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The Games Festival will bring free demos to The Game Awards

Geoff Keighley expands the scope of The Game Awards to include The Games Festival, a bundle of free demos available on Steam.

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Skatebird demo The Games Festival
Glass Bottom Games

Geoff Keighley expands the scope of The Game Awards to include The Games Festival, a bundle of free demos available on Steam.

The Game Awards 2019 kick off tomorrow. In it, Geoff Keighley will hand out awards to the year’s best games, in addition to dropping trailers for new releases to come. (We already know that Ghosts of Tsushima is one of them.)

It’s fast becoming apparent that The Game Awards is more than just an award show. It’s another sign of the power shift away from E3, for one thing, with Nintendo Direct (and Nintendo Direct-style) video presentations the norm, even during an awards ceremony.

Adding another arrow to The Game Awards’ quiver, Keighley announced today, in a post on Medium, a new element of The Game Awards: The Games Festival. It’s simultaneously an unremarkable name, a bit of a misnomer, and potentially an attempt to squat on a name or trademark that an actual games festival – in the Glastonbury, gathering sense – could be using.

But these qualms aside, The Games Festival is a nice idea. In conjunction with Steam and a number of developers, demos for 12 unreleased games are going to be made available for two days, to celebrate The Game Awards.

Here are the games:

  • System Shock (Nightdive Studios)
  • Eastward (Pixpil/Chucklefish)
  • Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus)
  • Moving Out (SMG Studio/Devm Games/Team17)
  • Röki (Polygon Treehouse/United Label)
  • Chicory (Greg Lobanov)
  • Wooden Nickel (Brain&Brain)
  • Haven (The Game Bakers)
  • Heavenly Bodies (2pt Interactive)
  • Acid Knife (Powerhoof)
  • The Drifter (Powerhoof)
  • Carrion (Phobia/Devolver)
  • Skatebird (Glass Bottom Games)

We’ve played a few of these games already, including System Shock, Spiritfarer, and Skatebird, and we’d highly recommend giving them a go.

The Games Festival demo jamboree kicks off at 10 am Pacific (6 pm GMT) tomorrow, December 12, 2019. It runs for exactly 48 hours, which – if you can’t be bothered to count on your fingers – means it will finish at 10 am Pacific (6 pm GMT) on Saturday, December 14.

The Game Awards, meanwhile, streams live tomorrow at 5.30 pm Pacific, which is 1.30 in the morning in the UK.

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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Rocket League goes free-to-play, promptly breaks concurrency records, servers

Rocket League shows the perils and potential of going free to play with its server issues and huge player numbers.

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Rocket League free to play concurrency records
Psyonix

Rocket League shows the perils and potential of going free to play with its server issues and huge player numbers.

September 23, 2020, marked a shift in the life of the multiplayer hit, Rocket League. As well as making the move from Steam to the Epic Game Store, it made its football-with-cars antics free-to-play on every platform. Existing Steam players can still use the Steam version, however, and updates will continue.

Rocket League’s move from mid-priced game to free-to-play inevitably disrupted the servers in a big way, however.

It was exacerbated by the shift coinciding with a “new competitive season”. Rocket League took to Twitter to announce that “Tournaments, Challenges, and other Rocket League features are impacted by this degradation”. Whilst they managed to get the servers stable that day, it might have concerned regulars about the game long-term.

It’s been mere days, but the future now looks even brighter for the already beaming game. 

Corey Davis, the co-studio head of Psyonix Studios, took to Twitter to announce that the game had reached a new milestone of 1 million concurrent players. Commenters claim it went as high as 1.4 million. That comes with the caveat that all platforms are being counted given its crossplay support. It encapsulates the PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, Steam and Epic Game Store populations. If you support cross-play, I think you can be permitted the boast.

It’s a big boost in player population for a game that’s mostly averaged 60,000 to 80,000 on Steam since it was released five years ago. Even on Steam, Rocket League has now hit an all-time player high of 129,060 within the last 24 hours. 

For those who somehow have never partaken or just like a good deal, as we reported yesterday you can now secure yourself a £10 coupon if you redeem the game on the Epic Game Store.


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Surprise! Classic Metal Gear games are now available on GOG

The Metal Gear classics on GOG are looking exactly like they did when they first released. (Which is great, if that’s what you want?)

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Metal Gear Solid available GOG

The Metal Gear classics on GOG are looking exactly like they did when they first released. (Which is great, if that’s what you want?)

GOG like their surprise rereleases of classic games. Today marks the first time Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid, and Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance have seen a release on digital storefronts. 

Additionally, GOG sees the launch of the Konami Collector’s Series, which packs in Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Contra and Super C.

The releases of Metal Gear games are as complicated as its timeline, so I’ll happily bow down to experts on this. The two Metal Gear Solid releases are early 2000s ports that might require some fan patch TLC

It’s also not the best shape you’ll have ever seen the games. As The Verge recommends, if you’re looking for better-looking versions, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a remake of Metal Gear Solid that was made for the Nintendo GameCube in early 2004. Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is actually an updated version of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but only Sons of Liberty saw HD updates on the Xbox 360 and PS3. 

(And if you’re looking for a primer on what makes Metal Gear Solid 2 so flipping cool, you could do a lot worse than this piece from the Cut Scenes archives, comparing its cinematography to The Terminator.)

Provided you can stomach their raw visuals and a fan patch or two, then, these will be some popular releases.

Who knows? Maybe this paves the road to some Silent Hill digital re-issues.


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Among Us 2 cancelled as devs prioritise original game

Among Us 2 is dead, long live Among Us!

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Among Us 2 cancelled
Innersloth / Thumbsticks

Among Us 2 is dead, long live Among Us!

It’s been an odd year. It wasn’t enough for 2020 to have one indie mega-hit in Fall Guys, which recently joined Overwatch as the highest-earning digital launch of a PC title since 2016. Within three months, Twitch propelled the successful 2018 game Among Us from 10 million downloads on Android’s Google Play store to 100 million, and it now has somewhere between 4 million or 10 million owners on Steam depending on your estimate.

As of the time of writing, the 24-hour peak of 357,074 more or less reaches the all-time concurrent player peak of 388,385. It shows no signs of slowing down.

Whatever the true numbers, they’re big. It’s understandable, then, that Innersloth has decided to throw caution to the wind and not disrupt this momentum with a community split. Among Us 2, announced just a month ago, is cancelled. Don’t fret, though: all the intended Among Us 2 content is coming to the existing game. 

It seems like a great pro-consumer move, but Innersloth’s intentions with the sequel were positive, too. In the Steam announcement, Innersloth clarified, “The main reason we were shooting for a sequel is because the codebase of Among Us 1 is so outdated and not built to support adding so much new content.”

In a former post they stated, “frankly, it’s terrifying to add in more things because the game is so fragile. Fixing this would require recreating core sections of Among Us, then making sure everything else still works on top. It’s actually even harder than just making a new game.”

Despite this, Innersloth is going for it. “All of the content we had planned for Among Us 2 will instead go into Among Us 1. This is probably the more difficult choice because it means going deep into the core code of the game and reworking several parts of it.”

Shed a tear for and offer a hearty pat on the back to Innersloth who now face the more difficult job of developing their unexpected success into a workable long-term platform. It feels more than reminiscent of Bungie’s decision to focus on Destiny 2 as a platform over developing Destiny 3.

Among the promised new content are an end to server issues, colourblind support, a  friends/account system, and a new stage.

Does 2020 have room for one more runaway indie success, I wonder?


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Large PS5 game install sizes revealed, but will it matter?

PS5 game installs are getting big, just like the console itself, but at least there’s that fast SSD to rely on.

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PlayStation 5 consoles
Sony / Thumbsticks

PS5 game installs are getting big, just like the console itself, but at least there’s that fast SSD to rely on.

Some PlayStation 5 launch game install sizes have been revealed. Among them we see that Bluepoint’s remaster of Demons Souls will consume 66 GB, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales alone will eat up 50 GB, and with an additional remaster of Marvel’s Spider-Man in the game’s Ultimate Edition you will reach an ungodly 105 GB. That’s more or less spot-on the install size of Red Dead Redemption 2 last gen. Just about as large as it ever got.

So does it matter? I’m an infamous install juggler myself. Whilst the logical thing as a PC player has always been to have a large HDD for storage and an SSD for performance, I’ve always opted for a lone SSD of only 500 GB or even as low as 250 GB!

The PS5 will have a peculiarly specific 825 GB of SSD storage space. That’s lower than some might be used to from the previous generation, but those 1 TB consoles were all mechanical drives. The PlayStation 5’s custom solid-state storage will be capable of reading up to 5.5 GB a second of raw data. That puts my 530 MB/s or 0.52 GB/s SSD to shame. Even the very top-end PC SSDs only reach a raw bandwidth of around 5 GB/s, with faster speeds reserved for enterprise drives used in data centre applications. As far as console players are concerned, it’s 100x faster than the PS4’s current mechanical hard drives.

Part of the promise of Sony’s next-gen console, then, is an elimination of “long patch installs” and, presumably, long game installs with it. A fast write-speed is all well and good, but fast downloads and installs of a game juggler like myself will need a fast internet speed to take advantage.

We’ll have to see just how these speeds affect the install process when the console arrives on November 19. (In the UK. We’re not still sore about that. Honest.)


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Three pretty good games are free on Xbox One this weekend

Round up some friends for this week’s crop of Xbox One Free Play Days games. 

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The Division 2 - Xbox One
Ubisoft / Microsoft / Thumbsticks

Round up some friends for this week’s crop of Xbox One Free Play Days games.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is a tricky game to love. It’ a reliably solid online action RPG of the type Ubisoft can knockout on a reliably regular basis. However, it doesn’t meaningfully expand on the original, and the game’s overall tone and fence-sitting political stance is a touch wearisome. Nonetheless, it’s a fundamentally well-constructed experience, and free is free.

Meanwhile in Reikland, the forces of Chaos and Skaven need defeating. Buddy up with four players to deliciously dismember hordes of enemies in Warhammer: Vermintide 2. Fatshark’s online co-op extravaganza is an action-packed treat that is helped along by a stirring score from composer Jesper Kyd.

This weekend’s final free game is Bomber Crew from Runner Duck. Don’t let first impressions fool you. This cute looking plane game is a plate-spinning masterclass of real-time strategy.

All three games are free to download and play for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members until midnight on Sunday. Any earned achievements and save states will carry over into purchased copies of each game, two of which are also on sale.

Xbox One Free Play Days Discounts

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

  • Standard Edition – 67% off

Warhammer: Vermintide 2

  • Standard Edition – 75% off
  • Ultimate Edition – 75% off

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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