The Future of Circle Square Games

Hey y’all.

When I started Circle Square Games last August, I didn’t really think it would go anywhere. I was sure I’d give up after a month or two. I didn’t even tell anyone this website existed for a while. Even though it didn’t blow up and become the next big thing, people actually read some of the things I wrote, which was all I could ask for.

I’m incredibly thankful for the support you all have given me. I read comments and looked at a lot of statistics in my time with Circle Square, and I recognized those of you who hung around for a while. Shoutout to all my regulars.

Of course, all things eventually come to an end, and while I loved every second of writing for my own website, it’s time for me to move on to bigger things. I’m now writing for The Outerhaven. Some of my work has even already been published there! I’m so grateful that the team there has given me the opportunity to write for them. My work will reach more people, but that’s not the reason I’m moving there. Working with a team that shares my same passion for video games will do nothing but inspire and motivate me to create bigger, better things for you all.

Since I can’t be in two places at once, I won’t be writing on here anymore. I might come back some day, maybe I’ll come back just to ramble about whatever game I’m currently obsessed with, but for the foreseeable future, you’ll only be able to find me at The Outerhaven. Not much else is changing. I’m still me, my writing won’t be changed in any way, and you all can follow me to a better website with an array of talented and passionate voices.

I think it’ll be better for all of us. I hope you’ll stick with me at The Outerhaven, and thank you all for providing me with the opportunity to jump start my career into this crazy industry.

Until next time,
Diego

Google Stadia and the Game Preservation Problem

Most people are already aware of the major issues with streaming video games. Latency, data caps, subscription models, and ownership seem to get brought up every time a newcomer enters the streaming scene. However, these are all problems that will be sorted out over time. There is another concern that people don’t bring up as often as they should, though, and that is the problem of video game preservation.

This week, Google announced Stadia, their new service that will allow users to stream AAA video games to just about any screen they can think of, whether it be a television, a phone, a PC, or a tablet. The idea behind Stadia is great; lowering the entry barrier to gaming will open the doors of this great medium to so many people, but an all-streaming future presents problems that haven’t quite been experienced at a large scale yet.

Stadia games aren’t owned by the players, they’re just streamed from whatever data center the players happen to be connected to. What happens, then, if a game is pulled from Stadia? What if Stadia shuts down entirely? Games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Doom Eternal, both of which were featured prominently in Google’s keynote, will still be available on other platforms, but what about Stadia exclusive titles? Stadia Games and Entertainment is Google’s first-party studio tasked with creating exclusive games for the platform. This studio is comprised of incredibly talented developers who will no doubt create excellent games, but what becomes of these games when Stadia is gone? Even if Stadia is a runaway success, the servers will be turned off one day. It’s an inevitability, and when that inevitability happens, those games are lost.

Scenarios like this aren’t even hypothetical. They’ve already happened to beloved titles, both low-profile and high-profile alike. Konami pulled P.T. from the PlayStation Store following the cancellation of Silent Hills, and even those who own it can no longer redownload it. Aside from some very wonky workarounds (and a very faithful fan recreation on PC), P.T. can no longer be played. Being a strictly digital release that can no longer be downloaded, P.T. practically doesn’t exist anymore. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game were both pulled from digital storefronts as well, presumably due to licensing issues. On top of these examples, the closure of the Wii Shop Channel in January left a multitude of WiiWare titles abandoned, unable to be redownloaded.

Luckily, these games still have homes on consoles where they’re still installed. However, a service completely centered around streaming like Stadia won’t allow users to install games locally or access the files at all. When Stadia goes the way of the Wii Shop Channel, those games will be gone for good.

Even if games aren’t pulled from the service outright, there are still other issues that arise with an all-streaming future. Final Fantasy XV has undergone radical changes since its release back in 2016, and although it may be a better game in its current state, the vanilla version still has value, at least from a historical perspective. With a disc, the vanilla version is playable offline if updates aren’t installed, but a game like Destiny 2 doesn’t have that luxury. Vanilla Destiny 2 doesn’t exist anymore. Destiny 2 is not playable without updates or an internet connection, so there’s no way to experience the game as it launched.  At least with single-player games, older versions can be accessed offline, but with online games, the experience is constantly evolving, and older versions are lost. With streaming, even single-player games cannot be experienced pre-patch, and games might even be replaced by inferior versions, like the awful Silent Hill 2 HD version replacing the original masterpiece.

Game preservation is a tricky subject, especially in today’s climate of live services and ever-changing games. Regardless, video games are art. They’ve been recognized by the government as art since 2011 and they’ve been recognized by gamers as art for far longer, and it’s time for people to start taking game preservation more seriously, before some games end up permanently lost and forgotten.

Rainbow Six Siege’s Reverse Friendly Fire Aims to Combat Toxicity

Rainbow Six Siege has a team killing problem.

It’s no secret that friendly fire is an issue in Siege, with complaints about toxic team killing dating back to the game’s launch in 2015, but a new patch introducing “reverse friendly fire” is Ubisoft’s first attempt at solving the team killing problem. If a player shoots their teammate, the damage will be reflected back at them. This even applies to gadgets like Twitch’s shock drone, which is frequently used by toxic players to harass their teammates. With the new update, any damage that would’ve been inflicted by the drone onto an ally will be reflected back to the drone itself.

Of course, team killing is a core aspect of Rainbow Six Siege. Being able to accidentally injure allies in the heat of the moment is a large part of what makes Siege’s gameplay so tense and rewarding, so Ubisoft is allowing for some flexibility with reverse friendly fire. The system only starts after the offending player’s first team kill in order to allow for some accidents. After a teammate is killed, the victim can choose to forgive their killer if they believe they were killed by accident. If the kill is deemed accidental, the killer is not punished, but if the kill isn’t forgiven, reverse friendly fire is activated.

Penalties are being reworked with this update as well. Prior to this patch, team killers would be kicked from the match after a certain number of team kills, accidental or not. Now, even if a team kill is deemed intentional, the offending player will stay in the match with reverse friendly fire activated. Ubisoft will continue to track team kills and issue appropriate punishments, usually timed bans, to repeat offenders. The patch is currently live on Siege’s test server. There is no word on when it will be added to the main game.

Reverse friendly fire is just the first step in dealing with Rainbow Six Siege’s rampant toxicity problems. Ubisoft detailed a bevy of changes when it laid out the content roadmap for the game’s fourth year, and while map reworks and new operators were at the forefront, Ubisoft made a point to highlight the adjustments being made to minimize toxicity. With a game as rapidly growing as Rainbow Six Siege, it’s imperative that Ubisoft make the game as friendly and welcoming to new players as possible. So many players are already turned off by Siege’s very steep learning curve, a curve which grows steeper and steeper with every new update, and the game’s well-documented toxicity only serves to scare away prospective players and sour the experience for existing ones. Reverse friendly fire is definitely a step in the right direction, and upcoming changes to the ranked matchmaking system alongside other quality of life improvements prove that Ubisoft is not planning on slowing down support or content updates for Rainbow Six Siege anytime soon.

Rainbow Six Siege is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Cuphead is Coming to Nintendo Switch in April

Microsoft’s first-party side-scroller Cuphead is coming to Nintendo Switch next month, Nintendo announced in today’s Nindies Showcase.

The game, developed by Studio MDHR, was originally released in 2017 as an Xbox One console exclusive. While it released simultaneously on PC as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, that was the full extent of its reach until now.

Microsoft has also stated that they are working with Studio MDHR to implement Xbox Live functionality into the Nintendo Switch version of Cuphead. Now you’ll finally be able to earn achievements on the go. Cuphead is the first non-Xbox game to receive Xbox Live achivement support, but more are likely on the way with Microsoft planning to bring the service to both Switch and mobile.

Cuphead will launch on Nintendo Switch on April 18. The game will be priced at $20, and it’s already available for pre-purchase on the eShop.

Google Stadia is Google’s Game Streaming Service

Google has officially unveiled its long-rumored game streaming service during a keynote at GDC earlier today.

The service, called Google Stadia, will allow users to play AAA video games on any device. At launch, Stadia will be available on any desktop computer, laptop, TV, phone, or tablet. Stadia is the full release of Project Stream, which allowed users to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Google Chrome browser window. While Project Stream only streamed up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, Stadia will support streams up to 4K at 60 frames per second with full HDR and surround sound support. In the future, Stadia will even support 8K streaming.

The Stadia controller was also unveiled alongside the service. It’s available in three different colors and will connect to Google’s data centers hosting the game through Wi-Fi to minimize latency. It has joysticks, a d-pad, and just about everything else you’d expect from a standard video game controller, but it also has a share button like the Dualshock 4 and Joy-Con controllers as well as a Google Assistant button which will allow you to ask for help with whatever game you’re playing using the controller’s built-in microphone. Stadia will also work with any controllers you already own, too.

Stadia will come with an array of features specific to the service. YouTube videos of certain games will have a “play now” button that will let you start playing the game through a Stadia stream. Stream Connect aims to bring back split-screen gaming, enabling multiple streams of the same game on one device. Crowd Play lets streamers open up their games to their audience, creating a lobby for viewers to wait in until they get to play with the streamer. State Share lets you create an exact copy of your game’s state down to the contents of your inventory and the amount of health you have left, which you can then share with others through a generated link. Other players can then go experience the exact moment you shared with them.

Google has partnered with Unreal and Unity, two of the most popular game engines in the industry, and both will fully support Stadia. Google revealed a number of other partners ranging from Havok to Cryengine, so there’s no shortage of initial support for the platform.

Because Stadia is a cloud-based platform, developers don’t have to neuter their visions for their games to meet certain hardware requirements. A single Stadia instance is more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X combined according to Google, and developers will no longer be held back by hardware restrictions.

While Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was primarily featured throughout the keynote, other games were shown as well. Doom Eternal, the follow up to 2016’s Doom reboot, will be playable on Stadia at a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second with HDR. Other unannounced titles were hinted at, but they haven’t been revealed yet.

Multiplayer was another key point of the presentation. Because every game will be hosted through Google’s data centers rather than the players’ internet connections, there will be minimal latency because the experience won’t be held back by the player with the slowest connection. Stadia will also support cross-platform play and cross-progression if developers allow it.

Google will be creating exclusive first-party content through Stadia Games and Entertainment, headed by former Ubisoft executive and industry veteran Jade Raymond.

Stadia is slated to launch this year in the United States, Canada, UK, and Europe. More information is set to come this summer, but whether or not that means news will come at E3 remains to be known.