Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    Quibi Unveils Trailer for New Episodes of 50 States of Fright

    Quibi unveils trailer for new episodes of 50 States of Fright Quibi has unveiled the first trailer for the upcoming new chapters in the Sam Raimi-produced horror anthology series 50 States of Fright which explores terrifying stories from every state in the country. The trailer can be viewed in the player below! RELATED: CS Interview: Sam Raimi on Quibi’s 50 States of Fright After launching with episodes of tales from Michigan, Kansan, Oregon, Minnesota and Florida, the season will continue with new stories from Iowa, Washington, Colorado and Missouri and will once again feature an ensemble roster of talent both in front of and behind the camera including Rory Culkin (Scream 4), Lulu Wilson (Becky), Victoria Justice (Victorious), Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Far From Home) and Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place). Iowa: Almost There – With the ghost of her dead mother terrorizing her, an engineer must fix a turbine in the middle of Iowa while a storm rages.  Written by: Scott Beck & Bryan Woods Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Katie Stuart Washington: 13 Steps to Hell – When a sister descends a strange underground stairwell adjacent to an overgrown Washington cemetery to retrieve her little brother’s lost toy, she finds more than she bargained for at the bottom of the steps. Written by: Sarah Conradt Directed by: Lee Cronin Starring: Rory Culkin, Lulu Wilson Colorado: Red Rum – When a bunch of “influencers” descend on Colorado’s most haunted hotel, they find themselves the victims of a bunch of spirits who just want to be left alone. Written by: Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei Directed by: Daniel Goldhaber Starring: Christina Ricci, Jacob Batalon, Victoria Justice, Colin Ford Missouri: Dogwood – Azalea – When a young girl moves to a new town in rural Missouri with her family, she makes a new friend of a very old and angry soul. Written by: Cate Devaney Directed by: Cate Devaney Starring: Erica Tremblay, Elizabeth Reaser, Warren Christie RELATED: The Haunting of Bly Manor Featurette: Go Behind-the-Scenes with Creator Mike Flanagan 50 States of Fright is executive-produced by Raimi and Debbie Liebling through PDO 3, Van Toffler, Tony DiSanto, Cody Zwieg, Barry Barclay, Tommy Coriale, and Chris Mangano and is set to return on October 28! 

    Tye Sheridan Talks Wireless

    CS Interviews: Tye Sheridan Talks Wireless The fantastic new mini-series Wireless is currently streaming on Quibi and to celebrate we sat down and discussed the show with star Tye Sheridan and the actor discussed everything from the technical challenges presented by the show’s unique new format and also shared his thoughts on cell phones and their place in society. In Wireless, on a sparsely traveled road deep in the Colorado mountains, college student Andy Braddock (Sheridan) drives to a New Year’s Eve party to try to rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Distracted by his phone, Andy collides with a snowbank and hurtles into a ravine. Wounded and alone, Andy turns to his quickly dying cell for rescue, but help is far from a phone call away. From executive producer Steven Soderbergh comes a suspense thriller like no other, as the viewer takes the story into their own hands. Two narratives play out simultaneously: watch horizontally for a cinematic view; twist vertically to experience Andy’s phone as your own, as he fights to stay alive. The series also stars Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Lukas Gage (Euphoria), Francesca Reale (Stranger Things Season 2), and Mace Coronel (Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn. RELATED: Amazon Orders Spin-Off of Superhero Hit The Boys! The series is created by newcomers Zach Wechter and Jack Seidman, who will also serve as executive producers with Wechter also set to direct. Michael Sugar, Cathy Konrad, and Danny Sherman will executive produce along with Propagate’s Ben Silverman, Howard Owens, Rodney Ferrell, and Greg Lipstone. Wireless is a co-production by Pickpocket, Treeline Film, and Propagate with Christian Heuer and Isabel San Vargas to produce. ComingSoon.net: Talk about Wireless – how did you get involved? What was your initial reaction to the script and concept? Tye Sheridan: I first watched Pocket, a short film directed by Zach Wechter and Mishka Kornai, and I thought “Alright, this is pretty interesting”. The film examines a year in the life of a 15 year old boy seen through the perspective of his iPhone, and it’s a “made-for-mobile” only film (you watch it in portrait mode rather than landscape). When I started digging in to Wireless a bit more, I was super intrigued by the “turnstyle” concept and the idea of the “iPhone” becoming an actual setting for this story. It felt very relevant to our current circumstance in society and the relationship that almost every one of us have with our smartphones. This new format became so exciting to me— because of the challenges that it would inspire and the opportunities it would present by working on something that was completely new and the “first of its kind”. Beyond the “first of its kind” technical format that the story is propelled by, I thought the plot was great, and I was excited by how “contemporary” it felt in contrast to some other projects that I’d worked on in the past. CS: How did you approach Andy? How was he different from other characters you’d portrayed in the past? Sheridan: I think the approach to Andy was mainly led by the core idea that he would represent and symbolize the relationship in which society has formed with their iPhone, social media profiles and the digital interface that we all connect through. It was very different than any other character I’ve played, simply because he was the most contemporary role I’ve had the opportunity of taking a crack at, and ultimately, I think we just wanted him to be a very relatable guy. CS: How difficult was the production to pull off? Was there an added difficulty in shooting the cell phone scenes? Sheridan: Indeed it was very difficult. We had only 19 days to shoot the entire project, and because the story occurs in two separate perspectives simultaneously (portrait and landscape), it was like making two films at once. The film was challenging on many different levels: technologically, time-wise, the frigid conditions that we were shooting in. Although capturing and executing this format was very challenging (mostly due to the fact that the iPhone isn’t specifically designed for this), it was all very authentic because we were able to capture the “phone call” scenes simultaneously in real-time. All of the FaceTime calls you see in the show were actually being screen recorded locally on the two separate iPhones while we performed the scenes in different locations. CS: In the film, Andy’s predicament comes partially due to his cell phone addiction – and yet, the cell phone helps him in various moments of the show as well. What are your overarching feelings about cell phones and their place in society? Sheridan: Well, that’s a great question because it brings us to the ultimate question that the show is provoking us to ask ourselves: Is my relationship with my iPhone good or bad? We see both the good and the bad in Andy’s relationship with his iPhone. My opinion is that it depends on how you use your iPhone, what you use it for. On one hand, they can be a great tool to help us do things faster, learn things faster, connect faster, store data that our brains aren’t capable of storing, but on the other hand, they can also act as huge distractions in our lives and inhibit our ability to be present in the world. It may be the ultimate Paradox in society today… CS: What is the core theme of Wireless, in your opinion? Sheridan: The story explores many themes, and I think each person that sees the show may take away something different. For me, I would say that the core theme ultimately reflects Andy’s biggest overcoming— which is his realization that he’s been living his life within a lie. He’s lied to his family, his friends, even to himself, and that can be a very difficult hole to dig yourself out of, but he knows that if he doesn’t do it, it’ll weigh him down forever and keep him from growing into a better person. CS: You spend the entire series alone. How difficult was it to act by yourself? Sheridan: There were a lot of different elements that made this project very challenging, but I’d say that acting alone wasn’t really one of them. In fact, I’m so grateful that all of the phone calls, FaceTime calls, and text exchanges (imessage and tinder) that you see in the show were all happening in real time, so I actually got to perform these scenes with our other cast members as they were shot. Zach Wechter was adamant about doing this because he felt that it was the only way to make it feel truly authentic within this format, and I agree with him. CS: What was it like filming with Zach Wechter? Sheridan: Oh I love him. He really is such a genius, and a professional. No matter what situation we found ourselves in throughout production, Zach always rose above and came through in very big ways. He’s constantly pushing the boundaries of narrative into new and exciting places, and I believe that he will have a very important impact on the future of filmmaking as it pertains to its digital form. CS: Ready Player 2 is coming out – have you heard anything in regard to a film that you can share with us? And as a side, if Steven Spielberg isn’t involved, who would be your pick to helm the film? Sheridan: I’m so excited to read the new book, and I really wish I could tell you that there was another film in the works. There may be, but at this moment, I have no idea what the plans are exactly, and frankly, it’s out of my hands. I’d love to work on a sequel and get the gang back though, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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