6 Weirdest Gaming News Stories of 2016

Weirdest Gaming News Stories

2016 was an… Interesting year, to say the least.  Both inside the gaming industry and out, one unthinkable news story after another kept breaking.  Naturally, we’ll just stick to gaming here and take this time to look back on some of the most surreal news stories that came out in the last twelve months.  Granted, there are some major events that didn’t make this list, such as the CS:GO Lotto scandal and the controversial release of No Man’s Sky.  While those are undoubtedly important events, they aren’t exactly strange in the same way as these other tales.  That being said, these are the…

Weirdest gaming News Stories of 2016

Street Fighter V Gets Flava Flav DLC

Street Fighter V did not go over well.  Desperate to get on the stage for EVO 2016, the game was shoved out the door way too early with way too little content.  I know the lack of an arcade mode gets brought up a lot, but that’s because an arcade mode is the single most basic form of single player a fighting game can have.  If Capcom couldn’t even muster up the bare basics, that should terrify you.  Hell, we’re still waiting on it to this day.

Something the game has gotten: Costumes inspired by former Public Enemy hype-man Flava Flav.  Believe it or not, this is a picture of Ryu and Chun Li.  Drink it in.  These were released as a part of a sponsorship deal with Red Bull and my brain still hasn’t fully processed the fact that they exist.  Aside from the outfits looking hilariously out-of-character for both fighters… Really?  Flava Flav?  Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was able to get Snoop Dogg for their surreal rapper cross-promotion.  You couldn’t get someone with some relevancy post 2007?

An Anime Fan on Prom Night

Mighty No. 9 hurts my soul on every level.  I’ve been a Mega Man fan since childhood and seeing the Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9 seemed like a dream come true at the time.  Then, mid-2015 rolled around and things got very depressing very quickly.  The point where I knew things had gone off the rails was when Keiji Inafune announced not one, but two new Kickstarters for Mighty No. 9 spinoffs.  Now, let me just say that the Mega Man Legends games are two of my personal favorite video games of all time and my heart shattered when the long-awaited third entry was killed off just before it hit the finish line.  When a Kickstarter for a spiritual successor was announced, I should have been all over it.  Instead, I never put a dime towards it because I just couldn’t trust Red Ash without knowing how Mighty No. 9 turned out first.

Looks like I made the right move, because calling the new blue bomber a disappointment is an understatement.  The visuals were bad, the voice-acting was bad, the attempts at reinventing the Mega Man formula were bad, and the PC version launched with a memory-leak that caused the game to lag the longer you played it until your computer eventually crashed.  The cherry on the sundae of misery was a trailer that seemed specifically designed to mock its supporters.  Now I’m actually excited to see what happens to Mega Man next.  As bad as he’s had it in the last few years, it can’t get much worse than the not-so-Mighty No. 9.

 

Konami Vs Kojima Aftermath

The fallout between gaming auteur Hideo Kojima and his publisher Konami was perhaps the defining story of the gaming industry in 2015 and the aftermath of them parting ways still made for some of the biggest headlines of 2016.  Kojima announced the first game his new studio will be developing, Death Stranding, and has so far released two teaser trailers for it.  Both trailers were Salvador Dali-levels of crazy and apparently weren’t supposed to represent the actual games.

Meanwhile, Kojima’s former taskmaster proved to have a hard time letting things go by announcing Metal Gear Survive, a game based heavily on Metal Gear Solid V‘s engine and is an open-world zombie survival game, the single most diluted genre in the industry today.  With the year ending with gambling being legalized in Japan and Konami’s Japanese stocks being amongst the best in the industry, it looks like the company will survive without Kojima, but it’s doubtful that they’ll thrive.

Greenlight Goes Mad

Steam’s Greenlight program officially reached critical mass in 2016.  What started as a gateway for small developers to get their passion-projects into the public eye didn’t take long to be exploited by amateurs.  Last year seemed to have an unofficial contest to create the absolute worst Greenlight entry possible.

For example, there was Hyrule: Total War, a mod of Medieval II: Total War based on The Legend of Zelda series that was submitted without the approval of the people who made Total War, Legend of Zelda, or even the mod itself.  I’m kind of cheating by including this as this issue dates back to 2015, but UnitZ, a Unity asset pack designed to be a starter kit for developing zombie survival games, has been submitted to Greenlight at least 9 different times by 9 different “developers” who have made little to no changes to the original asset pack.  World of Warcraft was submitted to Greenlight by someone completely unassociated with Blizzard.  A clip of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was submitted to Greenlight.  No, seriously, someone tried to market a clip of a late-night talkshow as a video game.

The only barrier to entry for Greenlight is a $100 fee and Valve just trusts their user-base to police the service for them.  Fortunately, much of the community has been fairly eagle-eyed and most of these attempts were shut down, but there are still plenty of cracks to slip through.  The floodgates have been opened wide enough that 40% of all games on Steam were released last year.

Everything About Pokemon Go

Oh, Pokemon Go, you could have easily filled a top 20 list of weirdness all on your own, couldn’t you?  Just the game itself was enough of a bizarre phenomenon, drawing millions of otherwise secluded people to wander the wilderness on the hunt for imaginary monsters.  That alone sounds like Nostradamus predicting the end of days and it only got weirder from there.  People found dead bodies while playing the game, thugs used the game to bait people into muggings, people abandoned their cars en masse to catch a Vaporeon, et cetera.

The folks making the game had their own share of bedlam, as well.  A big part of that was that the game didn’t have a dedicated community manager when it launched.  When major problems like the three-step glitch happened, there was nothing but radio silence in response.  As a result, the surprise hit of the year also saw a massive drop-off in players.  I doubt Nintendo was too torn up about it, though, considering they only signed on for a microscopic cut of the profits of one of the most anticipated titles of last year.  Everything that Pokemon Go touches becomes wailing insanity one way or another.  Are we sure that Niantic isn’t secretly some eldritch incantation?

Digital Homicide Sues Everyone

Digital Homicide will probably go down in history as the single worst video game developer to have ever existed.  If anyone is actually able to top them, I will partly be impressed, but mostly terrified.  Digital Homicide first garnered infamy as a shovelware developer for Steam.  Now, shovelware has been around since the Atari 2600 and Steam in particular gets A LOT of it these days, so that’s not such a big deal on its own.  What makes Digital Homicide special is that they were outright psychotic about it.

It all started when Youtuber James Stanton, better known as Jim Sterling, uploaded a first impressions video of one of DH’s earliest games, The Slaughtering Grounds, back in 2014.  The developers than released their own video titled Review the Reviewer that openly mocked Stanton for his criticism.  Animosity between the two parties continued to grow until it all came to a head in 2016 and Digital Homicide filed a lawsuit against Stanton claiming that his videos were damaging their business.  Then it got even crazier and Digital Homicide decided that they would just sue everyone.  I think they even tried to sue me around this time and that is not even a joke.  My name could very well have been on their litigious hit-list.  I honestly don’t know.

What we do know is that a lawsuit was filed against 100 Steam users for the crime of speaking ill of Digital Homicide’s precious garbage heap.  We’ll probably never know the full list of names that DH tried to take to court, but it did include such stellar monikers as Demonsword, Toon Vlux, and JDude330#HaeisBACK.  That case was ultimately dismissed after Valve pulled DH’s entire catalog from their service and left them without a source of income to fund their court case.  At the time of writing, the case against Stanton is still ongoing, but seems to be on the verge of being thrown out as well.

Those were the weirdest gaming news stories of 2016. Got any other bizarre news stories from 2016 that we missed?  Can 2017 end up topping last year in terms of insanity?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

 

EDITORIAL: What Happens If MGS5 Is As Poorly Written As MGS4 or Peace Walker?

I’ve been a massive Metal Gear fan, since MGS2: Sons of Liberty. I’ve played every game released with the words ‘Metal’ and ‘Gear’ in the title, except for the god awful Kojima-less MG2: Snake’s Revenge. I love this series for all its flaws as well as its strengths. But nobody will ever convince me, except maybe through the use of hypnosis or mind control, that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was anything less than an unmitigated disaster.

If I could describe that game in one word, it would be ‘bloat’: the story, the dialogue, and the cutscenes all suffered from a rare case of video game-based elephantitis. To make matters worse, MGS4 takes its sweet ass time doling out its way-too-verbose exposition: you famously don’t even touch the controller for the first half hour. The ending cutscene is over an hour long. AN HOUR.

 

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(All that sequel baggage gives Old Snake a backache.)

 

Shakespeare famously said that “brevity is the soul of wit”. Well, there’s no brevity, let alone wit, to be found in this turgid marathon of expository dialogue, over the top action scenes, and babbling nonsense that somehow passes for story development. MGS4, in terms of being a compelling gameplay experience, essentially ends after Act 2. For the rest of the game, virtually every element that made the previous MGS games work is jettisoned for a style of pompous, indulgent, jibberish-laden over the topness; the likes of which someone like Michael Bay could only gawk at, dumbfoundedly. Perhaps most shocking of all, MGS4 made it seem like Kojima forgot the very elements that made his previous three games in the series so wonderful.

Sure, Peace Walker was a big step up – especially since the emphasis there was in gameplay, and not story. But even Peace Walker had some major problems and disappointments in its story, setting, and dialogue. What I’m getting at here is simple: how do we know MGS5 isn’t going to be a major disappointment in the story department? What do we do if this game makes absolutely no sense, like MGS4 – or relies too heavily on sequel baggage and forced nostalgia like both Peace Walker and Guns…? As much as it pains me to say it – considering how long and hard KojiPro (RIP) worked on this game, and how stunning it looks in the various gameplay demo videos released online – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried MGS5 won’t be hot garbage in the story, dialogue, and general presentation department once released.

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Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker both were excellently designed video games in terms of gameplay mechanics – please don’t misunderstand. They are fun to play, and enjoyable enough to sit through if you’re a big enough fan of Kojima’s series as a whole. And Peace Walker actually presented many of its themes admirably – at times reminding me of Kojima at his best. That all being said, neither of these games had plots, characters, or dialogue anywhere near the quality established by Metal Gear Solid, MGS2, and MGS3. Though both MGS4 and Peace Walker were in many respects entirely different games, there’s one major commonality between the two that I fear will rear its ugly head in MGS5: blatant fan service.

When I say ‘fan service’, I mean elements of the plot or dialogue that serve no purpose other than to indulge the hardcore fans with some heavy nostalgia. Nostalgia is fine in small amounts – but look at MGS4. The plot is so busy integrating and connecting the entire Metal Gear franchise together, it never gets around to crafting a compelling tale that can stand on its own. A momentary nod to a previous game is totally fine – like in the opening of Snake Eater, when Big Boss does the same pose as Solid Snake from the intro to Sons of Liberty. That was acceptable- because it happens for a moment, then goes away to allow the plot of MGS3 to begin. Y’know, as a standalone story that works on its own level rather than merely recreating all the same moments from other Metal Gear games.

Compare this minor moment to the overload of nostalgia presented in Guns of the Patriots. Snake and Ocelot duking it out, just like Liquid and Snake did in MGS? Check. The pointless-beyond-fanservice return of characters like Meryl, Psycho Mantis, Vamp, and Rose? Check. Way, way, over the top fight between Metal Gear Rex and Metal Gear Ray? Check. The return of Arsenal Gear? Check. If it happened in MGS 1-3, it probably was called back to in MGS4. I’m sorry, but that’s just lazy writing. We need more than references to care about a story – if we want to relive those moments, we can replay those games for pete’s sake!

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(What’s next, Snake fights Rambo? Maybe the X-Men?)

This thought clearly never occurred to Kojima and Shuyo Murata, since their game is chock full with little other than flashbacks. Flashbacks, flashbacks, and more flashbacks: MGS4 is drowning in em! I understand that Guns of the Patriots was aiming to be the big finale to the entire series: but did we really need so many revisits to previous locations, characters, and moments? The entirety of Act 4 takes place IN the ruins of Shadow Moses – was that entirely necessary? And don’t even get me started on the big Rex vs. Ray showdown. If the scene in your game could have just as easily shown up in an amateur work of fan fiction, it’s probably a good sign your game will only appeal to die hard fans whose critical thinking is being drowned out by all the nostalgia feels.

And Peace Walker had a similar issue: the entire game follows Big Boss as he chases the ghost of his mentor, The Boss. Remember Snake and the Boss’s relationship? Just in case you forgot, or couldn’t be bothered to fire up your copy of Snake Eater, you have 75% of Peace Walker to relive their essential dynamic all over again! Even more galling, in Peace Walker we’re given the laziest-written of any MGS character with Huey – Otacon’s father, who is conveniently voiced by the same actor, just in case people missed Hal’s voice.

Even the return of Kazuhira Miller is a big nostalgia trip for fans of Metal Gear Solid (PSX). I wouldn’t be so against Miller as a character if he didn’t – through both Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes – incessantly yammer on about the basics of sneaking and CQC to ostensibly the most formidable soldier in the entire world.

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Why can’t Kojima write any new characters? You’d almost think it’s easier reintroducing tried and true characters than, you know, coming up with new and independent plotpoints and characterization. Oh wait, that’s exactly the case.

To his credit, the last couple of independent characters Kojima created were hated by most of the diehard fans – from Chico to Rose to Raiden, these are not typically thought of as fan favorites. Maybe Kojima feels the pressure to give people what they want, considering how much controversy his fantastic yet strange MGS2 received. Though I can sympathize, acquiescing to the demands of rabid fans never makes for good art. And that’s why I’m worried about The Phantom Pain.

What we’ve seen so far in the trailer is enough to make me nervous.

A young Ocelot, two kids that look like they’ll probably be young Snake and Liquid, and the Ground Zeroes villain that still looks lame and un-intimidating(Skull Face) don’t inspire the greatest of confidence. And when you watch the trailer, which is more interested in spouting a bunch of long-disproven theories of linguistics rather than telling us anything about the plot, there’s some evidence that MGS5 may have been written with the same kind of devil-may-care, editor-less chutzpah of MGS4. Then again, it may be just a creative method of telling us a bit about the game’s themes indirectly.

I can only hope so – since, amazing New Order song aside, this trailer hints towards another Kojima game full of heady philosophizing. If this goes the route of MGS2 or MGS, by giving us a unique and compelling story that sets a new bar for narratives in video games, then obviously I’ll be happy. But if it goes the route of MGS4, I may again find myself regretting out loud that the series didn’t end with MGS3. Or at least, that Kojima didn’t hire a brave enough editor to call him on his purple prose.

Which brings me to the second major worry: that The Phantom Pain will rehash some of that frustratingly awful writing in Guns of the Patriots. These games have always carried a rep for being a tad convoluted – but I’d wager there are soap opera sagas with less needlessly complex plot points, character arcs, and dialogue.

Ocelot’s whole ‘I’m Liquid’ thing is a ruse to fool the Patriots? Ok, sure. The Patriots have been replaced by AI systems, which run the world? Why not? The original Snake Eater team became the original Patriots, with Sigint being the DARPA chief  Snake eliminated with FOXDIE in Metal Gear Solid? The big deus-ex machina computer program is called Fox Alive? Every nation on Earth is totally fine with outsourcing all their military forces to private mercenary firms? Everyone’s hooked up to nanomachines, which can basically be used as a mcguffin to solve every conceivable plot wrinkle? Big Boss’s corpse that you see burned in the river in Act 3 was actually Solidus, because of reasons? Nanomachines? More Nanomachines? Naomi’s stupid looking outfit? Meryl and Johnny Sasaki’s wedding? Drebin’s convoluted role in all this? My head hurts just remembering all this prolix nonsense. If it isn’t outright laughable, it’s because the plot point in question is too convoluted to make fun of. That is a serious problem that was assuaged partially in Peace Walker. Partially, but not entirely.

The strongest narratives in the Metal Gear franchise are found in MGS and MGS3, and it’s no coincidence that these are also the cleanest, simplest plots as well. A guard revolt at a secret nuclear facility? Easy to grasp. Crazed bad guys have superweapon and need to be eliminated? No problem deciphering that riddle. Contrast these to-the-point yet awesome set ups with the basic premise of MGS4: A bad guy is trying to control the AI system that runs the world’s war economy, which is bad –  even though the world is now a dystopia being run by a shadowy secret group that are really machines and… oh, God, I can’t even. You try to summarize MGS4 if you want, I think it’s impossible without just telling the entire story of the game. How did this game average a 94 on Metacritic? Seriously!

In Peace Walker, the narrative problems were less serious – but the plot felt completely phoned in. Sure, I appreciate the pro-peace themes and monologues: but as I said, a huge chunk of the game is spent rehashing the ending of MGS3. The Doctor Strangelove character feels out of place and poorly written, even if I’ll admit building ZEKE was a pretty cool spin on the Metal Gear Solid storyline.

It’s possible that seeing the man once known as Naked Snake finally transform into the legendary Big Boss in The Phantom Pain will be a compelling narrative experience. But the issue with this – from the general premise of the game down to Paz in Peace Walker working as a double agent for Cypher –  is that all of these games are tainted by the awful legacy of MGS4. And since MGS5 is, like Peace Walker, another prequel, I don’t see how Kojima can avoid this all over again. Everything is set up to build up to Guns of the Patriots, and its basic premise that Ocelot and Major Zero are at war over how best to honor the Boss’s memory. And like the Star Wars prequels, having the final outcome of your story already set in stone doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting storyline.

By the way: does this huge plot point (the war between Ocelot and Zero) even make a shred of sense? I get that Boss is Ocelot’s mom, and that he wants to serve her memory well. But why does Zero even care? Shouldn’t it be Big Boss against Ocelot over the legacy of the Boss? That would make way more sense, since Big Boss was as emotionally invested in the Boss as Ocelot. What’s more, would the Boss really want either a dystopian nightmare version of society or Lord of the Flies-style anarchy for the planet? Wasn’t her whole thing more about bringing longstanding peace than anything else? Why are so many people clamoring to make huge decisions on the global scale in the Boss’s name who don’t even appear to understand what she stood for in the first place?

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If only the Boss could travel forward in time and tell off her idiot protégées

 

The Boss was loyal, not a revolutionary. She was a soldier, not a politician. Yet in MGS4 we are told that everything from the Patriots to the PMCs were set up with Boss’s ideals in mind. How do any of these games make sense now that MGS4 has ruined them all? How can a new Metal Gear surmount the narrative roadblocks that MGS4 imposes?

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no chance MGS5 will be less than stellar when it comes to gameplay and general design. Kojima always makes addictive, supremely enthralling video games despite whatever narrative shortcomings they are inevitably saddled with. But I remember when the name ‘Metal Gear Solid’ carried the reputation of having some of the best writing in gaming. And since Guns of the Patriots, that reputation has been steadily changing to ‘most unedited writing in gaming’. I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting that isn’t an improvement.

Why We’ll All Survive Without Silent Hills (Except for Konami)

Silent Hills

On April 1st, I wrote a fake interview regarding Hideo Kojima and Konami.  I stated that The Phantom Pain was the last title Kojima would develop with Konami, that he, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Reedus had all been dropped from working on Silent Hills, and that Konami would be drastically down-sizing in the future to focus more on using their properties for developing mobile games and pachinko machines.  The article was one half practical joke and one half honest prediction for the future of this once legendary game company.  Sadly, my little prank is becoming more fact than fiction by the day.

Not only have Kojima, del Toro, and Reedus all been dropped from Silent Hills, Silent Hills itself has been dropped altogether with Konami officially confirming that the game has been cancelled.  On top of that, Konami has delisted itself from the New York Stock Exchange, suggesting a downsizing of the company.  Where Konami has been placing its interest is the possibility of gambling being legalized in Japan and hoping to partner with new casino resorts.  All signs point to The Phantom Pain being the last major game that Konami develops and that its iconic franchises will be relegated to promoting mobile apps and gambling devices.  Before you call that a ridiculous idea, I should point out that Konami has already announced a Neo Contra slot machine.  One anonymous source claims that much of the drama surrounding The Phantom Pain and Silent Hills has been the result of a feud between Kojima and Konami founder Kagemasa Kozuki and that many of the development teams have been facing mergers or have are being forced out through unethical means.  It seems that the Konami that we’ve known for the last thirty years is dying and series like Metal Gear, Silent Hill, and Castlevania will never be the same.  However, that doesn’t mean that their legacies can’t live on.

The name Konami isn’t what brought us countless classic games; it’s the people who have worked under that name.  Kojima may never work on another game titled Metal Gear, but he doesn’t need that title and cast of characters to craft intriguing games.  Intellectual properties are merely a canvas for developers to apply their craft upon.  Silent Hills may never be, but what’s to stop Kojima and del Toro from starting over from scratch and creating an original horror game?  Admittedly, it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as I’m making it out to be, but it’s far from impossible.  Even if Konami leaves its IPs to rot, there’s always room for spiritual successors to carry the torch.  We’ve already seen games like Mighty No. 9 and War for the Overworld step up on behalf of the neglected Mega Man and Dungeon Keeper franchises.  While the direction Konami appears to be taking is certainly a set-back for gamers everywhere, it’s not going to stop good games from ultimately being made.

Even if gambling isn’t legalized in Japan and Konami’s expected shift doesn’t work out, I don’t expect Konami to go under anytime soon.  Their development of slot machines for international markets has been making them a steady profit while their game sales have been steadily declining over the last few years.  Just look at this official financial report of theirs where, for the record, video games are listed under digital entertainment and slot machines are listed under gaming and systems and tell me you don’t see a trend.  To a degree, I can actually understand the transition they’re trying to make.  The main takeaway is that the possible end of Konami as a game developer does not necessarily mean the end of your favorite games.  Kojima is an industry legend and it won’t take him long to settle into a new, hopefully more comfortable situation.  Any franchises that end up woefully abandoned will see a revival in one way or another.  It’s a shame that Silent Hills had to be lost as a result of the internal strife, but it is far from being the end of great survival horror games.