It has been two weeks, but the bulletin is back! We have some ground to make up and some past events to discuss (a conference), so get ready: in this week’s bulletin, we discuss TIPCO2 (obviously), Valhalla, Xbox and Playstation Launch, Empire of Sin, Bitsy, EU4, video games in the classroom and Hideo Kojima!
TIPCO2 Round Up
Last week we held The Interactive Pasts Conference Online 2. You of course already knew that, but we just want to say it was awesome and we were happy to see you all there. But in the unfortunate event that you have missed one of the talks (live and during the re-stream), do not dispair! We will be uploading all the talks to our YouTube Channel, albeit not all at once. For now, you can watch two session, so keep your head up for more content coming your way! In the mean time, check out Jon Ingold’s Keynote from day one!
Video series on Imperator Rome
Some more VALUE video stuff! Our lovely intern Corine Gerritsen (TimesnewRoman) has started a video series on Paradox Interactive’s Imperator Rome. The first two episodes were premiered at TIPCO2, and the first episode is now available on our YouTube channel. Head over to YouTube channel or watch below, as TimesnewRoman tells us everything about the Etruscans, and why they are a one trick pony in Imperator Rome!
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
This week the new Assassin’s Creed game was launched. Called Valhalla it is set in the Viking Era. You play as Eivor the Viking (duh) on your travels to richer lands (England). Last week at TIPCO2, some divided opinions could already be heard about the game, especially the depiction of Viking history (not really accurate of course). There was more news, which I will sum up in this slightly longer piece about Valhalla.
Overall, reviews were positive. Our own Doc Random made a wordcloud (above) of multiple reviews, and a few things stand out. The way Valhalla builds upon it’s predecessors, but is also different is a talking point. The main protagonist being both male and female is also a big talking point. Ubisoft explained that the Animus is working with two DNA-streams, and it is therefor unclear if Eivor is male or female. This seems acceptable in the world of playing with history through DNA, but Valhalla is taking it further on other elements. Zack Zwiezen of Kotaku explains how he won’t ride the big wolf in the game (only available in the very expensive Ultimate Edition though), just because it is too much fantasy. Indeed, the ambiguity of the Animus cannot explain magic wolves in the game. Aris ‘Ymir’ Politopoulos rightfully expresses his concerns regarding these mythical beings, as a front for Ubisoft to hide behind when criticism about historical inaccuracies rise: ‘Because they can always point to the wolf or whatever and say “yes it’s history, but come on, we have a giant wolf in there”.
And those criticisms aren’t ungrounded. As said before, there had been talk of the misrepresentation of Vikings in the game. Whereas the first trailers seemed to do good to Viking history, the latest (#likeaViking) only seemed to cement the common conception that Vikings were raiding, killing warmongers who kill everything in their paths (which of course isn’t true). Even though Ubisoft accompanied the game with a (historical) podcast, with more context about the Vikings, historical inaccuracies seemed to seap through every crack of the Valhalla longship, as TimesnewRoman explored in her Stratigraph on the podcast. To quote TnR: ‘I just don’t get why you would ask experts to answer questions, use those in your podcast to be able to tell the ‘true’ story of the Vikings and then discredit them by using that voiceover.’
Not helping is the fact that the historians who worked together with Ubisoft on the game and the podcasts are not allowed to talk about it. They’re not even allowed to tell the public why they were asked to work on the project. It all seems that Ubisoft either have something to hide, or they are just counting on the public not caring too much. However, if you do want expert opinions on the game, we’re here for you! Yesterday we streamed the game together with Liam ‘Moe/Moebius’ McLeod, who knows more about the Middle Ages than we all do combined. Check it out below (I know it’s long, but it’s worth the watch!)
Xbox Series & Playstation 5 launches
This week saw not only the launch of the new Assassin’s Creed game, it was also the launch week for the new consoles from Microsoft and Playstation. The new XboX Series S & X and the Playstation 5 are supposed to bring next-gen gaming to all households. Supposed yes, because they are of course already short in stock. We don’t have either one, so we can’t really tell you which one is better. You could check the reviews on Kotaku: Ian Walker played with the PS5, and Mike Fahey took a look at the Xbox Series. The Xbox (especially the S) seems to provide good value for (less) money, but might become outdated in the long run. The PS5 is a very powerful machine, but is quite expensive. What console will you pick (if you can finally get one).
In a recent dev diary, Paradox announced the results of a survey of about 10,000 players of EU4. The survey was partly focussed around the ‘hardcore’ players, with over half of the respondents having played more than 1000 (!) hours of the game. I’m not really sure what questions were asked, but Paradox did give us a nice list of most played nations:
- France 6.16%
- Ottomans 5.08%
- Austria 4.39%
- Byzantium 4.39%
- Custom Nation 4.23%
- England 3.35%
- Castile 3.29%
- Brandenburg 3.11%
- Ming 2.24%
- Portugal 2.12%
The data used will also help towards the development of another (yes, really) DLC for the game. Read more in the Dev Diary.
Video games in the classroom
This is just for the people among us who can understand Dutch, but our own Angus ‘Dr. Random’ Mol was asked by news outlet nu.nl about using historical video games in education. You can check the entire video here!
Preview: Empire Of Sin
Rock Paper Shotgun’s Nate Crowley got his hands on a copy of Empire of Sin for a preview. The verdict: it’s looking very promising. In a seamless combination of four other Mafia-themed games, Empire of Sin tells the story of Prohibition era Chicago. It’s a mafia-management game to look out for! Read Crowley’s entire preview here, or watch a clip of the management system below!
People are making amazing, tiny games with Bitsy
There are some very creative people out there. They can create amazing pieces of art, literature and games. And the latter is not only reserved for devs at big studios, but also you and me. With the use of programs such as Bitsy, people are creating beautiful, abstract and amazing small games. Andy Kelly of PC Gamer has some favourites you could check out. Also definitely check the admissions in the Archaeology section of the Bitsy Jam, like Jordan Oloman’s The Spaghetti Western Excavation.
A Brief History of Hideo Kojima: The Making of Homo Ludens
Ever wondered how Hideo Kojima came to be the creator of some of the worlds biggest video games? And how he ever thought of creating Death Stranded a.k.a. the largest walking simulator ever made? You can now read a brief history of Kojima by Smangaliso Simelane of Keengamer. It’s a pretty good insight into the mind of Hideo. Read it here!