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Jack Gardner
Slime Rancher is a farming sim/adventure game from indie developer Monomi Park. It released back in 2017 after spending over a year in Steam Early Access. With a colorful and friendly open-world and some subtly intriguing narrative hooks, Slime Rancher thoroughly charmed players. It offers a unique first-person perspective on the farming sim genre with the twist on the genre by making the central commodity the excretions of adorable and voracious slimes. 
Could Slime Rancher be one of the best games of all-time?
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.

Outro music: Chrono Cross 'If I Could... (Synthwave Mix)' by Jorito and JoyDreamer (
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well!
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Today, Apple announced Apple Arcade, the company's new multiplatform gaming subscription service. Apple Arcade will enable people who subscribe to play a large selection of games unique to the service across mobile devices, desktop computers, and televisions. The service will launch on a date yet to be determined sometime this fall.
Apple's reveal comes close on the heels of Google's Stadia announcement, which proposed a future where video games are streamed rather than played locally. Apple Arcade, on the other hand, will allow players to download games and play them on their various devices. That's not the only difference, either. While both services are expected to roll out later this year, Apple seemed willing to provide a great deal more information. Google touted their in-house studio and a nebulous number of partnerships that will draw players to Stadia. Apple, however, revealed a long list of developers working on exclusive games for Apple Arcade. You can see the full list below:
Cartoon Network 
Cornfox & Bros.
Gallium Artists
Hipster Whale
Kunabi Brother
Night School
Noodlecake Studios
Platinum Games
Raw Fury
State of Play
Sumo Digital
The Chinese Room
Versus Evil
As you read this many of these developers are revealing the first look at the projects they have been working on that will be exclusive to Apple Arcade. in the teaser Apple put together for the main announcement, they revealed a selection of truly unique and interesting games.The first, is Beyond a Steel Sky, a game that melds the aesthetics of Borderlands with the designs of Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen, and is actually a sequel to the 90s adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky. It offers players a chance to explore the beautiful dystopia of Union City, a sprawling techno city of the future that offers opportunities and scale that players might not expect from a mobile game. 
Where Cards Fall is a coming of age story about a young boy dealing with the challenges of growing up and fitting in, complete with the entire spectrum of wonderful, awkward, and painful experiences that come with growing up in the modern world. It's a game driven by choice and drama rather than explosions and guns. One of the co-creators claims that it's the kind of game that couldn't find an audience without the support of Apple Arcade. 
The most exciting game, at least to me, comes courtesy of Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy. His latest project, Fantasian, uses literal, hand-made dioramas that the team photographs and then uses as the backgrounds for their game. It adds a fantastic, solid and surreal look to a game made by one of the master game designers of our time. I'm a sucker for cool, outside-the-box thinking like this, and that's not just one scene or for cutscenes; the entire game uses practical effects for its background shots. 

Inspired by the zen-like motion of schools of fish or murmurations of starlings, Lifelike aims to be a contemplative, relaxing experience. "We simply don't want to be responsible for adding another layer of cares to the world," says creator Denis Mikan. It relies on the coordinated movement of its swarming characters as a way to enthrall and delight players. 
Finally, Overland is described as a post-apocalyptic real-time strategy game. It contains roguelike elements to shake up the action and scenarios every time players begin a new game. Each adventure will bring players to new places, put them in contact with new characters, and pit them against a large array of different combat situations. 
2019 has become the year we see gaming more cleanly split between all of the gaming and tech giants. If all of these services prove to be long-term contenders for their various shares of the market, players will have to start making hard choices between which platforms and services can provide them with the most bang for their buck. A service like Apple Arcade full of games that can't be played any other way and can work even if a user's internet speed isn't the best would have a huge advantage over a service like Stadia that's so heavily reliant on internet infrastructure to function. The only real sticking point for Apple will be the price point of its subscription model, which has yet to be revealed. This is the future we were always going to get once digital storefronts became a more widespread phenomenon and subscription services like Netflix took off. The console wars are slowly fading and are being replaced by the service wars.
What do you think? Is this good? Bad? Neutral? 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Life Is Strange 2 has been in a bit of a limbo following the release of its first episode. Dontnod Entertainment, the developers of the Life Is Strange series as well as Vampyr, held the projected release dates of its subsequent episodes close to the chest. Episode 2 - Rules released on January 24 before the company returned to being quiet about the episodic game.
However, now we know when to expect the remaining episodes of Life Is Strange 2 as well as a tiny glimpse at what Episode 3 has in store for players.
Life Is Strange 2 diverges from what players might expect after finishing the first Life Is Strange, following the Diaz brothers as they begin a long and arduous journey from their once safe American hometown to a magical place they have only ever heard of from their father down in Mexico. Their pilgrimage puts them in a great deal of danger and becomes more complicated when its revealed that one of them possesses supernatural abilities.  
Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 will be titled Wastelands. It is currently on track to release on May 9 on all platforms. It sees brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz continuing their journey across America. The two find themselves wrapped up in the life of a drifter community and exposed to a variety of new experiences and challenges. They have some things to figure out among the redwood forests of California before they press on toward the safety of Mexico. 
Episode 4 will follow at the tail end of summer on August 22. Finally, the series will conclude on December 3 with Episode 5. The first episode of the series is available through Xbox Game Pass, making it likely that the rest of the episode will be releasing via the service, too. 
Life Is Strange 2's episodes release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Pribi joins Sean, and Arakiel in Dub-Lin travel out into the Fey Wild and encounter some of its strange wildlife while searching for the missing daughter of Mayor Grimfast.
We Wanted Adventurers is a liveplay Dungeons & Dragons podcast that follows a motley trio of unlikely heroes as they bumble into adventures both big and small across the fantastical continent of Nevarrone. For the uninitiated, a liveplay podcast features an unscripted recording of a traditional tabletop roleplaying game, with all of the goofs and drama that comes with the territory.

"Shadowlands 1 - Horizon"
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. You can follow the show on Twitter for updates. Let us know what you think of the show! 
New episodes of We Wanted Adventurers will be released every Wednesday
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Despite the divisive release of No Man's Sky that saw user numbers plummet rapidly, accuse Hello Games of false advertising, and scathing critiques, Sean Murray and his team have been hard at work over the past three years improving the game with free updates for a hopeful base of remaining fans. Recently, Murray revealed the next free expansion to No Man's Sky. Titled Beyond, the new, free expansion will expand the multiplayer options for players among other additions and refinements. 
Here is a compiled list of some of the biggest changes made to No Man's Sky since its launch:
The Foundation Update allowed players to begin building bases, new game modes, mobile saving, and tweaks to vital aspects like inventory, and limited communication abilities with other players.  Path Finder brought ground vehicles to No Man's Sky, more robust base-building options, and a graphical overhaul. Atlas Rises brought a new story line to the game, doubling the game's background content, a Stargate-like network of portals for fast travel, overhauled missions, and more.  Then No Man's Sky NEXT released, allowing players to band together in-game for the first time, freed base-building in any location, third-person perspective, and character customization. The Abyss update allowed players to explore planets with oceans, build bases underwater, interact with a more vibrant ecosystem of marine life, and discover a new oceanic narrative. Finally, the most recent update, Visions, added archaeology, the ability to salvage ancient technology, and community missions.   
The past year has seen Hello Games observing how players are interacting in-game and listening to players. While The Abyss and Visions released with a variety of additions and improvements, more are in store for No Man's Sky Beyond. Beyond will be a compilation of three major, interconnected updates to No Man's Sky.
Due to concerns about overhyping their game, Hello Games has opted to keep much of the information about Beyond under wraps until it becomes finalized. However, the biggest major component of Beyond will be No Man's Sky Online, an overhaul to the online features offered by No Man's Sky. This will, in some ways, turn the game into a true MMO, though Hello Games shies away from the label. It will not have a subscription or microtransactions, but it will support a vast number of players. both the social and multiplayer components of it's online world will get new features and tweaks. 
"Beyond will be our most ambitious chapter so far, and something we’ve been working ridiculously hard on. We’ll continue to support No Man’s Sky in this way for the foreseeable future," Sean Murray said in his official announcement. "To some NEXT may have felt like a natural end-point for our journey, but for us it was another step on a longer voyage."
No Man's Sky Beyond will release sometime this summer.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Google has been slowly moving into gaming for quite some time. Now, the tech giant has decided it will try to break into mainstream gaming with Stadia, its state-of-the-art game streaming platform. Google claims it will offer up to 4K resolution at 60fps, cross-play functionality, and unleash more processing power for devs to play around with than current consoles, in some cases double the capabilities of current premium consoles. 
We've known for quite a while that Google has been working on perfecting video game streaming. Late last year, the company offered the public a chance to play around with Project Stream, a closed beta meant to test the platform's capabilities. Project Stream brought gamers into the test by offering to stream Assassin's Creed Odyssey in HD.
It seems that Project Stream's test was successful. Today, Google took the stage at GDC to unveil their full service, Stadia. Stadia runs almost entirely by streaming game data from Google's servers, eliminating the need for a console or PC to play or store games (though a Chromecast dongle will be needed to stream games to a television). When Stadia launches later this year, Google's Phil Harrison claims that it will be able to ensure 4K at a steady 60fps to almost any screen one could imagine. Eventually, Google sees Stadia capable of hitting an 8K resolution at 60fps, according to one of their key visuals from the presentation. 

Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone will have internet capable of delivering those resolutions and frames at a smooth clip. At no point during the reveal of Stadia did Google's reps reveal what sort of internet speed gamers would need to maintain a steady streaming experience. On top of that, questions remain about how well Stadia can handle streaming online games. A great deal hinges on whether or not people have access to internet connections capable of supporting Stadia. It's quite possible that the type of performance Google has touted for Stadia will be unreachable for most people looking to get in on game streaming. For comparison, Project Stream required users to have a connection of 15 megabits per second with 40 millisecond latency, though it was only offering 1080p resolutions and still seemed to suffer from occasional hiccups. Whether those issues were the result of untested streaming software or an indication of Stadia's future remains unclear.   
Game streaming has been around for quite a while, but it has always occupied a niche space. Notably, services like PlayStation Now and the late OnLive service have offered streaming in recent years, though they have always contended with the issues of internet on both the side of the company and the users. Google claims that the hardware on its end will enable a smooth experience that will make many people believers in the possibilities Stadia holds. They believe they have a system that will allow people to watch a trailer, press a button, and be playing a new game all in a few seconds. 
Stadia has been designed to be an incredibly versatile platform. It will work on televisions, tablets, laptops, phones, and PCs. On top of that, it will work with existing controllers attached to laptops or PCs. Google will be releasing its own optional controllers for Stadia, as well. These proprietary controllers connect to Google's streaming centers directly to offer a slightly better response time, the ability to share in-game content to YouTube (livestreaming, clips, and screenshots), and a Google Assistant that will be able to offer advice if players get stuck.
Interestingly, Google seems to be going hard not just into the development of Stadia as a platform, but also into the games it can offer players. According to the announcement, over 100 studios have received Stadia develpment kits. On top of that, Google has founded Stadia Games  Entertainment, a studio that will make games exclusive to the streaming platform. One of Ubisoft's most legendary producers, Jade Raymond, will be overseeing Stadia Games & Entertainment to work on its game projects while also bringing new features to third-party games coming to Stadia. So far, the first game revealed to be running on Stadia has been Doom Eternal. 

A number of features are made possible by Stadia that are pretty intriguing. Players will be able to do something called "state share," where they are able to save their game at a specific moment in time and then share that with other players or friends via a simple link. Another possibility is called Crowd Play. This would enable players watching a livestream to digitally line up for their chance to control the same game instance and become the streamer, offering a new way for streamers to interact with audiences. 
What do you think? Can you embrace an all digital, all remote future for gaming? 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Back in August of 2018, I put together a short campaign with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition called Dragonguard as a part of Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. For Game Day 2018, we released a second set of episodes and followed it up with a third set continuing the adventure. The last series of episodes ended on something of a cliffhanger, and while the full fourth set isn't quite done, at least one more episode is ready for listening! Join Naomi Lugo (Nomsooni the druid), Marcus Stewart (Scratch Mangy the ranger), and Kyle Gaddo (Barphus the bard) as they don the armor of the illustrious Dragonguard, sworn to defend and protect the realm of Alterra from the dragons at its doorstep. Jack Gardner serves as the Dungeon Master, guiding our heroes through their journey.
Dispatched to the small town of Verne, the party began investigating rumors of draconic activity in the area. Learning of a kobold encampment deep within the Morrithil Wastes, they made their way into the vast swampland only to find a largely abandoned village built in the shadow of an ominous dragon skeleton. Encountering a number of old and infirm kobolds in the heart of the town, our heroes learned of an impending attack led by the vengeful dragon, Fallowfell. In an effort to convince Sir Rothurt, Verne's leader, to take the threat seriously, the party made an attempt to rescue his recently kidnapped son, Charles. Risking life and limb, they were able to save Charles only to be met with the awful revelation that Fallowfell had allies in the town itself. Now, Nomsooni, Barphus, and Scratch attempt to consolidate their power in the areas outside of Verne only to find themselves in ever-deepening danger from draconic evils, cunning opportunists, mystical threats, and (of course) themselves. 
If you want to get a sense of how great a time tabletop roleplaying can be, you're invited to enjoy the adventure along with us. Here's to the amazing things the gaming community accomplished in 2018 and to the even greater things we will all do together in the years to come! You can listen to the new episodes below or start at the beginning with this handy SoundCloud playlist. 

Intro and Outro music:
"Furious Freak"
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Today, Chet Faliszek, formerly of Valve and Bossa Games, and Dr. Kimberly Voll, a longtime designer at Riot Games, announced that they have formed a new independent game studio called Stray Bombay. The two have given themselves a mission to create projects that simply don't work within most existing studios. They want to make games where artificial intelligence can improve not just enemies but facilitate jolly co-operation and even narrative itself.
Many people haven't heard about Chet Faliszek or Dr. Kimberly Voll by name, but their work is familiar with millions of people around the world. Faliszek was responsible for the creation of Left 4 Dead's stories as well as its sequel and both Portal 1 and 2 along with Erik Wolpaw. Dr. Voll, on the other hand, brings her expertise in AI and designing systems for humans to affably interact with AI. She has spent the last three years at Riot Games as a senior technical designer helping to smooth out the gameplay experience for League of Legends, one of the most played games in the world. She was also instrumental in the creation of Fantastic Contraption, a critically acclaimed VR puzzle title released in 2016 for the HTC Vive. 
Both Faliszek and Dr. Voll have come together to take a risk and make gameplay experiences and narratives that aren't possible without AI, what they call "collaborative gaming experiences." Their new Seattle-based studio will carry on with the vision of what Faliszek conceived and began working on at Bossa Games before he and the studio parted amicably to pursue other their respective creative visions. Stray Bombay will also prioritize personal time off so that even when development ramps up, people will be able to step away and properly take care of themselves. It's being founded with the help of Riot Games and venture capitalists. 
"As Kim and I talked over the years about the kind of games we want to make, we realized we want to create games that give players a place to breathe and live in the moment," Faliszek explained in the announcement on the studio's new website, referencing a letter he received from a soldier in Afghanistan who thanked him for saving his marriage with the game. "Games that tell stories knowing you are going to come back again and again, that change each time you play them without feeling completely random, and that help you feel like a real team that supports each other... not a bunch of folks in each other’s way. And where AI drives not just the enemies but helps drive the entire experience." 
According to a statement made to PC Games Insider, the project Stray Bombay will be tackling already has a working prototype running on Unity and Unreal Engine. Despite that, don't expect to see this AI-driven experience anytime soon. After they fill the several open positions at the studio, something they will likely be able to do during GDC itself, they plan to go dark and buckle down to bring this dream to life. "We know the direction we're going," Chet said as he laid out the plan going forward. "As people join the team, that'll help find the game more clearly. We're very iterative, everyone is a designer, everyone participates in the process. [...] Obviously, we have a plan, there's a framework that we can hang it all off, but everyone will be able to express themselves and have an impact."
AI has the potential to improve human life in a lot of ways, but just how it could improve the narrative experience in games hasn't been explored in as much depth as one might think. What Dr. Voll and Faliszek are undertaking might change how games tell stories going forward. Imagine a roguelike adventure overseen by something akin to Left 4 Dead's AI Director, only not just enemies, but the story itself unfolds in response to player choices and actions. That could be a game changer in the industry and break down the longstanding barrier between liner and open narrative design in a way unlike anything before. We will have to wait and see.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Turtle Rock Studios has revealed that they are in the process of creating a co-operative first-person shooter named Back 4 Blood in a partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive. Not many details have been announced, but we've compiled everything that you need to know right here.
Left 4 Dead was created by Valve South back in 2008. The studio had formerly been known as Turtle Rock Studios, but was purchased by Valve in the same year due to the success of Counter-Strike: Source, which Turtle Rock had developed for Valve. The game was incredibly well received for the variable spawning of enemies that responded to how well players were doing. This AI Director meant that each playthrough of a Left 4 Dead level would be a slightly different and continually challenging experience. Due to the co-op focus and tight gameplay, over 11 million copies of the game were sold between its launch and 2011. 2011 saw Turtle Rock separate from Valve and begin working on Evolve, a 2015 multiplayer shooter pitting players against a player-controlled monster. Evolve didn't do well for a lot of reasons, but the game itself was enjoyable. The studio dedicated two years after the game's launch to turning it around, but nothing ever quite stuck. It makes sense, then, that the team is going back to one of the works that helped put the studio on the map: Left 4 Dead.
Of course, Back 4 Blood is not Left 4 Dead 3. Turtle Rock Studios is very careful to clarify that this is not the long awaited sequel to the popular co-op zombie shooter. Instead it is an entirely original co-op zombie shooter that brings many elements that were never present in Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2. What exactly those new elements might be, the studio declined to clarify. However, they hinted that they are bringing the design lessons they've learned over the years and seeing what they can do with the framework of a co-op zombie shooter with modern tech. They seem confident that they will be able to stand out from the pack with what they have in mind for Back 4 Blood. 
“We are not resting on any past laurels. Our goal is to take all we’ve learned and push forward. We know that’s a tall order,” said Phil Robb, Turtle Rock Studios' co-founder and current creative director. “We’re growing the team considerably because we’re stepping up to the biggest challenge in this studio’s history. We know this title has to stand out and we fully intend to make that happen.”
Turtle Rock Studios expect to launch the game in the AAA price range of titles, so customers should see it hitting shelves and digital storefronts with a price tag of anywhere from $40-$60. Of course, one of the biggest issues that plagued Evolves launch was the way the game included micro-transactions. The studio didn't say that there would be no micro-transactions this time around, however they did say that they are open to the idea of adding content the community might want post-launch. At the very least it seems like Back 4 Blood is not being designed with micro-transactions in mind. 
As for actual gameplay, there will be no Battle Royale-style conflicts. Back 4 Blood will instead focus on co-op and some form of PvP mode, though what form that might take remains a mystery. The game will also include a story-driven campaign of some kind. Given the unique way the narrative played out in Left 4 Dead and Evolve, how that campaign will look is anyone's guess. Chris Ashton, Turtle Rock Studios' co-founder and design director, gushed a little bit about being able to return to the co-op zombie genre they helped begin saying, “It’s hard to overstate what an awesome opportunity this is. We get to return to a genre that was born in our studio with over ten years of additional experience and zombie ideas racked up in our brains."
The announcement was sparse on details as it was designed mostly to begin building a community of excited fans and let professionals across the industry know what Turtle Rock is working on and possibly bring them aboard. However, it's always exciting to see a veteran developer return to their roots after some time away. There's little doubt that the studio will make something incredibly interesting with their skills and dedication. It remains to be seen whether people will flock to what they have to offer as wildly as they once did. 
Back 4 Blood will release for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, though the team is open to additional platforms if the opportunities present themselves. 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Today, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing Xbox Live to Android and iOS devices, officially lending its support to the wider world of mobile game development. This move isn't entirely unprecedented. Xbox Live support has been available on mobile before, however it was only included in apps and games developed by Microsoft itself, like Minecraft. This new move will put Xbox Live within reach of any developer who wants to integrate their app or game into the wider Xbox Live ecosystem. 
Microsoft initially teased back in February that they might be making an announcement related to mobile soon. The move, revealed today, will allow apps and games across the mobile world to access the suite of services associated with Xbox Live. Developers will be able to use the tools released by Microsoft to connect as many or as few Xbox Life services with their project as needed. 
Now we know, thanks to The Verge, the full extent of the program and tools. Microsoft's new mobile development kit (SDK) will enable devs to add Gamerscore, open up clubs, friend lists, and include account family settings. On top of that, developers will be able to implement a single sign-in for Xbox Live and grant devs online protection for their apps and games. The new SDK will come together with Microsoft Game Stack, a collection of tool sets designed to get developers up and running with Microsoft's cloud technology, something the tech giant has been pushing across a wide variety of its services outside of gaming. 
A rumor has been going around the industry that Xbox Live integration will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch, though a rep from Microsoft didn't deny that it's in the works. However, even if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely to make its way onto Sony's flagship platform, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, for its part, appears to be very willing to partner with companies many might consider to be rivals, but Sony's reticence makes the possible team up all but impossible.  
While it might seem like a similar roll out on a rival platform would be impossible, Minecraft on Switch does implement an Xbox Live sign-in. That puts the Switch in a similar position as the mobile market was prior to this announcement. The ability to put Xbox Live on Switch is already out in the wild with Minecraft; all it would take is the okay from Nintendo and some additional fine-tuning of the software for it to work well on Switch. We could very easily see the next battle for gaming supremacy take place not in hardware, but in the realm of software support and service features. If that's the case, Xbox Live just created a huge lead for itself.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

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