Games We Grew Up On: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

There was something uncannily familiar about the package I received on Christmas day in 2003, perhaps the memory was so intense that it transcended conventional time, or perhaps I just recognised the PS2 box shaped packaging. Continue reading “Games We Grew Up On: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”

What We Want To See From The Nintendo Switch in 2018

Over the Christmas period, many of us at UTM found ourselves in possession of a Nintendo Switch – giving us ample opportunity to delve into the incredible roster of games it accumulated across 2017. With Nintendo hoping to shift 20 million units this year, there’s a sense that they’re building up towards another huge year. We turned our speculative desires into words, presenting you with a list of our biggest hopes for the Nintendo Switch in 2018.

Apps

switchapps

Come on, be a real console! Nintendo can do batshit crazy stuff like sell cardboard and call it innovation cuz fanboys will romanticise and fantasise about pretty much anything. But equally there as many people who WANT switch to be a ‘real console’.

They’re doing okay on the game front, but modern consoles aren’t just for games, they’re a multimedia centre. Give me Twitch, give me YouTube, give me Crunchyroll, give me all the apps! No one will have any need for an iPad if they got a tablet that can play games and do ALL THAT SHIT TOO, for a good price!

Nintendo will always be the ‘other’ console without basic modern functionality, and I really want them to be a part of the best console discussion. I also really don’t want to fork out for an iPad just to watch anime in bed.

More 3rd Party Ports

Although Breath of The Wild and Mario Odyssey were stunning entries to their respective franchises, to access all the incredible roster of games from 2017, your gonna need another console – namely a PS4 (sorry Microsoft). Their list of 3rd party partners announced at the initial Switch unveiling is a wealth of port possibilities and the handheld nature gives these games a whole new aspect in which they can be repurchased.

With Atlus on board hopefully there’s chance to take Persona 5 everywhere in an attempt to make a dent in the gargantuan storyline and max our confidant bonds with Ann (not Yusuke though – worst boy), whilst Square Enix and Platinum could give us a chance to do an introspective weep on the train with NieR: Automata.

No Rushed Major Titles

It’d be impossible for Nintendo to recreate landmark year they had in 2017, their major titles set a whole new benchmark for quality. It’s important that the console shifting franchises they have left are given plenty of time to meet the new standards, and to ensure the Switch isn’t devoid of high quality games in future years.

To guarantee that kids and those who are kids at heart will be unwrapping a Nintendo Switch at Christmas, it’s obvious they’ll need at least one huge game to draw more people in. Animal Crossing seems like the least taxing option, it feels too early to see our favourite mascots scrapping in a new Super Smash Bros, and it’d be a surprise if Metroid Prime 4 is ready for 2018 given it was only presentable in JPEG form at E3.

However, the rumoured push for a Pokémon title in 2018 is the most worrying prospect given that the 3DS is defined by the wasted potential of the games that feel unfinished – exciting prospects were unrealised, the amount of newly introduced Pokémon shrank dramatically, and the worlds were barren of exploration. Game Freak definitely need plenty of time to craft their own Breath of The Wild.

Switch Integration With Mobile Apps

mobile

Whilst the Switch was undeniably the golden goose of Nintendo’s 2017, the company also deserves credit for its improved forays into the mobile app market following 2016’s lacklustre social app Miitomo and the gimmicky Super Mario Run. Fire Emblem Heroes was an excellent example of scaling down a series to be more accessible to newcomers whilst rolling out features catered towards its longterm devotees and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp offered a welcome return to the communal aspect of the franchise that fans had grown to miss.

When Nintendo initially teased Animal Crossing for mobile in 2016, they had mentioned they were working to ensure that the smartphone spin-off “will be connected with the world of Animal Crossing for dedicated gaming systems” in future – an aspect they’ve curiously gone mute on following its release. With mainline Switch releases for both Fire Emblem and (assumedly) Animal Crossing on the way, it would be a wasted opportunity for Ninty to not capitalise on their micro successes in some shape or form – whether it be via promotional campaigns and login bonuses in the countdowns to their releases or expense-free opportunities to earn skill points or resources to use on either system.

The Long-Awaited Return of Virtual Console

virtualconsole

To both their benefit and their detriment, Nintendo have always been about innovating the way we play games – a desire most recently demonstrated by the announcement of Nintendo Labo this week, a collection of cardboard contraptions built with the intent of offering more child-friendly ways to interact with the Switch. For many, however, the foundation of their love for Nintendo lies simply in their esteemed history of iconic video game titles – making the current omission of a much-adored feature acknowledging exactly that on the Switch all the more frustrating.

It’s uncertain as to why Virtual Console – the Wii era e-shop staple that offered console owners the chance to purchase older titles they missed/miss conveniently on one console – is yet to appear on the Switch. Some speculate that it’ll be revealed alongside the console’s fee-based online services later this year. Perhaps, however, the sweeping popularity of remasters has influenced their approach to porting old titles – a sound business decision supported by the recently revealed HD remaster of the cult DS RPG The World Ends With You and various fully-priced Wii U ports. Regardless of the circumstances, the sooner Nintendo can get their iconic back catalogue of old-school console gems – Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Kirby Air Ride to name a choice few – to their portable hardware prince, the better it’ll be for business and consumer alike.

Nathan Butler, Connor Cass & Joshua Pauley

Overwatch League is Dead: Long Live Overwatch League

Despite being less than 2 years old, Blizzard’s flagship FPS Overwatch has become one of the most popular games involved with eSports. Huge events such as Overwatch Contenders and the Overwatch World Cup have paved the way for a massive endeavour in the form of Overwatch League – a major global eSports league designed to showcase and celebrate the best players from all around the world.

Not everyone is pleased though, which is ultimately to be expected from people who spend a lot of time on the internet – it’s not exactly a ‘bastion’ of positivity (sometimes the puns write themselves). Nevertheless, you’d expect fans of the game to want to see it prosper on the grand eSports stage, which Blizzard have literally built themselves; the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, Los Angeles is a testament to exactly how much money has gone into making the OWL happen.

Yet financial worries have plagued OWL’s debut, due to its high buy-in cost and predictions by investment management companies that indicate OWL could be “written off as a passing fad.”

Other controversies surrounding the OWL’s lack of inclusivity surfaced after Deadspin and Kotaku’s bastard eSports child pointed out that no one signed the most prominent female Overwatch player, Geguri, and in fact, no females were present in any of the 12 rosters.

On various forums and in those dreadful YouTube comment sections, fans also expressed their annoyance at the differing nationalities in each of the teams, which are all associated with a major city.

It all adds up to cries of “Overwatch League is bad!” or more prematurely yet equally ridiculous “Overwatch League is going to fail!” or “Overwatch League is dead,” proving that the loudest keyboard warriors are always the most ignorant. I want to debunk the myth that “Overwatch League is Dead” step by step, and point out why, even if it does miss the mark in its first season, OWL will be a step in the right direction.

Financial Worries

Josh and Stan Kroenke, rich people who own loads of sports teams, and now also the Los Angeles Gladiators in the Overwatch League. They could definitely afford the buy-in price. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Before the launch of OWL, there was a hesitance for potential investors and team owners. The price tag of $20 million for teams to buy a spot in the League initially put many potential owners off, along with other undesirable contract terms. All investments in the OWL from both teams and organisers are so huge, and because it’s also the first time a publisher has tried to launch an eSports league from scratch, Wall Street analysis firm Cowen believed that “the probability of reality failing to meet investor expectations is relatively high.”

Counterpoint: I’m not an investment expert, but I don’t think Wall Street has a comprehensive understanding of eSports, either. Analyst Doug Creutz says his firm has “a significant bit of nervousness around the debut of Overwatch League,” but also believes that OWL could potentially be a “large profit generator in the future.” The Wall Street wankers can’t make up their goddamn mind (probably all the cocaine up the butt… that’s what they do, right??) but there are many positive points to make in defence of OWL’s potential financial success.

I’m not sure if Wall Street knows about loot boxes and skins, but they’re a fucking huge money maker, because as all MMO players know, ‘glamour is the true end game’. The importance of aesthetics in video games is all-encompassing for many Overwatch players too, and with the introduction of team skins, the option for players to display their favourite team’s colours (or just as likely, the most visually pleasing skins) for a small price of real world money means the OWL can count on a shit ton of revenue from not only current skins, but from potential future in-game items too. Factoring in the real world merch too, some of which is really well-designed, sartorial monetary gain is nothing to be sniffed at, as it all generates hype for the OWL.

Fun Fact: it costs over £1,000 to get all the OWL skins for all the heroes. Good luck, completionists!

Talking of hype, many of the pros playing in the league already have a huge following from streaming the game on Twitch. Seagull, who currently plays for the Dallas Fuel, has over 18 million views. You can sure as shit bet that his fans have transformed into Fuel fans, cheering him on every time he goes on a rampage with Hanzo, or gets a huge RIPtire kill with Junkrat. Also, people playing in the Competitive game mode are people who take winning very seriously, and undoubtedly are tuning in to watch how the best of the best do it.

Blizzard haven’t half-arsed any of the components of the OWL. All the failsafes are there, and even if OWL doesn’t do as well as predicted financially, Blizzard is the kind of company to learn from mistakes and make it even better than before. Suck that, Wall Street!

Where are the Women?

Geguri, arguably the most famous female Overwatch player.

A shitstorm was recently stirred up by OG shitstirrers Kotaku, and it was all centered on Geguri, the famous Zarya player who was SO GOOD, she had to prove she wasn’t cheating by livestreaming her hands while playing. The article focuses on a media day Q&A which was meant to introduce team rosters, but the questions quickly turned to the most notable female in the Overwatch competitive scene and why she was absent from all rosters.

Most team owners gave bullshit answers about co-ed gaming houses being an issue, or about the chemistry not being right, or language barriers, and it’s really disappointing to not hear them tackle the issue properly. What makes the article stink of fake feminist ally though, is the dogged focus on Geguri, who has expressed her wish for people and publications to not use her story as a way to forward their own ideologies. Since the Kotaku debacle, Geguri has stated that not getting signed to an OWL team had nothing to do with her being a woman.

While that statement may not entirely be true, what she went through and her consequent wishes to be left alone have not been respected – which is half the problem of why we aren’t seeing any women in OWL.

It’s nothing to do with Blizzard or the game of Overwatch. Blizzard’s commitment to diversity is well documented – at Blizzcon towards the end of last year, they specifically hosted a Diversity Meet-Up to encourage discussion about diversity within games. Overwatch is a game that bucks the FPS trend of grizzly man shoots other grizzly men in semi-realistic war, starring No Women At All. The playable roster features many women rather than Grizzled Man #1 and Grizzled Man #2 and the star of Overwatch (and of Overwatch League), on every case, poster and logo is Tracer, a woman who identifies as queer. While these efforts to bring diversity into gaming might seem a bit like ‘diversity for straight white guys, made by straight white guys’, it’s certainly a damn sight more than any other major publisher is doing.

Where the blame for lack of representation falls is in the game industry’s marketing throughout history, and our own laps. Gender stereotypes have been enforced through decades of marketing aimed at young men, while women have been pushed out of the picture entirely and told “games are not for girls”. A pro player for Houston Outlaws, Jake, has his own blog where he shared his thoughts on why there is a lack of women in eSports, and he cites this marketing tactic as a significant reason, saying “the industry has artificially reinforced the expectation that FPS games will always draw the attention and interest of male gamers.”

Another point Jake touches on in his post is one that can be readily verified by so many players of Overwatch. If you’re playing Competitive and striving to become one of the best players, communication is key. Without communication in a team-based game, you won’t reach the upper echelons of competitive play. Unfortunately, a lot of women playing Overwatch choose not to engage in team chat because they receive a lot of abuse, toxic shit like this:

Some women, including one in the video above, have pretended to be males in order to avoid getting abuse – even going as far as to use a voice changer. It can only take you so far, and it definitely won’t take you into the professional realm. As Jake says in his post,

“this norm of invalidating female players discourages many from trying to go pro. If the vast majority of your experience of online play included teammates nakedly disrespecting your abilities and understanding, a professional competitive career would hardly seem like the next logical step.”

He ends his post by imploring players to not harass and mock female players, and to treat them with the same respect that is owed to everyone. The people in the video above also beseech players to stand up for females being abused in chat, to report toxic players and let them know what they are doing isn’t okay. Perhaps then, we can start to see more women wanting to push through into the pro scene because they are sorely needed, but it is by no stretch part of the imagined demise of OWL.

Blizzard’s dedication to diversity is key here, and you can be sure that they’ll learn from criticisms of OWL’s inaugural season. The lack of women is by no means a nail in any coffin, but an issue to tackle once the league has found its feet.

Korean Spitfire

I learned one thing and one thing only from the disaster that was Brexit: the British public are morons. For all the bluster about £350m to the NHS and making our own deals to benefit us (lol), it’s fair to say a vast majority of stiff idiots voted Leave out of some spiteful desire to ‘keep Britain British’. What they meant was “we don’t want people that are different to us to be here no more.” They were told time and again that immigration was helping the economy and all that jazz, but they’re a stubborn bunch and refused to listen to how much better off they’d be in the EU.

Coming as absolute zero shock to me, Overwatch forums and YouTube comment sections have been inundated with “WHERE ARE THE BRITISH PLAYERS??!!!” from (presumably) British people, but it extends to the American teams to a degree, too. Here’s a few comments about the London Spitfire’s All-Korean roster from the official forum and Unit Lost’s hilarious video about ‘joining London Spitfire:

FALSE ADVERTISING LOOOOOOOL
Me too. Then maybe we can win at something.
You can spot a Leave voter by their use of caps lock.
Judging by this guy’s use of grammar, he is 100% definitely English. Nice try Alfons Jones, we know your real first name is Kev.
In EU? BUT WE’RE LEAVING THE EU, TrAbAka!!
Funnily enough, there are actually non-white ppl in LONDON. Go to LONDON and you might see some Asian ppl in LONDON… LONDON!!!

Here’s why it’s stupid: KOREANS ARE THE BEST AT OVERWATCH. If you’re from London, you support London, you want London to win. SO YOU SIGN THE TOP KOREAN PLAYERS. You wouldn’t turn down Lionel Messi at Chelsea because he’s Argentinian and not some posh toff, you’d welcome him with open arms, happy tears streaming down your face! The likes of Birdring and Profit are the absolute dons of Overwatch, already proving their worth in the first two matches.

As for seeing more British talent in the roster, sure, it’d be nice. The owner of Spitfire, Jack Etienne had this to say about the struggle to incorporate British players in his team:

“Initially, I really wanted to have like 50% of the roster be British but all of the British players were already signed to teams and those teams weren’t willing to release their players as they were hoping to be a part of the league themselves. Buy-out attempts were flatly refused.”

There are also a ton of plans to make London Spitfire a PROPER club, something bald fat men who travel to the ends of the Earth (or just Exeter) just to watch their favourite League 1 team like to say a lot. In an exclusive with eSports News, Paul Chaloner AKA ReDeYe, an eSports host with ties to the Spitfire responds to the criticism and confirms future plans:

“We don’t just want a team house here, but somewhere fans can go and hang out together, watch live streams of the OWL, get exclusive access to watch some of our scrims, meet the players, get merchandise, hang out with friends at a great esports venue, stream their own gaming, have somewhere they can play and compete on a local level and be a center of excellence for esports in London.”

Would ya look at that?! You’ve got one of the strongest rosters in the League, and plans to make the club a hub for fans and aspiring (BRITISH) players, but yeah go ahead and complain. It’s the PROPER BRITISH way. But how can you not love our representatives, our BOYS? They’ve integrated into London life so well, just watch the vid below:

Jokes aside, if you’re really bothered by London being represented by British people, just wait for the Overwatch World Cup instead. There’s a U.K team. Prepare for disappointment though, they’re not as good as the Koreans we currently have at Spitfire (obviously lol).

Is Overwatch League Dead, Then?

Abso-fucking-lutely not. Gamers on the internet are undoubtedly the most negative group of people in the world and they can’t be trusted to give a balanced account of anything. Before its birth, OWL was declared dead by supposed ‘fans’, but the production value is insane, the talent both on and off stage is phenomenal and it has the infrastructure to keep the endeavour at the very least afloat.

Mickie just saw your “OWL is dead” post on Reddit.

If Overwatch League stutters and falls short in its inaugural season, it’s okay. It’s a huge, unprecedented undertaking, and mistakes are bound to be made. Blizzard and the OWL are robust and driven enough to learn from mistakes and make it an even bigger and better event for Season 2.

To the OWL detractors, most of whom play the game: Who hurt you? BE POSITIVE, for once!

Nathan Butler

UTM’s TV Shows Of The Year 2017

Besides our constant attempts at telling everyone how wonderful we think Twin Peaks is, we don’t give enough love to the very best offerings on television (although the majority of these comfortably sit on streaming platforms, hidden away from your Sky Plus box). This list is a shoutout to the serialised standouts from 2017. Continue reading “UTM’s TV Shows Of The Year 2017”

UTM Podcast #11: The Final Podcast

We’ve discussed some of the most pivotal albums and video games of the year, hosted a few quizzes of questionable legitimacy and spoken way too profusely about cum – but alas, we’ve finally reached the end of our journey with the UTM Podcast… Continue reading “UTM Podcast #11: The Final Podcast”

UTM’s Games Of The Year 2017

It’s the first of December, and here at UTM we are all too happy to contribute to the never-ending content landfill that is publication end of year lists. Kicking off #LISTMAS (it’s not a thing and please do not insist on trying to make it a thing) is UTM’s best games of the year list, sporting a menagerie of 2017’s most immersive and awe-inspiring titles – and boy, were there a good bunch of ’em.

Continue reading “UTM’s Games Of The Year 2017”