Once again, it’s on! Welcome to Replay, WIRED’s rundown of all of the week’s big videogame news. Grab a snack, lean back, and let’s get to it.
Valve Swears Half-Life: Alyx Is Actually, Really, Legitimately Done
Valve does not have an amazing reputation for releasing games. Especially when it comes to Half-Life. Ask a certain breed of gamers about what happened to Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and chances are they’ll just lie down on the ground and moan in front of you. So as the release date for the new VR experience Half-Life: Alyx approaches, and other high-profile games face delays, it’s understandable fans might be worried.
Which is why it’s actually notable, and kind of funny, that in a Reddit AMA, as quoted by Kotaku, Valve explicitly and deliberately emphasized that, yes, the game is pretty much already done and will be released in March, as promised. “With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done,” the dev team said. “Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times. Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release.”
But, like … Do you promise? Pinky swear?
Ninja Theory Announces New Game Experience on ‘The Horrors of the Mind’
Ninja Theory’s most recent success was in the form of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a game that purported to take psychosis and PTSD and place them into a compelling fantasy context. It was controversial, to say the least, with some people thinking it was a little exploitative. Whether or not you agree with that, it’s interesting and maybe a little troubling to see Ninja Theory double down on this new direction. As PC Gamer reports, the company is presently working on Project: Mara, an experimental game designed, based on research and interviews, to “recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible.”
That feels … a little odd. While I’m all here for representations of mental illness, “horrors of the mind” sounds less like a nuanced portrayal of someone’s pain and more like, uh, a pitch for a psychological thriller on Netflix. I liked Hellblade, but I’m a bit wary here. To be fair, Ninja Theory is also working on a broader initiative, the Insight Project, aimed at using videogames to address mental health issues. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how the game is received.
Annual GDC Survey Reveals Steady Rise in Support for Unionization
Every year, the Game Developers Conference releases a survey on the state of videogames, tabulating results from all across the industry. GDC just released its 2020 overview, and there are some interesting results. For instance, out of the approximately 4,000 respondents, 54 percent support unionization in the games industry. This is up from last year, the first year the question was asked, when only 47 percent showed support.
The survey also found that most developers work more than full time, most working over 60 hours per week. What these results will mean for the future is unclear, but it does demonstrate that dissatisfaction with labor conditions in the industry is high, and might be rising. Whether or not unionization comes, we’re not going to stop hearing about this anytime soon.
Recommendation of the Week: Half-Life 2 on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
I have mixed feelings about the second Half-Life game. It’s frustratingly linear, uninterested in answering any of the questions asked by its plot, and generally just a little clunkier than you might have hoped. But the 2005 sequel is still a massively important moment in the history of games, and with the VR prequel on the way, now is a good time to check it out. It’s being offered free to play on Steam until Alyx comes out. So if you haven’t experienced this little piece of history, now is the time to do so.
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