I guess it makes sense to talk about the worst garbage in a pretty garbage-ass year, right? So here we are again, dredging up the sludge from the bottom of gaming’s trench, finding a bunch of skeletons and nuclear waste and whatever the hell Randy Pitchford dumped in there. Enjoy!
[While we did separate lists before discussing the Gremmies on the podcast, the final winners, as seen in the images, were agreed upon, and our separate lists are here for… Transparency? Sure, let’s go with that.]
If there’s two things I’m a fan of, it’s giant robots and tactical RPGs. So it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of Front Mission. So when a new Front Mission game was announced for the Playstation 4, with well known Metal Gear Solid artist Yoji Shinkawa on board to lead the art design, my interest was pretty god damn piqued.
And then I saw some gameplay footage. My boy, my poor boy. To watch you tortured, mocked, and left to slowly die like you did may be one of the most painful experiences of this generation, if not this decade. — George Brundle
Larry’s Top 3:
- LEFT ALIVE
- Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Hey, y’all like Front Mission? Y’all like TACTICAL ESPIONAGE ACTION? What if the two were combined, in the most ill-advised union since Elon Musk and Grimes? Square-Enix thought that was a good idea, as they roped poor suckers Ilinx into churning this game out to no fanfare.
Yoji Shinkawa got a paycheck, at least, and his character designs are the best part of the game. Well, they’re the only tolerable parts, in fact — it’s hard to believe Left Alive is a finished product. Textures pop in like an early Xbox 360 Unreal Engine game, enemies are dumb as rocks yet somehow also near-omniscient, and it feels like it was never playtested by anyone, ever. This is a stealth game where you don’t have stealth-kills. You just walk up behind an enemy and whack them with a pipe a few times. C’mon. — Larry Davis
Larry’s Top 3:
- Game Freak
FromSoftware refuse to learn. After years of releasing the same game over and over, here comes Sekiro, with the same problems they’ve been having since Demon’s Souls. Sorry, FromSoft, but if I’m playing this game on an Xbox One X, it shouldn’t run AND look like garbage. You can pick one of the two.
When the creators of the Souls genre manage to crap out a game worse than the imitators (Nioh, The Surge) there’s a problem. — Larry Davis
This hasn’t been a banner year for Gamefreak, the company responsible for Pokemon and, uh, pfffffff… Pulseman.
Gamefreak burned a lot of good will this year with the release of Pokemon Sword and Sheild, with its most vocal critics going absolutely apeshit over the removal of the National Dex. Ostensibly this was to focus on creating new models for a trimmer list of Pokemon, but wouldn’t you know it, they just used a bunch of models from Sun and Moon, slapped some new textures on them, and called it a D-A-Y. Very cool.
Personally, I don’t care. Pokemon has leaned on the same tired battle system since Red and Blue. I’m 32-years-old and I am bored to shit of these little bastards. But it’s not hard to imagine how important the first true console Pokemon is to some people. Incidentally, it’s not hard to imagine now why Gamefreak was so resistant against making one.
The reduction to the National Dex is far from the only issue with the game. Besides not being the mechanical revolution the series needed, it suffers from other odd technical issues. Most notably pop in that occurs a good 15 feet from the player character. Some textures are so muddy, they look like they were sampled from a N64 game, and the overall fidelity is utterly lacking when compared to very early games in the Switch library.
Gamefreak bungled the first console Pokemon, and it’s really just embarrassing. — George Brundle
Look, I wanted to give this to Valve so badly, but they get an honorary mention this year, and compared to Blizzard’s atrocious handling of Blitzchung’s Hearthstone ban, releasing a Half-Life VR game while doing pretty much jack else just doesn’t compare.
The short of it is this: professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung donned a mask during an interview and said “liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Blizzard subsequently banned him from taking part in Grandmaster tournaments for a year, revoked his four thousand dollars in earnings, and gave the boot to interviewers Virtual and Mr.Yee for good measure. When faced with backlash they rightfully earned, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack issued a half-assed apology and halved Blitz, Virtual, and Mr.Yee’s bans to six months.
Not only was the initial ban severe, but the six month reduction remains a higher penalty than that given to Overwatch League player Josh Corono of Philadelphia Fusion, who slanted his eyes and said “I am Korean!” during a stream. Apparently standing with Hong Kong is much more problematic for Blizzard than racism.
Blizzard’s actions earned them no shortage of ill-will. Hong Kong protestors adopted Mei as a mascot of their movement, Mark Kern cancelled his subscription to World of Warcraft (of which he was the project lead), the American University team got player cams banned for the remainder of the Hearthstone Collegiate Champs tournament by holding up a sign in support of Hong Kong, and senators Marko Rubio and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met across the aisle to denounce Blizzard.
All of this happened in a very short span of time, beginning October 6 before mostly fading out of the news in early November, shortly after BlizzCon. But it’s this hell month that earned Blizzard my pick for the worst developer of the year.
For comparison, when Overwatch League player Josh “Eqo” Corono, who plays for the Philadelphia Fusion, made a racist gesture and said “I am Korean” on a stream, he was suspended for three games and fined $3000. For Blizzard, support for Hong Kong’s protests is seemingly far worse than being racist.Kat Bailey, USAGamer
— George Brundle
Larry’s Top 3:
Bethesda decided the world needs another proprietary launcher. That’s enough to put them at the top of this list. — Larry Davis
Larry’s Top 3:
- RANDY PITCHFORD. JUST EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM.
- Blizzard Are Cowards
- Google Stadia
Randy Pitchford has been a ridiculous laughing stock of a man for a long time, but it was mostly because he couldn’t release a good game to save his life. Now we get a saga of corporate embezzlement arguments, lost USB drives containing Chaturbate recordings that he insists are “magic tricks” requiring serious study, and a general attitude that he’s out to “own tha haterzz”. — Larry Davis
George’s Year In Review/Closing Statement:
Everybody (Ban) Blitz Chung Tonight
I just wrote a whole thing about this, and it should be no surprise based on the above summary why Blitzchung’s ban deserves to make this list.
Randy Pitchford’s USB Stick Full of Porn
Congratulations to Randy Pitchford and Wade Callender for walking away with the Golden Gremmie. They almost didn’t make it, considering a lot of the allegations made against Pitchford were filed late last year, and didn’t come to light until early January. Jesus Christ, you turkies, talk about cutting it close!
This whole crazy story began when former counsel to Gearbox, Wade Callender, filed a lawsuit against CEO Randy Pitchford of breaching his “fiduciary duties by exploiting Gearbox employees and property to fund Pitchford’s private cravings.” There’s only a few combinations of words more sinister than “private cravings,” and according to Wade, Pitchford’s were of a very sordid variety.
Elaborating on this, Callender alleged that a “sensitive corporate documents” and UP was found at a Dallas Medieval Times in 2014. A restaurant employee looked through the stick’s contents, then contacted Gearbox to return it, at which time Pitchford admitted that the USB belonged to him. Callender was away when the USB stick was discovered, but requested a copy so that its contents could be verified, and acted upon if necessary. Callender was never able to look at said contents, however, as Pitchford allegedly intercepted the original stick and destroyed the copy.
Callender’s accusations didn’t stop there, as he went on to accuse Pitchford (and his wife) of hosting “peacock parties,” in which (…)
Now this is where I have reiterate that these are all allegations made by Callender, who apparently did not actually see what was on the USB stick. However, in an episode of the Piff Pod which released only one day after Callender’s suit was filed, Pitchford confirmed elements of the story, and elaborated on others that may very well put the whole affair into the proper context, while still being super weird. (describe the piff pod stuff, the fact that in a statement to ars technical, the corporate stance is to stand by the podcast and they “explain” the peacock thing as an art show, )
This story came to an end in early October, with Pitchford being exonerated in courts of law. The official dismissal statement noted that “misunderstandings between the parties have been corrected, and apologies were exchanged. Because the parties are mutually bound by confidentiality, no additional statements will be forthcoming.”
So where does that leave things? We may never know precisely what was found by the court to clear Pitchford, but my suspicion is that his recounting of events may be more accurate, and that while he was accused of doing some pretty heinous things, it’s more likely that he was engaging in some pretty grimy behavior that is at least totally legal. And, really, that’s the most important distinction to make.
That said, this is yet another chapter in Pitchford’s deeply weird and unfortunate history. At least he has a Golden Gremmie to show for it.
Fallout 76’s Premium Subscription is Fucking Garbage
As if duping people into purchasing Fallout 76 wasn’t enough, now Bethesda would like to sell those poor souls on a premium subscription. Fallout 1st offers players a private world, bottomless storage for crafting components, a 1,650 Atoms a month wage, icons AND emotes, survival tent, and ranger armor all for the low price of $12.99 per month, or $99 a year.
Subscriptions of online games is nothing new, but boy oh boy that’s a steep ask for Fallout 76, a game many would already describe as an embarrassment. In fact, some of these features (most notably private worlds) were already popular asks of Fallout 76’s community, which are now being offered behind a paywall, because of course they are. “Screw all of you,” says Bethesda, “but especially screw Fallout 76 players, those rubes.”
All of this was also announced right near the release of Outer Worlds, so Bethesda is either tone-deaf, or are in the middle of some Kaufman-esque bit that none of us have caught onto yet.
Stadia, Everything About It
Who could forget Google Stadia’s announcement? Games streaming directly to your browser in 4k, with input lag so negligible it might as well not exist. Swap devices on the fly, save hundreds on consoles and play the latest titles at only the cost of a subscription. They even trotted MatPat out to tell us all in the most punchable voice known to man just what this streaming future would mean for ~influencers.~ Google was about to change everything.
So what happened?
The lead up to Stadia’s quiet and frankly vestigial launch on November 19th was plagued by reports detailing all the features it wouldn’t have. For one, your $10 per month subscription would not permit you access to any free games, but rather a catalog of 22 titles that would need to be purchased individually, many of which can be found cheaper through other vendors. The much touted social features, such as Crowd Play, Stream Connect, and Stat Share would also be absent with no real indication on when they would be included. Likewise, subscribers would not have access to achievements or family sharing, and would be required to use the Chromecast Ultra included in the founders edition
If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect Google was intentionally trying to sabotage their own service, because it would really be quicker to say what Stadia *would* launch with. With so many missing features, Stadia has not made a strong first impression, which is kind of a huge deal with platform launches.
The story doesn’t even there, though, as Stadia’s launch has been messier than simply being feature incomplete. For example, similar to Ouya (another game changing product), some early adopters are finding themselves without their Founder’s Edition hardware. Chomecast Ultras and Stadia controllers were also sent separately, staggered apart for… some reason. The excuse given by Andrey Doronichev during a Reddit AMA is that “moving atoms is a bit more complicated and less predictable than moving bits,” which is an interesting argument to make considering they can’t even get the whole moving of bits thing right either.
At launch, pro subscribers may find that they are unable to stream in 4k and at 60fps, a feature that rests squarely at the core of Stadia’s model. Digital Foundry has a great – and unsurprisingly very technical – write up that is well worth the read, but the summary is this: Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 are rendered at 2560×1440 with a frame cap set to 30fps. In balanced mode, RDR2 renders at 1080 and 60fps. Chomecast Ultra then upscales the image to 4k, complete with macroblocking and gradient banding. Hooray!
To Google’s credit, they’ve addressed this criticism, saying it’s the developer’s fault, actually, for choosing these restrictions, and that Stadia is totally capable of making good on the 4k 60fps promise, inherently. And, again in the interest of fairness, artifacting and latency should be expected of such a service as internet infrastructure in the United States is still, on the whole, a dismal mess. Hell, Google should know, considering Google Fiber cables are just jutting out the ground in some places.
Honestly, it seems as though Stadia is poised to go the way of many other Google services; a strong, confident announcement followed by an embarrassing fizzle, rapidly evaporating support, and eventual death in obscurity.
— George Brundle