News: Indefinite Operational Suppression

Crystal Chronicles Multiplayer Is Region Locked

Well jeez. Sometimes one suspects that Mr Sqenix was the protege of Mr Nintendo. In the eyes of Mr Sqenix it is still 1980, and all of our friends live within walking distance! Certainly we would never have friends living in foreign countries, as how would we walk there to see them? And even if one did maintain a foreign penpal, they surely would not expect to be able to play video games together, right? Like how could the controller cord possibly stretch that far?!

Another Square Enix missed opportunity.
Not much more useful than the offline version.

Jeez. In 2004 the newly minted Square Enix made a pretty great multiplayer game, which was somewhat constrained by the technology of the day. The technical ability to have made Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles an online multiplayer game certainly existed at the time, but it had not yet taken off in a way that demanded that the feature be viewed as standard and necessary in a multiplayer game. Times have changed though.

With the HD remaster of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Square Enix had a chance to right an old wrong, and indeed it looked like they were doing just that. The game was to feature online multiplayer. Great! The online multiplayer was to be cross-platform. Even better! But then came the news that local multiplayer had been stripped out because of “development reasons”, and now on essentially the eve of the game’s release we are smacked in the face with tidings that the game’s online multiplayer has been region locked – preventing many of us from being able to play with our friends!

The game’s promotional site proudly proclaims:

Players on seperate platforms, whether it be Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, or even iOS and Android, can come together to enjoy online gameplay!

Accessible Adventure! Enjoyable with Anyone!

Enjoyable with anyone, but not even enjoyable with one’s friends on the same damn console! Who gives a shit about playing cross-platform with strangers on a smartphone, when we are unable to even play with our own damn friends?! Square Enix’s development efforts appear to have been misplaced, and instead of honest marketing, the bad news is hidden in fine print at the bottom of the page:

In online multiplayer mode, a player will only be matched with others in the region specific to the player’s software.

Well fuggg. It is unknown at this point whether there is any sort of work around that might allow players to manually setup games with their international friends, but it really does not sound promising. There is some good news however, and that is that because there is a ‘Lite’ version of the game, that means that we can test out the limitations of the game’s match making for free.

Apocalypse iOS

One of the biggest tech companies on the planet has gone to war with what must be the biggest game developer and (newly) the biggest game publisher on the planet – and we are reaping the entertainment benefits. Last week we were reporting that Epic had broken the Apple TOS, and subsequently Apple had pulled Fortnite, currently the biggest game in the world, from sale on the iOS store. Well things have escalated quickly, and Apple have ejected Epic from their developer program, while Epic for their part are taking Apple to court over antitrust issues.

It looks just like Tim Cook!
Epic miss no opporunity to twist the knife in.

Epic’s suspension from Apple’s developer program is crippling for use of the Unreal Engine on the iOS platform. The developer program gives app developers access to iOS revisions before they ever hit the market, so that they can make their apps compliant. Epic relies on this access in order to make their engine compliant with future firmware, and to offer their licensees up to date engine support. The fact that they have been suspended from this program may not strictly speaking constitute an outright ban on Unreal Engine games on iOS, but it is as good as, since developers will not want to use the engine if their apps keep breaking every time there is a firmware update.

While this might be crippling for uptake and use of the Unreal Engine on iOS, this is definitely a situation that Epic walked into with their eyes wide open, and thus it is definitely a fight they chose to have. Since Fortnite was pulled from the iOS store last week it has since come to light that Apple sent Epic multiple letters giving them 14 days notice, and warning them of the consequences if they failed to bring their Fortnite app into TOS compliance. This means that any inconvenience cause to Epic licensees can only be laid at the feet of Epic themselves, who appear to have viewed them as acceptable collateral in their battle for long term strategic advantage within the iOS ecosystem.

The facts of the matter certainly have not stopped Epic from painting Apple as the bad guy however. Epic’s #FreeFortnite Cup was delightfully trollish in its conception. Epic are really twisting the knife by billing it as the last time that iOS players will ever get to play with their multiplatform peers, before the game is updated to a newer version the very next day – forever leaving them behind. Of course Epic do not have to update Fortnight the next day. They could postpone the update by a few weeks as all the legal wrangling is worked out. Nobody has a gun to Tim Sweeney’s head demanding that he update the game post haste. But no, Epic are updating the game, and it is totally Apple’s fault that iOS players will be left behind.

Honestly, at this point it seems likely that once the court gets involved things will, for all intents and purposes, revert to the status quo prior to Epic’s TOS breach – which should suit Apple just fine. They want Fortnite to be up on their store making them millions of dollars, and are only fighting to reassert the status quo where they were not being circumvented. Epic are pleading to the courts for an injunction that would prevent Apple from taking any kind of action against them for their breaking of the TOS that they signed on for, which just seems unrealistic. What will probably happen is that a Judge will order a resumption of their business relationship prior to the backdoor payment option that Epic snuck into their game until the case can be tried – and this is unlikely to be wrapped up before the end of Fortnite’s natural life.

Bloodlines 2: A Bloody Mess

Anyone with a preorder for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 might want to cancel it now, because the game looks to be in the midst of severe development difficulties. When Bloodlines 2 was conceived at Hardsuit Labs it faced a problem of legitimacy. Hardsuit had bought the license to develop the game from World of Darkness, but no one at the studio had any kind of relation to the original production, or even to the studio that developed it. Because of that they specifically reached out to bring Brian Mitsuda on board, who was the original game’s lead writer, and then proceeded to push his involvement hard in all the game’s marketing. Embarrassing then to have to turn around this week and admit that the guy they used in all of their marketing had to be shitcanned!

Can Paradox turn things around?
Bloodlines 2 looks to be badly botched.

When earlier this month it was announced that Bloodlines 2 had been delayed into 2021, one thought nothing of it, as the Chinese flu has meant that most everything is facing a delay of some description – yet it appears that the situation was far more dire than anyone was led to believe. Miyamoto is famous for saying that a delayed game is eventually good, but that is not actually a promise, and one holds out no great hope for Bloodlines 2. This week it has been revealed that Brian Mitsuda (lead writer) and Ka’ai Cluney (the game’s director) were both fired in mid-June. To be honest, the game’s director deserves to be fired for his name alone. At any rate, it would seem that the higher-ups at publisher Paradox either were not happy with the way (or pace at which) the game was coming together, or were not happy with the game’s narrative direction. The latter seems more likely, given that the lead writer was unceremoniously turfed. It seems likely that the two were gotten rid of either because the publisher/developer wishes to implement sweeping narrative changes, or modest narrative changes that the creative leads were being intransigent about. Now Paradox has brought on Alexandre Mandryka, a ‘game design consultant’ formerly of Ubisoft, in order to fill the power vacuum. Apparently he is being likened to the video game equivalent of a dramaturg.

Paradox are not necessarily wrong for getting rid of the creative leads. Mitsuda has done very little of note since Bloodlines 1 was released back in 2004, and production in general has shown a ton of warning signs such as scores of people being banned from the game’s Steam forums for criticising their shoehorning in of woke Seattle politics and a pronoun selector. It would be nice if Paradox gave them the boot in order to expunge some of this ideological nonsense. Whether this is the case or not however, one would have to figure that the game is in pretty rough shape either way. It is also being salvaged by a former Ubisoft lead. Better to cancel that preorder and not lay down your money until the quality of the game can be assessed. Whatever the case, this author supposes that it would not not be a proper sequel to Bloodlines without a tortured development that threatens to pull the entire studio under.