The Game Awards has revealed the list of nominees in each of the 22 categories for 2018. God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 lead the pack with an astounding eight nominations each. In total over 100 games and people have been nominated. The Game Awards will air on December 6 in Los Angeles, CA, and streamed live online.
Rockstar Games doesn’t release many games, but when they do, they tend to make a bit of a splash in the industry. In addition to Game of the Year Red Dead Redemption 2 is up for Best Action/Adventure, Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Art Direction, Best Score/Music, Best Audio Design, and Best Performance for Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan.
God of War was an incredibly successful sequel to the long-running franchise. It features an older Kratos shepherding his son through a world of Norse mythology. It’s up for all of the exact same categories, with the Best Performance nod to Christopher Judge as Kratos.
The Game of the Year category has been expanded to six games (previously five). Celesete, Spider-Man, Monster Hunter: World, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey make up the other games.
Super Mario Party supports up to four player multiplayer, but the Switch only comes with a pair of Joy-Con for up to two. In response, Nintendo has announced a special Super Mario Party Bundle that includes another pair of neon Joy-Con controllers. The Super Mario Party Bundle is out Nov. 16 for $99.99.
A single half Joy-Con retails for around $50, while a pair of Joy-Con sells for an astonishingly $80, making this a very good deal if you have a big family (or friends) who plan on playing Super Mario Party ($60). At full price, the bundle will save you about $40.The included Joy-Con are given a distinctive color scheme at neon green and neon yellow.
Super Mario Party features 80 mini-games in its classic four-player multiplayer board game set up. The mini-games utilize the precise motion controls of the Joy-Con. Two Switch systems can be paired together for special series of games in Toad’s Rec Room that utilize both screens together. A new cooperative series of mini-games can be tackled in the River Survival mode.
Super Mario Party also takes the series online for the first time. Online Mariothon features a series of five rotating mini-games, with leaderboards, rankings, and rewards. A subscription to Nintendo Switch Online is required to access the online mode.
Super Mario Party is available now, and rated E for Everyone. The Joy-Con bundle is out Nov. 16.
Nintendo Labo kits include DIY buildable cardboard pieces that kids (and adults) can integrate with the Joy-Con controllers of the Switch to create interactive playsets. Examples in the Variety Kit include a fishing rod, a piano, and a remote controlled car. They’re powered by the Toy-Con Garage software, which introduces basic programming language to a wide audience.
The Institute of Play is building a full-fledged curriculum for teachers on using Nintendo Labo in the classroom. The company is made up of educators, researchers, and game designers.
“We are always on the lookout for new tools and technologies that combine the best of learning with the spirit of play, and in Nintendo Labo we found an inspiring and innovative approach in both areas,” said Arana Shapiro, Co-Executive Director of the Institute of Play. “Teachers in the pilot program are already seeing the natural fit for Nintendo Labo in the classroom, and now we can bring that dynamic to schools across the country.”
A pilot program will initially roll out to schools in the New York area. Nintendo and the Institute of Play will use these classes to develop a teacher guide and lesson plans for using Nintendo Labo to teach programming and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). The Nintendo Labo Teacher Guide will be available for free later this fall.
After the pilot program is complete, the Nintendo Labo Classroom Program will expand to 100 schools across the country. Each school will be provided with Switch systems and Nintendo Labo: Variety Kits, as well as the teacher guide. The program will run through the full school year.
The program is also being offered in Canada through Actua, Canada’s leading education-outreach organization for STEAM.
“The ingenuity of Nintendo Switch brings Nintendo Labo to life to provide a fun way for kids to explore basic STEAM topics together and be entertained while building a fundamental understanding of the technology behind them,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America, President. “We hope our programs in the United States and Canada encourage kids to explore, tinker, problem-solve and, in the process, get excited about design and technology – all while having fun.”
When your child is having a rough time, many fathers would bring home a teddy bear, or take them out for ice cream. But for pixel artist and indie game developer Christopher Obritsch, he decided to make a game.
“[My daughter] Maddi was bullied in daycare and at school,” says Obritsch. “The boys picked on her, telling her she couldn’t do things because she was a girl. I remember being very angry. I wanted to do something to cheer her up. I have scoliosis so I’m not exactly the playful dad I wish I was – so I make up for it in the only ways I know how.”
Battle Princess Madelyn was born, a retro-inspired platformer starring a pixelated version of Obritsch’s young daughter.
“I recently had left my full time job at a game studio near where I’m located. I had the money to do something but not at the scale it ended up being,” says Obritsch. “And since the game was for Maddi, I wanted to do everything I could with it. And so we came to Kickstarter.” The Kickstarter campaign launched on Maddi’s fifth birthday. “I thought, what a great way to prove to Maddi that she really can do whatever she wants to do.”
As many indie game projects inevitably go, Battle Princess Madelyn ended up as a much larger game than what was originally designed. The Kickstarter campaign was a big success, reaching over CA$ 200,000 with over 3,400 backers. It’s openly inspired by Obritsch’s all-time favorite game, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, a challenging 16-bit action-platformer from the 80s.
“I like the dark horror themed stuff. Always have. So seeing Ghouls ‘N Ghosts when I was a kid? Awesome,” says Obritsch. “My favorite movies of all time all sport dead guys or people fighting dead guys – BeetleJuice, Robocop, Ghostbusters, Evil Dead 2, etc. I loved drawing skeletons when I was kid – gross stories that got my parents called in to talk to the teacher.”
Obritsch’s love of the game fueled a passion for pixel art and programming, and eventually a career in multimedia and graphic designer. He got into making games as a hobby, where his new bouncing baby served as his muse. “I ended up doing a very early game for Maddi. One of the levels ended up a 3D shoot ’em up where she is on my back and we’re flying through rainbows and shooting bumble bees and crows while picking up coins. I ended up getting discovered by an ad agency for a musician and almost won the Brit Music Awards that year for Best Interactive Video.”
Obritsch credits his daughter Madelyn as his Creative Director for Battle Princess Madelyn. “She either draws me pictures or sits with me and tells me what to do. She’s my harshest critic!” He recalls a specific instance where five year-old Maddi came home from a friend’s house with a new drawing that she was very proud of.
“She explained a boss fight she had designed. It’s a giant cat you shoot in the bum, but you have to feed it to get it to turn around. I was just shocked – she had come up with a strategy for a boss fight on her own. That was a proud daddy moment,” says Obritsch. “I’m hoping to find that picture for the Kickstarter art book.”
Another member of Obritsch’s family made it into Battle Princess Madelyn, their late dog Fritzy, whose passing partially inspired the story mode. “The story kind of came into play when we knew the real Fritzy was going to be leaving us soon. The intro of the game then started off with Fritzy getting blasted and becoming a ghost dog.”
Young Maddi was very attached to the family dog and took his passing especially hard. “Maddi would talk at night about becoming a vet and making a blue pill to make Fritzy all better. It was heart-breaking to listen to. I decided to put him in the game so she could keep him forever in some form.”
The result was a friendly companion that returns to the titular Battle Princess after his untimely death in the intro. Ghost Fritzy gain new powers over the course of the story, and is capable of resurrecting Madelyn if she falls in battle. “She loves Ghost Fritzy and thinks its very cute,” says Obritsch.
Designing Battle Princess Madelyn has been a labor of love, but with Kickstarter came bigger responsibilities and longer hours. “I work now more than I ever have,” says Obritsch. “We averaged out that I work about 126 hours a week for the past three years. It’s taken a toll on me both mentally and physically.”
Obritsch adds that because he works from home, the long hours don’t bother him as much. He sneaks in breaks with his family whenever he can (his wife Lina works as the company CFO, and directed the game’s trailer). “I have the option of going upstairs and seeing my family if I need a 10-minute break,” he says. “And Maddi sits with me a lot while making the game. She has her desk right next to mine where she draws.”
For the future, Causal Bit Games plans on making a sequel to Battle Princess Madelyn. In fact, there’s a hidden ending that teases the sequel that may involve Obritsch’s youngest daughter Sofia. But he notes that he’s also looking at a break from platformers, and possibly even retiring from pixel art altogether and moving on to something bigger.
“As stressful as it’s been making [Battle Princess Madelyn], I have loved every moment of the creative process,” says Obritsch. “It was wonderful to share this kind of a project with Maddi. To show her that we really can do whatever we set our minds to – no matter what people say or think. It’s been a wonderful journey. And now our youngest daughter Sofia will need her own game as well!”
Battle Princess Madelyn is coming later this year to PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, Wii U, and PS Vita.
If you live near a major city in the US (or make an annual mall holiday shopping pilgrimage), chances are you can visit the Nintendo Switch Holiday Experience. The pop-up Nintendo booth is free to the public and will feature several playable Switch games, including the highly anticipated Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
“With the Nintendo Switch Holiday Experience, we wanted to give families a place to take a break and play some fun games during their holiday shopping,” said Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s Senior VP of Sales and Marketing. “Being able to play games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate before they launch is a great way to inform shopping decisions and educate people about what Nintendo has to offer this holiday season.”
Featured games at the Nintendo Switch Holiday Experience include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (releasing Dec. 7), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Party, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Eevee (releasing Nov. 16), and Overcooked 2.
Visitors can also check out the Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit as well as a Fortnite-themed photo booth. My Nintendo rewards members will be able to scan a QR code to receive a special holiday gift.
The Nintendo Switch Holiday Experience will be available between 4pm and 9pm Monday-Thursday, 3pm to 9pm on Fridays, 10am to 9pm on Saturday, and 11am to 6pm on Sundays. The event booth will be located at the following malls and shopping centers around the country, beginning November 10 (Nov. 11 for Houston).
Mall of Georgia in Buford, Georgia
Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois
Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas
Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California
The Florida Mall in Orlando, Florida
Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota
Queens Center in Elmhurst, New York
King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Arrowhead Towne Center in Glendale, Arizona
Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, California
Tysons Corner Center in Tysons Corner, Virginia
The event will last over a month, closing up shop on December 16.