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  1. Love it or hate it, The Game Awards has become a pretty integral night in the game industry for a few years now due to it being a platform for publishers to tease their upcoming games with world premieres. This year's show was no exception, with some of the biggest game announcements we've seen since The Game Awards was first started. Just a quick note here -- we're not covering every trailer shown. Just the ones for the biggest and newest games. With that, here's a look at the night's biggest announcements, starting with... Soul Calibur VI Though rumors of its impending announcement were fairly abundant beforehand, Soul Calibur VI's unveiling caused a huge splash with fans last night. Soul Calibur V released in 2012, so it's been a solid 5 years without a new entry, and 2018 looks to be rectifying that in a big way. Details remain sparse so far, but we do know the game is set in the 16th century and a few returning characters have been confirmed, such as Sophitia and Mitsurugi. Also new is a gameplay mechanic called "Reversal Edge," which allows players to clash with each other while following up with a powerful counterattack based on their opponent's actions. Aside from that, you'll have to stay tuned for more info on the popular fighter in 2018, during which time it'll release on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. Bayonetta 1+2 and (yes) Bayonetta 3 Despite Bayonetta 2's critically acclaimed reception on Wii U, the series' fate appeared to be up in the air, mostly due to the uncertain airs around the poorly-selling console. Any fears of about future entries were quickly forgotten about last night, however, as Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime not only announced a Bayonetta 1+2 dual release pack on Switch next year but a teaser for a full-blown threequel. There's no release date or window yet, so you'll have to wait for more info, hopefully, next year. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Champion's Ballad While it was all but confirmed that we'd see the second half of Breath of the Wild's DLC at The Game Awards, it was still pretty exciting to see the announcement unfold, complete with producer Eiji Aonuma appearing on-stage to pull out a master sword in the stone. This new DLC focuses on the history of the four champions that aid Link in his quest, in addition to providing new shrines, armor, items, and even a brand spanking new motorcycle Link can ride. Death Stranding Just as confusing as ever, a new trailer for Death Stranding did no new favors for anyone trying to understand exactly what it is about. Also, it ends with... a baby inside Norman Reedus' character? You'll have to see the trailer to believe it. Also, game creator Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus also showed up on-stage afterward to talk a bit as well. With no release date in sight, it could easily be a couple of years more before we get an idea of when it's coming out. World War Z I'm not quite sure why a game based on a film from 2013 (which in turn was based on the book) is just now being announced, but there you go. The trailer doesn't show much that we haven't seen in the movie (such as super fast zombies) but interestingly enough, it is "coming soon." Perhaps a 2018 release is right around the corner. From Software's untitled project Death Stranding might have had the most confusing trailer, but equally odd and unusually short was the reveal for From Software's upcoming game. Essentially a 10-second clip that centers on what appears to be a bloody, twisting rope, the only other thing the clip offers is the phrase "Shadows Die Twice." The message is unclear at the moment, though there are some people who believe it be a sequel or successor to From Software's Shadow Tower games. If not, Bloodborne 2 is widely speculated as well. It's likely we may hear more at PSX 2017 this weekend. In the Valley of the Gods It's been nearly two years since Campo Santo's critically acclaimed debut Firewatch released, and now they're finally showing off their latest project, In the Valley of the Gods. Slated for a 2019 release on PC (and likely consoles thereafter), the game focuses on two female filmmakers, Rashida and Zora, as they set out in the 1920s to uncover the lost tomb of Nefertiti. Like Firewatch, it appears to be a first-person "walking simulator" with a heavy focus/narrative on the characters themselves. Witchfire The latest game from the developer behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Witchfire is a first-person horror game set in a dark, gothic world of monsters, zombies, and the like. We'll likely get much more info on it in 2018. Dreams It's been a long time coming for Media Molecule's Dreams. Having first been revealed in 2013 as a tech demo/platform, it's been unusually quiet for the past 3-4 years, causing many to wonder if it had been scrapped or reworked entirely. We now have confirmation that it's still alive and coming out in 2018, and boy does it look ambitious. Expect to hear way more about it this weekend at PSX 2017. Which of these new game announcements was your favorite or most surprising to you? Let us know in the comments below!
  2. Monday Musings is a feature where every Monday, I'll shoot the breeze about what I've been playing and what my thoughts are on various news and events in the game industry. In today's edition of Monday Musings, I'll be taking a look at one of Sony Interactive Entertainment's studios, Media Molecule, and examining their current project Dreams and whether or not it could be in for some major challenges down the road. The Curious Case of Media Molecule Remember how groundbreaking LittleBigPlanet was when it first released? Media Molecule was running on a high during that time period -- both as a business and creatively-speaking -- leading up to the release of its sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2. Like the first game, both critical and sales reception of LBP2 was great, but the experience left the studio with the urge to move on and work on something else for a change. In the year or two following, Media Molecule decided to focus their efforts on developing brand new ideas. Meanwhile, a smaller team within the studio was hard at work creating a new experience for the PlayStation Vita. The result was Tearaway, a title that was considered one of the best and most creative games for the handheld. However, the game did not soar on the sales charts like the LittleBigPlanet series had. Hopefully their other project would turn things around. In 2013, Sony's PlayStation 4 was finally revealed to the world, and Media Molecule pulled back the curtain to reveal what they had been working on in the interim -- a then unnamed project that allowed players to create and mold 3D objects and animate them with the help of the PlayStation Move controller. Later on, this project was revealed to be Dreams. However, the game's ambitious nature meant that it wouldn't be releasing anytime soon. In order to deliver something earlier, Media Molecule decided to create an enhanced port of Tearaway for PS4, resulting in Tearaway: Unfolded. Although it garnered critical praise like the original, it too failed to deliver in sales and became a commercial disappointment. Development on Dreams would continue on unabated. Despite the immense creativity behind Dreams, some PlayStation fans were a bit taken aback by what it was. With LittleBigPlanet, the player creation aspect was a bit more straightforward in what you could do with it, or at least what the player expected out of it. With Dreams, the idea sounded neat on paper, but in reality was almost too open of a concept for many to fully understand without experiencing it firsthand. Is Dreams just an outlet for pure creativity? Is there a more focused experience within, possibly some sort of single-player game campaign not unlike what LittleBigPlanet had? Or is it more akin to Microsoft's Project Spark? Because if it's the latter, Dreams could be in more trouble than Media Molecule and SIE realize. Dream a little dream Once upon a time, Microsoft was betting big on Project Spark to develop an interest in creativity with level design in Xbox One fans. But despite their best efforts, Project Spark never took off with the Xbox community. It was, perhaps, too ambitious for its time, or it just didn't have the right audience. If Dreams is attempting the same open sandbox approach, Media Molecule could be at risk of receiving the same reaction of indifference once Dreams finally releases. The good news is that Media Molecule at least has some proof of concept behind their ambitions -- after all, there was a very active community of players that created levels in LittleBigPlanet and its sequel. Surely the same will happen for Dreams as well? It's too early to say for sure, but one very different thing about this scenario is the fact that Dreams is said to be a much larger and likely complex experience. Dreams' success will depend greatly on how simple it is for players to create and animate, because if it's too convoluted in any sense, most players will skip out right away. Additionally, a single-player or co-op campaign of some sort designed with the game's tools will be needed. This will not only help give the game a sense of cohesiveness but also give the player a certain amount of value out of the game if said player does not click with the creative aspects (as was the case for many who played LittleBigPlanet). While information on Dreams' current progress seems to be rather sparse, Media Molecule have been publicly active on their website and showing the game off at different trade shows over the last few years. We're also supposed to be getting new information about the game as soon as this Spring, so perhaps we'll have a much better idea about what will be included in the final version. Honestly, I hope Media Molecule succeeds; the whole project looks and sounds incredibly ambitious and I'd love for them to see their efforts over the last few years pay off in a big way. But, like any other business, there's a point where SIE can't ignore the fact that Media Molecule has been producing diminishing returns for the company as far as bankable games go -- at least as far as the public eye can see. If Dreams -- or whatever the final title becomes -- doesn't take off the way SIE and Media Molecule are hoping, this could put them in a bad position. If Dreams are dashed SIE certainly hasn't been shy about closing underperforming studios left and right over the past few years, and there's no reason to believe that Media Molecule would have complete immunity from potential shuttering. If there's one thing that saves them, it's the fact that it's an immensely talented studio that is well-versed in creating new tools and known for creativity. So what happens if Dreams releases and undersells? It likely depends to what extent the game doesn't perform. If it just breaks even or sells only slightly better than that, SIE could end up reexamining Media Molecule's development focus, possibly steering them away from the more creative art games and endeavors they're known for in order to concentrate on something new and different. But... if Dreams completely bombs and undersells by a significant amount, a number of different scenarios are possible. The first scenario is that Media Molecule could be restructured into a tools developer. There's too much talent among the staff to totally dissolve the studio, and their work on LittleBigPlanet has earned them at least some leeway, although it is quickly disappearing as the years go on without another big hit. Remember Evolution Studios? World Rally Championship and Motorstorm titles kept them going for a number of years, and while Sony gave them a pass for Motorstorm: Apocalypse's disappointing sales (partly due to bad timing with the 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan), DriveClub's immense issues and failure sunk the entire studio in the end. Despite its ambitious nature, DriveClub was an unmitigated disaster that ultimately sunk Evolution Studios The second scenario that could happen involves SIE shuttering Media Molecule but keeping the talent intact and reassigning them to different studios as needed -- such as Studio Liverpool. Considering the latter's recent redundancies and SIE's penchant for reorganizing resources to where they can best be utilized, this isn't such a farfetched idea. Of course, the third scenario is that the studio is completely shut down and everyone goes their separate ways (and hopefully reforms as another studio sometime later). Personally, I don't see SIE letting the talent walk away without trying to keep them around first, which is why I think the second scenario is more likely. However, Media Molecule was created with the intent of making creative games. If you take that away from the equation and relegate the staff to standard positions elsewhere, is that the path they'll want to take? They may rather take the indie route in the end. But enough doomsaying. Media Molecule could be plenty stable in the end -- we simply don't know enough currently about what's going on behind the scenes to say for sure, but the situation with Dreams certainly appears to be complex from the outside. Currently, Dreams is not confirmed for 2017 release at this point, so hopefully we'll have a better idea of where it's at come E3 or Gamescom. I look forward to getting my hands on it eventually, and if it really is everything Media Molecule makes it out to be, we may have our next generation of LittleBigPlanet creativity for some years to come. What are your thoughts on the current state of Media Molecule and its upcoming game Dreams?