A lot of watching presentations like the PlayStation Showcase is just thinking a game might be a sequel to a thing you like, and as a Journey fan, Sword of the Sea had me by the throat for a hot minute during the show.
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The game comes from Giant Squid Games, the studio behind The Pathless, but its Journey DNA is pretty apparent in its visuals. That’s because Matt Nava, the artist who worked at Journey developer thatgamecompany, is also working on Sword. There are scenes and set pieces in the trailer that look straight up pulled out of Journey, from the glistening desert sand to the way its main character boards across it, if you didn’t see the title card at the end, you’d think this was a Journey sequel. While it’s clearly trying to recapture the 2012 game’s magic, it’s going to have its work cut out for it when it launches later this year.
Check out the trailer below:
While Journey was a pretty once-in-a-lifetime video game experience that is hard to recreate, I do commend Sword of the Sea for just really committing to the bit of being legally distinct while clearly drawing inspiration from the original game. What remains to be seen is just how much it will riff on the same ideas of connection Journey leaned into with its seamless, wordless multiplayer experience. The game seems much more interested in letting you do sick tricks on your board, so it’s unclear just how much it will lean into the solemn framing of its inspiration.
Admittedly, I never got around to The Pathless, but now that it’s been brought to my attention just how much Journey is in Giant Squid Games’ work, I’m tempted to go back and give it a second look. At the very least, it will give me something to do until Sword of the Sea launches exclusively on PlayStation 5.
While Nintendo loves a lawsuit and emulation is often a contentious issue for publishers, few situations have been quite as high-profile as the recent attempt to launch GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin on Steam. The 20-year-old emu engine has long been available online, but this attempt to become more “mainstream” ended pretty predictably. But now, after a few months of silence, the emu’s creators have spoken up and claim Nintendo’s suggestions that their software breaks the law are completely false.
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Back in March, it was revealed that the well-loved emulator Dolphin would receive a surprise release on Steam. The software, used to run both GameCube and Wii games on modern hardware, had a store page on Valve’s PC gaming store, giving the unlikely impression that the decades-old emulator was going mainstream. Inevitably, this caused consternation, with initial reports saying Nintendo issued demands to Valve that the page be removed and the software not distributed on Steam.
It was later revealed that, in fact, it was Valve that went running to Nintendo to tattle on the project, with a Nintendo of America lawyer then requesting it be removed, using the DMCA as its rationale. Dolphin, claimed Nintendo, “unlawfully circumvents” its cryptographic keys, and so distributing the software “constitutes unlawful traffic” of their rights. Incredibly, Valve then approached the developers behind the emulator, Dolphin Emulator Project (DEP), saying they needed to negotiate whether the software could release on Steam with Nintendo.
Which is some shit.
As a result of this, and consultation with lawyers, DEP has decided to abandon its attempt to release the project on Steam entirely. The situation Valve has created, it says, is an impossible one: to be required to seek Nintendo’s permission to release a product on Valve’s store isn’t a thing, can’t be done, and so “that’s that.”
However, DEP wasn’t done there. The group has been seeking legal advice and says it’s pretty certain Nintendo’s claims about unlawful circumvention are completely wrong and strongly believes that Delphin is legal.
Why Dolphin is likely not illegal
Emulation has always been a thorny area in gaming, with its moral quagmire of preservation versus piracy, and copyright versus copies available. Add to that the fact that building an emulator in itself is not an illegal act. For the vast majority of aged games, emulation is the only way available to play them on modern machines. However, for the IP owners, it’s often viewed as a threat to their profits, especially for companies like Nintendo that like to endlessly regurgitate their classic games on their latest consoles at modern prices.
Projects like Dolphin are seemingly not illegal, given they can be used to run homebrew games and applications, developed by fans of an abandoned console. And the emulators themselves most often contain no pirated material or illegal software. That most people use them to run pirated ROMs of classic games is, technically, not on the emulator developers.
In this instance, however, things became more complicated over claims that Dolphin had broken Nintendo’s encryption for the Wii, using something called the Wii Common Key. This Wii Common Key was part of the original console, used to decrypt the games on the discs, all as part of anti-piracy measures built into the system. This was a rudimentary block for pirates and was overcome with a pair of tweezers.
The release of the key occurred a couple of decades ago and went on to be freely shared across the internet and became part of Dolphin’s open-source code in 2009. No one, including Nintendo, has ever tried to prevent this, nor made any noise indicating they care. However, Nintendo’s response to Valve mentioned the key in its attempts to justify why Dolphin was a problem to the publisher.
The Dolphin emulator operates by incorporating these cryptographic keys without Nintendo’s authorization and decrypting the ROMs at or immediately before runtime. Thus, use of the Dolphin emulator unlawfully “circumvent[s] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under” the Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. Distribution of the emulator, whether by the Dolphin developers or other third-party platforms, constitutes unlawful “traffic[king] in a technology…that…is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure.
Dolphin is certainly not “primarily designed…for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure,” says DEP, but rather designed to emulate a piece of hardware as software so others can interact with the recreated environment as they wish. DEP describes circumvention as, “only a small fraction of what we do,” and lays out a series of arguments for why the software fits neatly within exemptions in the DMCA. It includes the reverse engineering exemption, which states,
…a person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure, in order to enable the identification and analysis under paragraph (1), or for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such interoperability, to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title.
DEP goes on to express its disappointment that so many in the wider community demanded that the developers remove the encryption key from Dolphin, given its conviction that it was not in violation of any laws, and indeed that Nintendo’s own letter didn’t make the claim that including the key violated U.S. copyright, because “a short string of entirely random letters and numbers generated by a machineis not copyrightable under current US copyright law. If that ever changes, the world will be far too busy to think about emulation.”
Nintendo has never taken an emulator to court, and given the company’s propensity to drag absolutely everyone they can through the legal system in the most brutal ways imaginable, that’s something of note. It strongly suggests Nintendo doesn’t think it would win if it tried. It’s incredibly murky territory, with the legality untested, and the results of doing so very likely to end badly for those who create hardware. It’s very likely in the strong interests of console manufacturers to never actually let this matter reach the courts.
Despite this, Dolphin will not come to Steam, seemingly primarily due to the actions of Valve rather than Nintendo. Kotaku contacted both companies regarding these claims to ask why certain decisions were made and based on what rules. In the meantime, Dolphin remains widely available, and often the only way to play vast libraries of abandoned games without the original, no-longer-produced hardware. Whether this is morally or legally acceptable or not is up to you.
In a recent interview with GamesRadar, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller explained why the movie’s digital release introduced some changes to its multiple theatrical cuts.
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Sony Pictures Imageworks “still had some shots that they felt they could do better for the finished version” while the movie’s international cut was going through censor checks two months before its release, according to Miller. This led to crew members chipping in with additional ideas for a final cut of the film with some tweaks and “improvements” to scenes that Miller says fans could “pore over forever.”
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“Certain crew members– people in the sound department or on the animation team– were like, ‘Oh, could we do this instead?’” Miller told GamesRadar. “Let’s do the best possible version we can. Because it’s a multiverse movie, it’s like there’s a multiverse of the movie– that was really the reasoning behind it. It was trying to make the best possible version that everyone was going to be the proudest of.”
Back in July, moviegoers had their collective minds blown by the fact that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse had multiple versions circulating in theaters (outside of the one with audio issues). At the time, fans thought the cuts added to the meta-narrative feel of the film’s multiverse storyline and gave them an excuse to watch it multiple times to see if they noticed any subtle changes in the film. However, fans seem less charitable with some of the additional line changes that the record-breaking animated film made in its home release.
Some changes include alternate lines from Miles Morales at the end of the big Spider-Men chase scene, and how he discovers he’s in the wrong dimension toward the end of the movie.
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Beyond the Spider-Verse will release ‘when it is ready’
While Spider-Verse’s home release was equated to a game’s day-one patch update, its producers also gave a video game-esque answer as to when folks should expect its sequel Beyond the Spider-Verse to hit theaters, saying only that it will come out “when it is ready.”
“Those conversations are thankfully above our paygrade, but I can tell you we’re already hard at work on it, and we’ll take the time it takes to make it great,” Lord told Digital Spy.
Beyond the Spider-Verse was initially slated to release on March 24 before being delayed indefinitely by Sony Pictures in the wake of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.
“What we’re trying to accomplish with the film is have it be the most satisfying conclusion to the story than it can be, and take it to places that you haven’t been before. And make you laugh and cry, and cheer and think,” Miller told Digital Spy.
Elder Scrolls VI won’t be coming to PS5 whenever it finally debuts. Though you might’ve already filed this news under “well, duh,” it’s now clear as day courtesy of official documentation from Microsoft.
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Originally announced at E3 2018 (which Bethesda’s own Todd Howard thinks was perhaps a tad too early), The Elder Scrolls VI will mark the first single-player entry in the fabled Elder Scrolls series of big-ass open-world RPG romps since the undying colossal success that was 2011’s Skyrim. News on the TES6 front has otherwise been very quiet, and Bethesda only just released its other epic, long-in-development RPG, the space-themed Starfield. New reporting from Axios’ Stephen Totilo, however, makes it clear that TES6 will be an Xbox and PC exclusive.
The Elder Scrolls VI targets a 2026 release
PlayStation-owning fans of Bethesda jams have been holding out hope that despite Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda in 2020, Elder Scrolls VI might still come to a Sony machine. CEO of Microsoft gaming Phil Spencer has said as recently as September 6 that the company considers exclusives on a “case-by-case basis” and that it “wants to make sure that [its] games are available in so many different places.”
As per a post on X (formerly Twitter) from Stephen Totilo of Axios, Microsoft’s communications during the FTC case concerning its controversial Activision merger spelled out that The Elder Scrolls VI is coming to Xbox and PC only. In a Microsoft-confidential chart that saw release due to the legal proceedings, The Elder Scrolls VI clearly has a big ol’ red X in the “Released on PlayStation?” column.
The same chart indicates that The Elder Scrolls VI is aiming for a 2026 or later release date. Given the size and scope of Bethesda games, they do take a long time to make. After The Elder Scrolls VI, Bethesda is expected to release Fallout 5.
So, sorry PlayStation Skyrim fans. But, hey, at least you got a head start on Baldur’s Gate 3. And given TES6’s likely release window, at least you’ll have enough time to save up for an Xbox or gaming-worthy PC? Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just the messenger.