Back in 2003, a game called Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was released on the GameCube. An adventure title starring a boy called Sphinx and his friend the Mummy, it had them fighting through an ancient Egypt inspired world to stop the plans of the evil Set, complete with two different gameplay styles the player had to switch between.
For Sphinx, that was a traditional adventure/platformer set up similar to the Zelda games of the time, and for the Mummy, it was a puzzle/stealth hybrid where you had to use his abilities (and reactions to the environment) to solve puzzles and find your way out of maze like dungeons.
It was an interesting combination really, a neat hybrid of puzzle and platformer that reminded many of the Wario Land series. Or perhaps its own GameCube instalment, Wario World.
And like many other games with interesting gameplay styles, it quickly became a cult classic. Hence why years later, THQ Nordic bought the rights and released it on Steam. Complete with improved tech, new achievements and more besides, the game found a new audience on the platformer.
But now it’s become even better still! Why? Because as of today, the folks at THQ Nordic have released modding tools for the game.
But they’re not just any modding tools.
Nope, they’re the original game’s development tools! Yep, if you liked the original title, you’re now able to download the exact same kit the original programmers and artists used to work on the title when it was in production for the GameCube, complete with the ability to edit anything you like in the game. It’s a really great deal all round, and shows a level of respect for modders that few companies will ever match.
Hence go and check it out. You can find the authoring tools for the game over on Steam here:
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy Authoring Tools Page
As well as every resource used to generate the levels and characters too. They even kept in various beta elements and resources too, like early designs for levels and character models not found in the normal game. Talk about an impressive dedication to the modding scene!
So, thanks THQ, thanks for going above and beyond with these development tools.
Let’s hope a few other game developers follow your lead in future!
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy Authoring Tools (Steam)
Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty damn terrible DRM in video games. We’ve seen stuff that could accidentally wipe out or cause security holes in someone’s computer due to its creator’s sheer incompetence. We’ve seen rip-off schemes where even playing a single player title requires internet access at all times.
And well, with a certain recent Sonic fan game… we’ve even stuff straight out of a bad creepypasta. As in, something that literally closed your web browser when it detecting you were looking for cheats, right before corrupting the game itself and turning it into some kind of hellish troll game.
But now we may have come across something even worse. Something may actually take its games creators from the realm of incompetent and dangerous to downright evil.
Yes, one game (or more precisely, content pack) actually has malware in its installer. Named the FSLabs A320, this pack of digital aircraft for flight simulators has a file called ‘test.exe’ in its install files. At first glance, this sounds harmless.
However, it’s actually far from it. You see, test.exe isn’t a typical test program. It’s not something you’d just randomly include in an installer.
It’s actually a Chrome password dumping tool. As in, a way for hackers to steal passwords from your browser’s password manager and mail them the details over the internet. Like a fancy keylogger or what not.
And as you can imagine, that’s not something you ever want to see in a video game. Heck, that’s not something you’d ever want on your computer period. It’s a huge security risk even having the thing included in the files.
Oh, and there’s more here too. You see, you may think this file would merely be a mistake by the developer. After all, everyone gets viruses at some point. So it seems all too possible than a random dev may have gotten their computer infected and accidentally included such a program in their work by mistake.
However, that’s not the case. Nope, the people at Flight Sim Labs deliberately included this file to ‘hunt down people who pirated their work’. Their plan was to actually steal people’s login information, then use it to hunt them down and send their details to law enforcement.
Here’s the comment on their forums confirming it:
If such a specific serial number is used by a pirate (a person who has illegally obtained our software) and the installer verifies this against the pirate serial numbers stored in our server database, it takes specific measures to alert us. “Test.exe” is part of the DRM and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally. That program is only extracted temporarily and is never under any circumstances used in legitimate copies of the product. The only reason why this file would be detected after the installation completes is only if it was used with a pirate serial number (not blacklisted numbers).
This method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals.
Yeah, that’s a pretty bad way of doing things isn’t it? Not only do you to put legitimate customers at risk, you outright break the law to go after pirates too. Remember, it’s illegal to do this stuff. Doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for the ‘right reasons’, there’s no legal basis for hacking someone’s machine at all.
That’s clearly stated in country laws on the subject around the world. Like the UK’s Computer Misuse Act.
So, for anyone who’s used this software, remove it from your computer right now. You do not want to support a company like this, especially now they’ve opened up your machine to hackers and proven they have zero respect for anyone else’s security. They don’t deserve your respect for this, and they should have lost your support forever as a result.
And as for Flight Sim Labs? Well you’re just kind of screwed at this point. You’ve made a terrible decision, it’s probably killed your business and (based on what people have said online and previous legal precedents), likely opened you up to various lawsuits and charges for computer misuse related crimes.
Congratulations on committing business suicide!
But what do you think about the whole ordeal? Are you shocked that anyone would consider using malware to steal personal information a legitimate form of DRM for a game or game related product?
Post your thoughts on this here in the comments or on the Gaming Latest forums today!
Flight Sim Group Put Malware in a Jet and Called it DRM (Rock Paper Shotgun)
As you likely know, Nintendo has announced Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch. A follow up to the titles on the GameCube and Wii, this new Metroid adventure looks to build upon Retro Studio’s amazing work with the series so far and bring its franchise straight back into the mainstream again.
However, it seems like there could be an interesting change of developer with this one. Indeed, according to a (now removed) update on the LinkedIn profile for Shawn Pitmann, Retro may have been replaced with Bandai Namco Studios Singapore for the game’s development, with a Ridge Racer title also being one of the studios many new projects.
It’s an interesting change of developer for a game like this, and indicates that Retro Studios may have something else up their sleeve at this time.
But could it actually work out? Could this lesser known development studio match Retro Studios in terms of how they handle the next Metroid Prime title?
Well to be honest, that’s hard to say right now. On the one hand, it would admittedly be a bit of a risk for Nintendo to outsource the game’s development to them, since they’ve never actually worked with the Metroid series before. Add to that how Retro has polished the series to near perfection already, and you’ve got a situation where one small mistake could kill all the goodwill built up so far.
So, in that sense, it’s a risky move. And it’s one that’s all the riskier given Metroid’s precarious situation as a series, as well the importance of the game to the Switch’s success. Metroid Prime 4 cannot afford to fail.
Yet at the same time though, it could also be exactly the right move for the company too. Remember, Retro doesn’t want to make more Metroid Prime games. They don’t want to be typecast as ‘the Metroid Prime company’ just like they don’t want to be typecast as ‘the Donkey Kong Country company’.
Because that’s not their style. It’s not how a creative studio should work. Otherwise, you get stuff like the recent Mario vs DK games, or the NSMB titles. Workman like products that are entirely competent in themselves, yet show very little heart or soul and feel like they’ve been made as an obligation.
And after three Prime games and two DK games, it’s likely Retro want something new about now.
Outsourcing it to Bandai Namco would fix these issues. Nintendo gets a new team more willing to work on a Prime game, Retro gets to work on something new and original, and everyone’s happy.
So, we’re somewhat optimistic about the whole deal. It’s a risky one if true, but it could equally well be the breath of fresh air the series could need at this very moment.
But what do you think of all this? Are you happy that Metroid Prime 4 may have a new development team? Or would you have rather seen Retro Studios make it like the first three games?
Have your say in the comments under this article!
Metroid Prime 4 in Development at Bandai Namco Singapore (VG247)
Ever since at least the days of the NES, the games market has always tended to have only a few major competitors. That may be Nintendo, Sega and Atari, like in the era up to the SNES. It might be Nintendo, Sega and Sony, like in the early days of 3D gaming.
Or it may be the familiar trio of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, like in the eras starting with the PS2. This means system choices have always been pretty limited, and the structure of the industry has mostly kept the same as a result.
But it seems the market may be about to get shaken up a little. That’s because according to a news site called The Information, Google might be working on a subscription-based video game streaming service, delivered over either their Chromecast devices or a new Google games console.
This service is apparently codenamed Yeti, and would work similar to services like PlayStation Now; with users paying a subscription fee to access a collection of games run on a remote device and streamed over the internet.
It’s an interesting idea, and it’s certainly something that seems like it could become a big thing in future if done correctly. However, it also raises a few important questions.
Firstly, how exactly would the whole ‘latency’ aspect be addressed here? Oh sure, it’s not the 80s any more, and we wouldn’t have to post cards with instructions like in this humourous old video by Ashens on YouTube:
But at the same time, internet connections are still not amazing either. I mean, look at the US. Much of the country apparently has very few choices in what ISPs to use, as well as connection speeds on par with some third world countries. How are they going to be able to make use of a service like this?
And what about those in London over here in the UK? At first it seems like we’d do better, since our connection speeds are ‘supposedly’ higher than those in various parts of the world.
Yet as someone who’s actually lived and worked here, that too is highly misleading. Often, providers like BT literally can’t provide good fibre internet service to various locations, either due to property issues or trouble getting permits to dig up the pavement and install the damn thing. That’s why even in central London (as in, right next to Fenchurch Street esque central London) the company I was with previously had issues getting a decent internet connection installed.
So there too, internet connections aren’t too great. And in many other parts of the world? Hah, forget it. Most of Africa, much of South America and Asia and a good chunk of Europe simply has internet speeds too low to make video game streaming viable. It really is the kind of service that seems like it’d only work in Silicon Valley, Japan and South Korea.
And things don’t improve much for Google’s odds in other areas too. After all, Google as a company has never really worked in the video game market before. They have no idea what it entails, they’ve never released any games or hardware specifically to play games and the idea of a console ecosystem is likely entirely foreign to them.
Which means that even if they do get the hardware side down, they’ve now got to figure out how to compete in one of the hardest markets in the world. I mean, this is literally the definition of a red ocean market. It’s a place where companies going under happens on an almost monthly basis and where a couple of large manufacturers have basically dominated the hardware side for decades by this point.
What’s more, it’s one that requires a different approach than Google’s normal one too. After all, what is Google’s usual strategy? How do they enter and take over markets with products like Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, etc?
Okay, forget YouTube. They bought that one and merely kept it from going bankrupt. But what about the others?
How do they tend to make their own products successful?
Well generally, I’d say it comes down to the following factors:
- A clean UI, that’s mostly free of bullshit and works in a user-friendly way (this usually goes to crap as the service goes more popular)
- The promise of said service or product being free and supported by ads (as well as collected data for said ads)
- Plus everything generally working in the web browser or across devices. Nothing they run is locked to a certain piece of hardware or software, even if Chrome is ‘highly recommended’ for certain things to work properly.
Point is, none of that really helps them when it comes to video games and consoles. There, people are quite willing to spend money on games, and the ‘subscription’ setup Google is apparently working on isn’t unique either (since Microsoft are doing the same thing with Game Pass). They’re also not in a situation where running games independently of hardware is the expected thing, and in fact exclusivity is basically the saving grace for stuff like Nintendo’s systems and what not.
Finally, the UI isn’t really much of an issue any more. It’s not perfect sure, but the PS4, Xbox One and Switch have perfectly usable interfaces that don’t leave much room for an Apple like competitor to come in and improve them.
So, Google may struggle to get attention here.
And that’s only made more of an issue by their system lacking the one thing that sells other consoles.
Exclusives. Games that people actually need to buy a console or subscribe to a service to play.
Games like the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch. Or in recent times, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy for the PS4.
Google won’t really have those with a service like this. No, Android doesn’t count here. No one cares enough about the average app store game to subscribe to a service to play it, and most of the good ones there are on iOS and other platforms regardless.
That’s a problem for them. Because not only do exclusives give people a reason to try your new service or system, but said results are also the only way large third-party companies will bother publishing on your systems too. Put simply, you need the Zelda type games to get people buying your system, so it becomes popular enough for the third parties to actually bother with.
Otherwise what’s the point?
Both Microsoft and Sony have alternatives to this ‘rental’ type service at likely about the same price point as Google would have. No exclusives mean no reason to try Google’s service, which means no customers on said service and no incentive to third parties to publish there.
It’s a situation Google are going to need a whole heap of luck or business nonce to get out of.
Hence because of this, I feel their chances of succeeding with the product are slim. It’s just not viable in today’s market, and seems like something that’ll struggle against the big names doing the exact same thing as them.
But what do you think?
Are you confident Google could do well with a video game streaming service? Do you think there’s a good chance they’re working on one right now?
Post your thoughts on this (and more) in the comments below or over on the Gaming Latest forums today!
Report: Google Considering a Game Streaming Service (Ars Technica)
Last year, we saw Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy released for the PlayStation 4. A compilation of the first three Crash games with updated visuals and tweaked gameplay elements, the title got great reviews all round and ended up being one of the surprise hits of the year, with many considering it proof that Crash really had returned to form all over again.
Unfortunately for Nintendo fans, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy was a PS4 exclusive. That makes sense given Crash’s origins as Sony’s unofficial mascot, but is disappointing for fans of other consoles none the less.
But it seems things may be changing soon. Why? Because according to the Licensing Source Book for Spring 2018, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy will be heading to other systems this year, with the Switch and PC being among them.
And it doesn’t end there either. Oh no, it seems a new Crash Bandicoot may be on the way too! Yep, as also mentioned in the book, Activision has plans for another Crash game that’ll be released in 2019, with merchandise for the series seemingly being in the works as well. It’s a full-on franchise revival of the highest order.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the magazine’s writers, who state that:
Looking ahead to 2018, Max picks out Crash Bandicoot as one to watch. “The new game was a success at retail with no marketing spend. Next year it will be going broader (Switch and PC) and there will be another game in 2019. Activision have a five-year plan for this, and GB eye is delighted to be fully on board for all products.
Or read the quote for yourself in this image:
As you can see, it’s pretty clear about what it’s saying. There’s no marketing fluff or vagueness, just a direct confirmation that Crash is getting a new game and that his last one is seeing a release on non-Sony related systems.
So, go and have a look at the book if you don’t believe us (the comment in question is on the top right of page 97), and tell us what you think about Activision’s plans for the series. Are you excited to play N Sane Trilogy on Switch? Feel like a brand-new Crash Bandicoot adventure could be amazing to see after all these years?
Let us know what you think here in the comments below or on social media today!
Licensing Source Book Europe – Spring 2018 (page 97)