The Bulletin is a roundup of a few game-related news stories from the previous week.
Valve makes three big announcements and none of them are about Half-Life 3—wait, come back!
Last week, Valve, the game publisher and overseer of the digital game superstore Steam, decided to wave its arms in the air and demand that it, too, has hardware plans worth talking about. The company took the first public steps of its long-rumored foray into creating a blasphemous amalgamation of computer and console gaming. It all started on Monday, when the first of three countdown timers on Valve’s official Steam website ended and revealed SteamOS, a new operating system intended to make it easier to bring Steam’s vast library of PC games to “living room machines.” It will be “available soon” as a free download. While not all of the thousands of games available for purchase on Steam will be up and running on SteamOS when it’s released, users will be able to stream games from their main machine to their SteamOS machine, which will theoretically be hooked up to a TV. It will also allow the sharing of games among family members, with separate achievements and saved games. This sounds a lot like the original vision behind the Xbox One, but since Steam is already beloved, this probably won’t be as hard of a sell.
And you can’t have an operating system without something to run it on. The second countdown timer led to the announcement of Steam Machines, which are less of a singular game console and more of a philosophy on how to design game consoles. Anyone can download the SteamOS for free and set up a new computer to run it, but Valve will also be partnering with unspecified computer companies to release pre-packaged SteamOS boxes that come in various shapes, sizes, and power levels. If you’re confident in your ability to jump through hoops, you can even sign up for the Steam Hardware Beta in hopes of receiving one of Valve’s prototype consoles for testing.
And you can’t have a console without a controller! That’s right, the third countdown timer ended with the reveal of the Steam Controller. In the interest of being an unbiased professional journalist, I will abstain from making any comments about how ridiculous the Steam Controller looks and just present you with the facts. It forgoes the usual control sticks in favor of a pair of trackpads that Valve says provide “higher fidelity input” than typical controller thumbsticks. It also sports a touchsreen in the middle that can be used to replace some of the functions of complicated keyboard-and-mouse computer games. Around that screen are four buttons—positioned so that you don’t have to move your fingers very far off of the trackpads. Also, it looks like a floppy-eared anime rabbit with big eyes that got turned into Darth Vader. Or maybe a bizarre gimmicky Sega Genesis controller that you’d see advertised in the back of an old issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly in the ’90s. We’ll know more about the Steam Controller, and if it feels as crazy as it looks, once people get their hands on them through the Hardware Beta.
EA quits college football team to focus on studies (and settles huge lawsuit with college football players)
Back in July, we reported that the licensing deal between EA and NCAA had expired and wouldn’t be renewed. At the time, EA said that it would still release a college football game next year with all of the “teams, leagues, and authentic innovation” of its NCAA Football series, but without any of that NCAA branding. That seemed to be the end of it, and in 2014 we would get the same great-tasting football game in a brand-new package, but it turns out that EA also had a legion of disgruntled student-athletes knocking on its door. The former college athletes had filed a lawsuit against EA, NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company claiming that the three organizations had directly profited from the use of their likenesses in EA’s long-running college football series. As you may be surprised to find out, this college football series often featured college football players who—for whatever reason—think they should be compensated in some way for helping these companies make the crapload of money they make every year on this video game. The nerve!
But now, according to Polygon, EA and the CLC have reached a settlement with the jocks and admitted that, yeah, they probably should’ve been paying them something. In celebration, one of the lawyers on the football players’ side released a press release saying this settlement is the “first step toward…making sure all student-athletes can claim their fair share of the billions of dollars generated each year by college sports.” EA responded to this by canceling its college football game series indefinitely, indicating that it would rather not make any money than give some of it to college kids. So this may not end up being the first step in lucrative career of appearing in video games for our nation’s collegiate athletes, but CBS Sports reports that every player who has appeared in one of EA’s college football or basketball games is eligible to make some money off of this settlement, so that’s a pretty sweet deal at least. Too bad nobody ever made a video game about what I did in college. But I guess a video game about playing Xbox would be redundant.
Grand Theft Auto Online will feature microtransactions
Financially, Grand Theft Auto V has failed to make any impression whatsoever. Aside from the billion dollars it made after being in stores for only three days and the untold trillions it has presumably made since then, that is. But while you might be satisfied with a 10-figure debut, the developers at Rockstar are not. They are looking to move even further into the black when the game’s online multiplayer component launches this week. In a post on its official site, Rockstar outlined a little bit of what people can expect from Grand Theft Auto Online, including its inclusion of “GTA$,” an in-game currency that you can purchase through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. The post emphasizes that this is merely for the “instant gratification type” and that no real money is needed to buy anything in the game. Rockstar also says that players will accumulate cash faster online than they do in the single-player mode, so it has planned a series of free content updates to give you and your friends more mayhem-causing toys to buy.
Star Wars 1313: What might have been
The most notable casualty from the closing of LucasArts was Star Wars 1313. The game, seen only in a brief trailer at E3 2012, starred a generic-looking unnamed protagonist shooting enemies as he descended into the lowest levels of the planet-sized city Coruscant. Back in April, a source leaked to Kotaku that the boring nobody in the trailer was just a placeholder, and that he would have been replaced by the bounty hunter Boba Fett if 1313 hadn’t been cancelled. Presumably this would’ve been our chance to finally see Boba Fett being awesome instead of just assuming he’s awesome because he looks so awesome. Now, though, thanks to another mysterious leaker, IGN has more details on what Star Wars 1313 might have been like. The game would’ve indeed starred Boba Fett, and it would have followed his transition from fresh-faced space murderer to grizzled tough guy who’s constantly being reminded not to disintegrate people. The IGN post has a bunch of concept art and details on how the plot would’ve played out, so it’s worth a look, if only so you can longingly think about what might have been…or smirk at the bullet you dodged if you’re too hip to think Boba Fett is cool.
Mega Man is coming back with a brand new game
A board game! You know, the kind you play while sitting around a table and not in front of a TV or with a controller? More than three years since the release of the last game in the series, the prayers of Mega Man fans have been answered—and this time not in the form of his non-union Kickstarter equivalent. Mega Man: The Board Game translates the traditional Mega Man formula—defeat the evil Robot Masters and then Dr. Wily—into a deck of cards. As explained on Rockman Corner, the game involves you progressing through levels and earning new powers, just like in the real games, and it covers the story (so much as there is one) of the first Mega Man. The creators are planning future expansions that will introduce elements from later entries in the series as well, making this a sort of Mega Man’s Greatest Hits, only it’s a board game. Interestingly, Capcom doesn’t seem interested in footing the bill for any of this, and the game’s developers will be launching a Kickstarter soon, pending final review from Mega Man’s parent company.