The Roundup: The Iron Lords Welcome NYVGCC, Meg’s Monster, ULTRAKILL, TLOU’s Abby’s Muscles, Ubisoft’s AI For Narrative!

By Ronald Gordon

Hello and welcome back to the Roundup! It’s the Critics Circle’s bi-weekly way of gathering up stories from interns and members alike to give them a shoutout! Whilst I was hopping around from game to game, I managed to write up a review of ULTRAKILL, one of the few shooters I come back to often and the hardest challenge I ever game my fingers. Aside from that, this week we’ve got Harold featured in an episode of the Iron Lords Podcast, a review of a game about monsters and emotions, news on a living computer made of mouse brains, and so much more! 

Starting off comes Harold Goldberg with a pretty deep podcast he’s featured on. From talking with famous rappers to talking games with Reggie Fils-Aime, the ever-charismatic Harold found himself at the roundtable of the Iron Lords Podcast. While talking to Lord Cognito, Lord Sovereign, and KING, Lord Harold recounted his humble beginnings in music journalism and shared many opinions on the games industry nowadays. It’s a very in-depth and impactful talk about everything games in New York and how things for the NYVGCC started to barrel out into what is its work today. I’d highly suggest having a listen if you’ve got the time. 

Young intern Khloe Wilkerson wrote about Meg’s Monster and the emotions it conveys through its strong narrative. While most RPG games revolve around keeping things balanced in combat, Meg’s Monster throws normality to the wayside with its mechanics. While the unbreakable monster Roy has a whopping 99,999 health, Meg can’t bear to see him even slightly hurt. “With each blow Roy receives, her emotional health deteriorates. If her health declines too much, she’ll begin to cry. Thankfully, you won’t lose hours of gaming if you ever reach the moment where she cries; you will only need to restart that particular battle.” Khloe writes, showing that while the crying may be just another way of incorporating a health bar, this simple mechanic gives Meg’s Monster a deeper sense of connection between the two main characters. “Overall, Meg’s Monster is a game that combines fun without difficult controls, a breathtaking emotional plot, charming pixel images, and great music to produce a one-of-a-kind gaming experience. Like good ice cream on a hot summer day, it’s short, sweet, and delightful.”

With 2023’s GDC currently underway featuring an Indie Games Awards show hosted by a person of color, Stephen Totilo pays tribute to those that have passed as the event has done for years now. “The gaming industry, and the culture around it, is no longer young. As the decades stack up, more of gaming’s pioneers and its day-to-day contributors are passing on, creating a need to recognize them.” It’s a somber truth: the industry that started many years ago is losing many of its initial developers. Yet, this doesn’t mean that what is lost is meant to be forgotten as GDC is paying homage to those that passed with a livestream on their Twitch. This honor is one that Stephen and I can agree should happen a lot more often. Says the writer, “The glitzy Game Awards, airing each December with Oscars-chasing pomp, do not include one. Nor does the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) awards held annually in February at the DICE convention.” 

In lighter news, Alyssa Mercante has some strong words in regards to The Last of Us show and its potential Season 2. With Season 1 of the live action show coming and going with high praises all around, the prospect of Abby Anderson’s character appearing in Season 2 has fans like Alyssa pleading for her actor to have muscles. “When The Last of Us Part II first released back in June 2020, gamers had meltdowns over Abby for two key reasons: She enacts some seriously brutal revenge and she is incredibly ripped. I’m talking biceps the size of my head, defined triceps, and strong shoulders—all things that make the dark dude corners of Reddit very scared and very angry about being so scared.” In cases like TLOU2’s Abby or Horizon Forbidden West’s Aloy, the internet’s asinine outrage over women looking muscular has to come to an end eventually. Luckily, there’s plenty of potential choices for muscular females who could fill Abby’s sleeveless shirts, leaving fans like Alyssa to cross their fingers and pray at least someone bulky is cast. “Casting an actor who is athletically inclined and already ripped up like a bad report card as Abby in The Last of Us season two makes a ton of sense—though I find myself longing to see a wild bulk-up of an actor not already built like a brick shithouse.”

With the rapid advancements in technology happening day by day, it’s no surprise that Jorge Jimenez brings news of a new Cyberpunk-esque computer made of something bizarre. What can only be described as a living computer, a machine made of 80,000 mouse stem cells was recently created in the US. While it may seem freaky to hear of such a creation coming about, it’s a telling sign that soon biotechnology will become a lot more advanced. Writes, Jorge, “Eventually it’s hoped that reservoir computing could be used to create more efficient devices, that could also maintain continued functionality if parts are damaged or break down. The New Scientist report states that at the moment this mouse brain-bot can’t yet match conventional neural networks in terms of raw performance, but the team is aiming to make a larger living computer.” Jorge’s detailing of the research shows that in due time, neural networks and other living computers have a chance to become even more advanced as time goes on. Meaning soon enough, AI and other prospects along those lines will have a greater aptitude for pattern recognition and the like. Whether that’s a good sign for technological advancements or a telling sign that SkyNET is one step closer to completion, only time will tell. 

Beyond the Circle

In other news revolving AI, Ubisoft is developing their own AI in order to aid screenwriters in creating non-essential gameplay sounds and phrases. In an article on Video Games Chronicle, Tom Ivan writes “According to the publisher, ‘Ubisoft Ghostwriter’ will be used to generate the first draft of the chatter of crowds and triggered NPC lines.” NPCs fill the world of every game, and with large scale open world games such Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or Watch Dogs: Legion, it’s no wonder Ubisoft seeks to expedite the process of scripting the hordes of names and faces. Says the writer, “While these sounds and phrases are central to immersing players in its game worlds, Ubisoft said using AI to help do so will enable its narrative teams to work on less repetitive tasks.” The idea of Ubisoft Ghostwriter is one of many ways that AI can help lighten the workload of many games’ companies, and Tom’s article does wonders in exploring the pros and cons of its use. Give his article a read for all of the details, including how fans seem to be reacting to Ubisoft’s announcement of the AI. 

Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.

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