The Roundup: Tides of Numenera, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Christophe Balestra Retires, Carmack Sues Zenimax, and Dead Consoles

Hello, friends and members of the Circle! It’s Jon again, back with your weekly Roundup and taking some time to honor International Women’s Day.

Women have been involved in videogames from the beginning of the industry. In fact, if it wasn’t for one profoundly intelligent woman, videogames may not even exist! Ada Lovelace is often cited as the very first programmer.

From programming, designing, writing, and illustrating, women are responsible for some of the most successful and critically acclaimed titles in gaming history. Roberta Williams co-founded Sierra Entertainment and developed several iconic franchises associated with the golden age of adventure games. Tasha Harris made Costume Quest, which I maintain to be the most underappreciated RPG in the past decade (It is! -Editor).

Amy Hennig is the mastermind behind Uncharted and Jak and Daxter. Jade Raymond headed the team that made Assassin’s Creed. Kim Swift was the lead developer of Portal and Left 4 Dead. All three have combined their powers to create a new super secret Star Wars game. And if that game turns out to be a resurrection of Star Wars 1313, oh my God, I WILL BE FLIPPING OUT.

Thank you for making videogames a richer, more fun, and more meaningful medium. 

And with that, the Roundup.

Jorge Jimenez reports on the new Nemesis system in store for Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The Nemesis system was introduced in the franchise’s first game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and the gameplay was so popular that entire articles were devoted to deconstructing and praising it. All the familiar attributes of the Nemesis system are back: the hierarchy of orc leadership, real-time trait development, strengths, weaknesses, and so forth. But this time, Talion can plan coups by planting saboteurs within a stronghold’s ranks. Read Jorge’s full report here.

Harold Goldberg joins the lucky critics who got to review The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As noted before, the title is an example of Nintendo mixing in some modern game design with its notorious traditionalism. The dialogue is mediocre, the characters are shallow, the voice acting is dialed in, and the plot is the same as always, but the ride is haunting, exhilarating, and beautiful. And it doesn’t pull any punches. With no adjustable difficulty and finite weaponry, it had Harold screaming, “C’mon, man!” at some points. Is it just me or did you guys totally hear Harold in your head when I typed that? Read Harold’s full review here.

Alex Cranz wrote about why consoles like the Atari Jaguar tanked while the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis thrived. One part history, one part dirge, and one part memorial, Alex exhumed the tombs of the Neo Geo Pocket Color, the Gizmondo (no relation to Gizmodo), and more to explain how they ended up as casualties in the great console wars of yesteryear. Read her full report here.

Scott Stein has three games for you to play on the Nintendo Switch, and none of them are Zelda, which you obviously own. In fact, most of you probably got the Switch just so you could play Zelda. In any case, all three of these games are $20 and under, so they’ll be nice, budget-conscious titles to hold you over until the big titles start dropping. Read Scott’s reviews here.

Allegra Frank reports that Jeff Kaplan, project lead of Overwatch, has formally confirmed that Symmetra is autistic. Her condition was alluded to in Symmetra: A Better World, a comic about the character released last May, wherein she mentions her handler Sanjay calling her “different” and wondering where she “fit on the spectrum,” a reference to the autism spectrum. Read Allegra’s full report here.

And now for news outside of the Circle. . .

Naughty Dog co-president Christophe Balestra announced that he is retiring. Balestra announced his intention to formally leave the biz on April 3, after 15 years with Naughty Dog. Balestra joined Naughty Dog in 2002 and was promoted to co-president alongside Evan Wells in 2005 after founders Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin left. Balestra oversaw some of the company’s most lauded franchises such as Uncharted and The Last of Us. Read Balestra’s full statement here.

John Carmack is suing Zenimax for $22.5 million, the latest development in the turbulent Zenimax vs. Oculus feud which started in 2014. Last month, Oculus was ordered to pay $500 million to ZeniMax after a court ruled that Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, had broken an NDA. Now Carmack has opened his own personal lawsuit against ZeniMax, claiming that the company had breached contract during its acquisition of id Software. And I do mean personal. Carmack and ZeniMax have taken off the gloves and picked up the salt shakers. Both parties have fired some choice words at each other regarding the lawsuit. Read more about the lawsuit here.

Running low-gear characters through high-end raids is a vital part of the economy in World of Warcraft. This practice is referred to as “carrying.” The raiders get tons of gold from the lowbies and the lowbies get a fast, clean run with phat lootz and no wipes. The raiders use that gold to buy player-crafted items like potions, enchantments, and gems to progress while the lowbies eventually get enough gear to become high end raiders themselves. Services are exchanged, gold continues to circulate within the community, supply matches demand, and the ecosystem thrives. But when people pay for carries using real-life currency, it throws the whole system out of whack. Oh, it’s also totally illegal, and Blizzard has banned a bunch of players who have been selling carries for cash. Read more about it here.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is finally finished. In the tradition of its spiritual father, Planescape: Torment, Tides of Numenera revolves around a central question. In Planescape: Torment, it was thus: What can change the nature of a man? In Tides of Numenera, it is: How much does one life matter? The answer is given after a long, strange journey through a grotesque world built on the bones of countless dead civilizations and impossible landscapes made possible through science that has been long forgotten and abandoned. Read Carli Velocci’s full review here.

Dunkey, the world’s funkiest videogame troll occasionally reviews games, found a way to harness the cuccos of Zelda: Breath of the Wild into his own personal army. That’s right. Those galline (like that freshman year Latin being put to use?) berserkers that mob you when you harm one of their own can be redirected to your foes. Dunkey flung a cucco at an enemy and watched as a pack of clucking raptors swarmed around it and pecked it to death. See it in action here.

And that’s it for this week’s Roundup! See ya next week!

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