mhmm.

JAYLEE: That’s just generic.

STACEY: Yeah, that’s the problem, I think. Bioware in general, their games always look generic. I think it’s ‘cause they’re usually on a shoestring budget. (laughs) Or their art direction just isn’t that good. And because it’s something about this game. Especially because they built up that trailer that was mysterious and surreal. And then it’s like “It’s a dungeon crawler!” It’s like, ohh…

JAYLEE: (laughs)

STACEY: The only potentially interesting thing is… It’s not just four players, it’s four players versus one player.

JAYLEE: Oh.

STACEY: So one player is doing like the dungeon master/shadowlord thing, and everyone else is crawling through the dungeon. Which that could be potentially really fun.

JAYLEE: Mhmm.

STACEY: But it just… Ugh. (laugh) That trailer did not suggest anything that you see. And whole like “They’re modern teens that get powers!” It’s just like… Unh.

JAYLEE: Everything about it just screams…

STACEY: Unh. (laugh)

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: There’s no screaming. (laugh)

JAYLEE: Well I guess it doesn’t really scream.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: It just kind of like shrugs and looks at the camera.

STACEY: Yeah, it’s like The Order: 1886. Unh.

JAYLEE: Unh. (laughs)

STACEY: They also had a trailer for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter by The Astronauts, which is a game we’ve been hearing about a lot now. They had a new trailer, and I still have no idea what you actually do in it, or what it’s about. But every time I see a trailer I’m like, yeah! Yeah, what is this? This looks cool! Yeah! I wanna play this! Even though I have no idea what we’re playing. Like, it could be a movie and I’d probably be happy, so I still want to see more from that. And we finally got to see playable stuff from Bloodborne, which was announced at E3. I’m still pretty excited about Bloodborne. Just throwing that out there. (laughs)

JAYLEE: So that does it for our Gamescom 2014 coverage. Let us know of any games that you’re excited for, what you feel about The Rise of the Tomb Raider’s exclusivity, as well as Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills, as well as any other games we forgot to mention. And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on our latest episodes and watercooler discussions.
HENRY: What the hell is this?

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