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Jack Gardner
CD Projekt RED has pulled the covers off of Geralt of Rivia's next outing in the world of The Witcher 3. Titled Hearts of Stone, the massive expansion pits Geralt against Olgierd von Everec, an immortal turned butcherous bandit captain. The expansion adds new monsters and a bevy of tasks that range from heroic to strange. Hearts of Stone will also feature a new cast of characters and along with a new cast will be additional romance options. The developers have even added a new mechanic to the game in the form of Runewords that will each affect the combat system in bold and exciting new ways. More details have yet to be revealed regarding this new system.
CD Projekt promises over ten hours of additional content will be in Hearts of Stone. For those that bought the season pass for The Witcher 3, Hearts of Stone will be free, while those who held off on the pass will be looking at about $19.99. A limited boxed release of the expansion will hit retailers, too. This version includes the download code for Hearts of Stone, two decks of real-life gwent decks, and a manual explaining the rules of gwent. Those who ordered the season pass can purchase the gwent decks and manual for themselves through a special initiative set up by CD Projekt.  

Hearts of Stone will release for all platforms on October 13.

Jack Gardner
If you are looking for some new things to put on your walls to impress friends, family, or that special person in your life, Bungie has released the first part of their Destiny concept art collection through the online art dealer Cook & Becker. Used during Destiny's development process, the collection includes work by Bungie concept artists Jesse van Dijk, Jaime Jones, Dorje Bellbrook, Ryan deMita, Kekai Kotaki and Joseph Cross.
The first part of the released work consists of twelve different pieces. The second half of the collection will release sometime later this year. The giclee art prints are severely limited, meaning some of the pieces have already sold out. They can be quite pricey, retailing anywhere from $100 to $300 for the base image and upwards of $600 for framing and preservative treatments.
Check out the first half of Bungie's gallery for yourself.

Jack Gardner
The developer of Rock Band 4 is looking for people who can't get enough Rock Band to join their crew and earn rewards by playing even more Rock Band. To be a bit more specific, Harmonix is searching for the following:
People who are accepted into the Road Crew will be given a free Rock Band 4 Band-in-a-Box Bundle before the official release date. You will then be able to complete gigs involving creating and sharing Rock Band 4 content via social media, hosting a battle of the bands, and getting friends and family to pre-order Rock Band 4.
The more gigs you complete as a member of the Road Crew, the more rewards you can earn. These rewards include: Rock Band 4 DLC, gaming and music e-magazines, gift cards, and swag signed by the developers at Harmonix.
People who are interested can apply for a position on the Road Crew on the Rock Band website. The only stipulations are that applicants must be over the age of 18, live in one of the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, or Canada (excluding Quebec). The program could expand in the future, but will initially be limited to those regions. Applications are being accepted until September 18. 

Jack Gardner
Konami has released what some are considering to be Kojima's final debriefing on the Metal Gear franchise. Despite recent events that have indicated that Kojima and Konami have had a major falling out, the video doesn't allow that rancor to seep in to its message. The video is a thank you, both to Hideo Kojima and to those who have been touched by his work. It also carries with it an air of farewell. 

The video starts off with a series of prominent people in the video game industry who have worked with Hideo Kojima talking about his passion and skills. It's something that could seem really self-congratulatory if Hideo Kojima wasn't a genius (and I really do think he's a genius) when it comes to understanding the evolving landscape of game design over the last 28 years. For almost three decades he's been making games that are not only well-made, but resonate and mean something to a large number of people. 
A little over half-way through, the video takes a much more personal turn and hits an area that I think a lot of people who are involved with Extra Life really care about. Kojima visits the family of a boy named Sean who passed away from cancer last February. It will probably make you tear up a little. It gives you a glimpse at what Metal Gear means to the people who play it and what drives a person like Kojima. 
The entire video is something that could feel trite or forced or corporate, but I think that it works entirely because Hideo Kojima is genuine. He's incredibly talented and sincerely wants to thank the people who play his work. That means a lot to him and I think he means a lot to us.
So, thank you, Hideo Kojima. I look forward to whatever you do next. 

We’ve got some big news for any of you that are fans of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy game franchises like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, or Splinter Cell.
The Humble Tom Clancy Bundle is LIVE at right now!  You can pay what you want for tons of great games, T-shirts, and even a preorder of the new Rainbow Six | Siege.  The best part is that a portion of your payment will benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life.
There are so many great games in this bundle including one of my all-time favorite titles, Rainbow Six | Vegas.  It’s sure to get you in the mood for the Rainbow Six | Siege multiplayer beta later this month. (Access is also included in the bundle!)
Head over to Humble Bundle now to claim yours while the bundle is live.
Thanks to Ubisoft, Humble Bundle, and the most supportive community on Earth!  Go Extra Life!

Jack Gardner
At the GameStop Managers Conference last weekend, Nintendo unveiled plans for two special New 3DS systems as well as themed Wii Remote Plus controllers and the launch of amiibo cards for use in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.  
On September 25, a bundle including a New 3DS with two Animal Crossing-themed cover plates and a copy of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and an amiibo card will launch. The New 3DS included in this bundle will be the first of the line of a more compact, non-XL, version of the New 3DS which features detachable cover plates. The Animal Crossing bundle is expected to retail for $219.99. 
A golden Legend of Zelda version of the New 3DS XL with a prominently featured Hylian crest will be released on October 30, shortly after the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes on October 23. The system and game are sold separately. The system will be available for $199.99 and will be exclusive to GameStop locations. 
Three new Wii Remote Plus controllers were also revealed and are themed after Bowser, Toad, and Yoshi. These three controllers will be available only at GameStop. The Bowser and Toad controllers will be released alongside Super Mario Maker on September 11. Meanwhile, the Yoshi controller hits GameStop shelves on October 16, the same day Yoshi's Woolly World releases. 

Jack Gardner
The neon-drenched streets of a future Hong Kong, awash with trash and desperation, resound with malicious intent as something sinister stirs in the shadows of the monolithic corporations that practically enslave the general population. In those very same shadows one might catch fleeting glimpses of the criminals who remain free, fleeing from the whisper of alarms and the heavy footsteps of those that pursue them. In a world where magic and technology collide in interesting and terrifying ways, where dragons and gods vie for power with corporations and world governments, Harebrained Schemes manages to tell a story that remains surprisingly human.   
As the protagonist of Shadowrun: Hong Kong, you’ve been summoned to the titular city at the request of your aged foster father, who you haven’t seen in the years following an incident which resulted in your incarceration in an off-the-books corporate prison. Shortly after arriving and meeting up with your estranged foster brother, things go bad. Really bad. Forced to turn to a local crime lord to burn your life-long identities, you now owe some dangerous people dangerous favors. What happened to your father? What was he calling you to Hong Kong to do? Why are you now hunted in the streets like a rabid dog? The mystery sucks you in and slowly spirals toward an unnerving conclusion.

Hong Kong represents the third Shadowrun title from developer Harebrained Schemes. The accumulated experience shows as does the extra refinement from the successful Kickstarter campaign that went toward additional funding for various side characters and revamped mechanics. The additional characters are really very interesting and feel fully integrated into the story, managing to void that "tacked on" feeling that can sometimes accompany such situations. While Hong Kong shares a base framework with Returns and Dragonfall, it distinguishes itself through well written dialogue and vivid scene descriptions that often surpass Harebrained’s previous efforts.
This improvement lies in the sense of scale that Hong Kong seems to exude. Though some of the areas might be technically small, the descriptions and the ways in which the characters talk about the various locations impart a sense of bigness. If this were done in AAA fashion, the costs would be astronomical to achieve the same effect in a third-person environment. The tense moments of talking your way through heavy security or deadly shootouts in secret labs are no less exciting for the isometric angle of the action. It isn’t going to blow anyone's mind when it comes to graphical presentation (though the animatic scene transitions added by the Kickstarter certainly look nice), but it has a lot of heart and manages to soar to greater story moments than many games with larger budgets.

Shadowrun provides an enjoyable mix of strategic, turn-based gameplay and RPG progression. Players will have to be able to make use of magic, melee, combat drones, guns, computer hacking, a number of empowered abilities, and even cybernetic enhancements if they want to get through Hong Kong unscathed. No matter what paths players choose to take while leveling and customizing their character, there will always be unique dialogue options to pursue that open new routes through sticky social situations. Or, you know, you could just shoot everything that stands in your way. To me, having a wide array of viable options is where Harebrained Schemes really manages to capture the spirit of the tabletop RPG.
However, Hong Kong wobbles a bit at the landing. The narrative doesn’t allow for the climax of the story to stew quite long enough, which prevents the resolution of the plot from being as satisfying as it might otherwise be. The finale hits the ground sprinting and left me scratching my head at the number of important loose ends that were wrapped up with only a single sentence. One thing you really don’t want is for your story to leave people confused (unless that ambiguity is part of the point your work is trying to get across). It simply feels rushed and the finale of Hong Kong would have benefited from more time allowing the situation to truly sink in.
There are a few technical hurdles, too. The Unity engine that previous Shadowrun games have operated on sometimes suffers from hiccups that make a certain part of the isometric arena untargetable. Accompanying that annoyance are some staggeringly long load times (not Bloodbourne-long, but still sizable), even on high-end hardware. On top of those issues, it is possible to break your game on inventory screens by replacing required equipment. There seems to be no remedy for this besides restarting the game from your last save or checkpoint. For a game that heavily relies on text it is also more than a little strange that I encountered a few residual filler text portions that were still in the text. No, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, my name is not [Insert Player Name]. Or moments when the action on screen was being described incorrectly, which happened a couple of times toward the end. I know the text for this title must have been hugely long, but it would have benefited from another run through an editor.  

Shadowrun: Hong Kong represents a high point for Harebrained Schemes. The writing and characters will stick with you after you’ve finished playing and leave you wanting more. Hong Kong is an ambitious project and it largely succeeds in achieving its goals, despite a wobbly ending and some jagged edges. The gameplay is solid and enjoyable, especially if you are a strategic gamer. There are always multiple routes through an area and multiple solutions to a puzzle. It manages to consistently feel rewarding. Only a few years ago people were worried that the increasing cost of game development could spell an end to games espousing big ideas with grand designs. Shadowrun: Hong Kong shows how unfounded those fears were, demonstrating exactly what a focused team with a smaller budget can accomplish. While the future might eventually involve a lot of shadows, for now – for gamers, developers, and certainly Harebrained Schemes – it looks promisingly bright.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong is currently available on PC and an additional mini-campaign will be released sometime in the near future.

Jack Gardner
The Ship to Shore PhoneCo., an independent record label that specializes in rare and difficult to find albums, is bringing the soundtrack from EarthBound, also known as Mother 2 in Japan, to North America as a vinyl soundtrack. Hirokazu Tanaka and Keiichi Suzuki's unique and forward-thinking composition from 1994 can finally be enjoyed in old-school record form. 
While the soundtrack has yet to be released, it can be pre-ordered with a selection of colors for the record itself: classic black, hot spring pink, red and black swirl, and blue/yellow split. Pre-orders will run you about $40 and there is still a bit of a wait until the 2016 release. The number of available albums is limited, so if you're interested, you might want to hop on this before they run out of stock.
You might be wondering why a game from 1994 is suddenly receiving a vinyl soundtrack release. Several months ago, Ship to Shore launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help purchase the licensing rights to releasing the soundtrack in North America and Europe, something that had never been done before. It smashed its initial goal of $42,000 and even managed to reach a number of stretch goals to make more CDs and up the quality of the packaging. 
Ship to Shore has some future plans for more difficult to obtain video game soundtracks in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming announcements for other vinyl and CD releases of obscure gaming music.  

Jack Gardner
Following a shareholder conference in which the sales numbers for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt were thoroughly discussed, CD Projekt RED's head Adam Badowski released a statement to their supporters. In the statement, which you can read in full below, he touts some impressive numbers, claiming over six million copies of The Witcher 3 sold to date. While that number is impressive, Badowski takes it not just as a phenomenal piece of success, but also as a call to continue to live up to high standards for the future games developed by the studio. This classy gesture represents another small piece of why people CD Projekt consider one of the most trustworthy developers in the game industry at the moment. 
For my part, you're very welcome, CD Projekt RED! Now, when can we get our grubby mitts on Cyberpunk 2077?

Daniel Jones
The term eSports has become very wide-encompassing over the past few years, incorporating all types of gaming genres, from fighting games to first person shooters to strategy titles and MOBAs. Even as the burgeoning competitive pastime has grown to huge heights, I’ve never been able to fully appreciate the appeal.
Until now.
What changed? Two words:
If you’ve played Rocket League, you might understand how it could convert a former non-believer. If you haven’t played Rocket League, my description of the game won’t really help you understand the appeal at all, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Rocket League is a game of indoor soccer played with rocket powered cars instead of people. The objective is to get to ball into the other team’s goal and stop them from getting the ball into your goal. You can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4. That’s it. That’s really it.
Despite its simplicity (and, as I’ll explain later, perhaps because of its simplicity), Rocket League is a runaway success, with over five million downloads and the servers constantly running at around a hundred thousand players at any given time. It’s also becoming a popular spectator sport with YouTube videos of matches and highlights garnering huge numbers already. So what is it that makes Rocket League so much fun, and such a strong candidate for eSports immortality?
It’s deceptively simple

Rocket League is the best representation of “Easy to learn, difficult to master” game design that I’ve seen since… well, I honestly can’t think of many games that do it better. Once you understand the basic fundamentals of Rocket League – jumping, boosting, centering, defense and aerials – you can follow and appreciate any match. Even if you can’t pull off an aerial windmill kick into the goal, you can at least appreciate what makes it such an impressive feat. Rocket League makes anyone think they can be a professional, as you’re always improving, and anyone could potentially get lucky bounces and have a great match any time. Rocket League’s approachability allows for everyone to appreciate the time and effort required to excel at the game.
It’s skill-based

It’s the truly skilled players, though, that are really fun to watch. It can be exhilarating to watch the best players in the world go head to head, as both sides make mesmerizing saves and gravity defying goals. And since everyone is playing on an even playing field, and Rocket League features no upgrades or bonus powers, there’s little for players to rely on besides their own abilities. The developers are hinting that new modes and power-ups might become available at some point, but the main mode is pure and simple – and should remain that way. It’s that mode, specifically 3v3, which is the most eSports worthy. Variety is derived from the unpredictable physics  and the various strategies teams can utilize to achieve victory. This ensures that wins are always earned and losses always deserved, which is ultimately what makes for a strong competitive sport.
It’s fast!

In the most literal sense, Rocket League is fast. After all, the cars are rocket powered. A match can change pace in an instant, which makes each contest a nail biting volley of physics, explosions, and speed. It’s a good thing, then, that each match only lasts for five tension-filled minutes. It’s easy to imagine a tournament with a dozen or so teams lasting for just around an hour or two, which is the perfect amount of time for a sporting event in the digital age.
Cars are customizable

A sport is nothing without all-star players, and since Rocket League cars don’t have jerseys with numbers on them, we need some way to tell all the players apart. Luckily, taking a cue from Valve, Psyonix has created a robust car customization suite with different paint jobs, hats, antenna ornaments and even exhaust effects. Combined with the easily legible player ID’s above the cars, this customization allows for each car to look unique and possess its own identity. Hopefully Psyonix will expand this feature and even add licensed cars or features.

On the other hand…

There are some things that the developers need to implement or improve before Rocket League can attain full eSports legitimacy. The recently added spectator mode is a huge boost, as the only two camera options – “standard” and “ball cam” – aren’t great for casual viewing of a match. As mentioned though, the game needs some more content; expanded car customization options, along with more stadiums would go a long way in improving the viewing experience. Foremost though, some strategic planning abilities are an absolute must for Rocket League to compete in the wide world of eSports. Teams should be able to assign positions and choose their starting positions from the pitch, eliminating the randomization that could create an accidental advantage for one of the teams. At the risk of contradicting myself though, the game could become a bit stale after a while, since there are few variables that would differentiate one match from another. Only time will tell if audiences start to lose interest in the standard 3v3 mode.
For now though, it’s hard not to be excited about the future of Rocket League as an eSport, especially after the recent Major League Gaming tournament and its absolutely stunning finale. I could go on and on about why Rocket League is a great spectator sport, and what it needs in order to be a legitimate part of the competitive community, but the fact is, there’s no denying it once you’ve played and watched a few rounds yourself. With an ever-improving player base and growing community, Rocket League is already exploding on YouTube and Twitch, and has nowhere to go but up.


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