Over the past year and some change, football video game fans have had some huge pieces of good news. Last year, 2K announced that it would be returning to the NFL-licensed football game market; albeit with a "non-simulation" licensed game -- and we still have no clue what that is going to entail. Earlier this year, EA announced that it would be resurrecting its college football series under the apt banner "EA Sports College Football".

For years, there were no football games at all except for Madden, so the boom of indie football games starting around 2018 / 2019 created a little renaissance of competing products looking to fill the vaccum left by the absence of competition and lack of niche titles like a college football games. As good as the news of new games from 2K and EA is, one thing that worried me was whether or not the indie football games (Axis Football, Maximum Football, Sunday Rivals, Legend Bowl, and so forth) would survive the impending release of new, big-budget football games entering the market. Well, the first indie casualty of the AAA announcements came on Wednesday night.

David Winter, the founder, owner, and lead developer of Canuck Games announced Wednesday night over Discord that plans for future versions of Maximum Football have been canceled, and the company Canuck Play is terminating its business operations. Apparently, Winter is offering the Maximum Football IP (and I think also the game code) up for sale. It's possible that another studio may purchase rights to Maximum Football and resume development, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that any new Maximum Football games will be coming out.

David Winter, owner of Canuck Play, announced the cancellation of Maximum Football and closure of the studio.

In his announcement, Winter cited several factors in the decision. Perhaps the most important one is his own health. He had been working himself 7 days a week for lengthy periods of time, and said that he had to be hospitalized for stress and fatigue. I'm a huge supporter of a stable and healthy work / life balance, and no job is (in my opinion) worth working yourself sick; least of all a video game. I certainly can't fault him for his decision, and I, personally, probably would have thrown in the towel a lot sooner if I had been in his shoes. Take care of yourself, David. Your health (both physical and mental) comes first.

Winter also cited EA's announcement of its upcoming college football game as a major contributing factor in the decision. In 2019, Maximum Football rebranded itself from being a Canadian football game to being a college football game, with the introduction of a college Dynasty mode. Personally, I always thought that this was a bad move. I understood it as a business decision at the time, as there was huge desire for a college football game, and nobody was filling that market demand. However, this move shifted Maximum Football away from its core identity as a Canadian football game, broadened the scope well beyond the ability of such a tiny group of developers to reasonably handle, and introduced a massive set of new challenges for the developers to overcome. I always feared that as soon as a bigger studio came along with a more polished college football product (whether it be EA, 2K, or even IMV with its crowd-funded Gridiron Champions that never saw the light of day), then Maximum Football would be kind of dead in the water. I didn't expect it to happen so quickly, but I figured it was an inevitability.

Maximum Football moved away from its Canadian football roots.

If another company does actually buy Maximum Football, I hope its another Canadian studio, and that they re-focus the game as a Canadian football sim. Doubling-down on its Canadian identity would give the game a unique selling point, would fill an otherwise vacant niche, would expose a larger audience to Canadian football, and might provide a consistent base of support from existing Canadian football fans. That doesn't mean they would have to abandon the college dynasty. They can still include a Canadian college dynasty if they want. Rather, I think they should focus on having a robust, quality game using Canadian rules first, before branching out to extensive U.S. pro and college rules and modes.

XFL logo

Nevertheless, it looks like we'll have to go through 2021 and 2022 without a Canadian or college football game to speak of while we wait to see what EA has to offer when EA Sports College Football releases in 2023. Or who knows? Maybe Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will buy Maximum Football and turn it into an XFL-licensed game? Hey, that's as realistic a possibility as him buying the XFL!

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Outlast - title

I have one more game in my spring "walking sim" research. That game is the 2013 first-person horror game, Outlast, which (along with Amnesia: The Dark Descent) was instrumental in popularizing the "hide-and-seek" brand of horror gaming that became very popular in indie and low-budget horror games over the ensuing decade.

I liked Amnesia, and was interested in playing Outlast back around its release. I bought it years ago, and it ended up sitting in my unplayed Steam backlog until I installed it about a year ago, with the intent of playing it during the pandemic. But then I played other games, and Outlast sat around on my desktop this entire past year until I finally got around to playing it last month.

So was it worth the 8-year wait? Meh.

A haunted house permeated with uncertainty and surprise

At a very fundamental level, Outlast wanted to be a game that shocked and horrified players. In many regards, it's very successful at this endeavor, and it holds up pretty well in the 8 or so years since it released. The game starts off with a slow, ominous build that helps create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty. But once the horrors start coming, it's a barrage of shockingly horrific violence and inhumanity. I was never quite sure what I was going to find on the other side of a door or at the end of a hallway.

Sadly, the over-the-top violence did turn out to be desensitizing. By less than halfway through the game, the mutilated bodies of inmates and guards just wasn't scary anymore. Thankfully, there's a few other shocks and surprises in store for the player that helped keep me from becoming too comfortable with what's going on around me.

I actually had plenty of spare batteries
at the end of the game.

Like with most good survival horror games, Outlast sets up an expectation of scarcity that makes players anxious about using supplies that are actually in fairly generous supply. Just like how Resident Evil provides more than enough Ink Ribbons to let you save whenever you come across a typewriter, and Silent Hill gives enough ammo and healing supplies to let players stand your ground against most enemies, Outlast provides plenty of batteries. I thought I was using the night vision fairly liberally throughout the game, yet still had 6 or 7 spare batteries on me at almost all times throughout the game, without ever feeling like I was going too far out of my way to search for them.

The only exception was going through the courtyard and female ward, which is basically just a resource sink. The courtyard itself is a pain in the ass to navigate, but it looks really cool. The blowing wind and lightning creates lots of visual and auditory tricks that kept me tense throughout the entire time. I thought I was seeing ghosts all over the place, but could never really be sure that it wasn't just a trick of the light. I came out the other side of the courtyard with like 2 or 3 spare batteries, which made me nervous whenever I saw a dark hallway or room in the ensuing level. But it didn't take long to get my battery reserves back up to a comfortable level.

The dark courtyard perhaps the most tense and frightening (and battery-consuming) level.

In fact, by the end of the game, the night vision seemed to become less critical to progress, as the final level or two of the game are very well lit. I got to a point where I wasn't able to pick up new batteries because my stock was already full. So perhaps Red Barrels could have been a bit more stingy with how many batteries it provides? Or maybe they could have made a few more levels of the game a bit more dark? As it stands, most areas in the game are either completely lit and do not require night vision at all, or they are pitch black and absolutely require batteries to see anything at all. This means that the game has to provide more than enough batteries; otherwise, progress becomes impossible.

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I do not have particularly strong opinions one way or the other about the video game sub-genre known as "walking simulators" in general. I have strong opinions about some of the games that I've played within this genre, but I would not say that I either like or that I dislike "walking simulators" as a whole genre. Some work well and are good games. Others are un-engaging or lazy and didn't particularly work for me.

For example, I hated Dear Esther and Ether One. I was immensely disappointed in Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, after having enjoyed The Dark Descent. But on the other side of the coin, I thoroughly adore Gone Home, Firewatch, and What Remains of Edith Finch.

Patrons had early access to the full video essay.

Are "Walking Sim" games?

So what is a "walking simulator"? Well, like with most things in pop culture, the definition will vary depending on who you ask. But I think most people would agree that a "walking simulator" can be accurately described as interactive entertainment that conveys a narrative almost exclusively through the exploration of an environment and the clues provided therein. You may notice that I used the term "interactive entertainment" as oppose to "video game". I did this in order to keep this discussion's definition as non-contentious as possible. One of the criticisms of walking simulators that I specifically wish to address is the idea that they are not video games, and such critics would immediately object to the use of the term "video game" in the definition. These experiences generally lack any of the violent conflict that is present in most video games, and the mechanics rarely go beyond navigating obstacles, solving puzzles, or managing a limited inventory.

While I am perfectly content to call walking simulators "video games", there are somewhat valid arguments for why the label might not be appropriate for such entertainment products. It could be argued that they are not video games because they lack conflict; they lack a traditional win state, fail state, or any stakes at all; and they lack mechanical depth or complex systems. I personally do not accept these arguments as disqualifying walking simulators from consideration as "video games". There are plenty of universally-accepted video games that also lack one, or even all three of those criteria.

Many games have lacked violence conflict, traditional win states, or complicated system mastery.
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Last week, experimental physicists at Fermilab made an exciting announcement. They believe they have confirmed the presence of anomalous activity among muons in an electromagnetic field that are not predicted by the Standard Model of Physics. This result could point to the existence of heretofore unknown particles, or maybe even a fifth fundamental force of physics!

The possibility of a fifth fundamental force of physics was reported back in 2011. That research was a completely different experiment, and as far as I know, it ended up being a dead end. I don't recall ever reading confirmation of the experimental findings.

Fermilab researchers have reproduced experimental results that suggests a new particle or force of nature.

This new experiment, however, makes much more precise measurements, and the confidence is much higher that the anomalous data actually represents a new phenomenon. If this new experimental outcome does, indeed lead to a new fundamental force, it would be very exciting news, indeed.

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Virginia - title

I spent a large chunk of my gaming time since last August playing football video games. With the season over, I wanted to spend a couple months playing other games before diving back into to football critique videos with the next installment of my "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football" series. I also recently played Outer Wilds, which gave me an idea for a new video essay about the evolution of walking simulators (video will be published soon, and I'll post it to the blog when it's released). So I spent pretty much all of March diving into my Steam backlog of walking simulators, replaying ones I'd played years ago, and spending some Patron funds to purchase ones I had never played.

One such game sitting in my Steam backlog for years was the divisive indie noir thriller Virginia. Players take on the role of a freshman FBI agent tasked with performing internal affairs oversight on her partner, who is currently investigating a case involving a missing teenager in a small Virginia town. The game shows its X-Files and Twin Peaks influences proudly on its sleeve, including a scene of lounge musicians performing a song that is a blatant homage to the title theme of Twin Peaks.

Virginia is heavily inspired by 90's thrillers X-Files and Twin Peaks.

What makes Virginia interesting as a game is its unique presentation. It uses very cinematic editing, with sudden cuts and montages during gameplay. I might start walking down a hallway on the first floor of the FBI building, then suddenly cut (mid-stride) to the hallway leading to my partner's basement office (just like the office of Agent Mulder in X-Files). This can be convenient because it spares the player from the unnecessary legwork of tediously walking through such a large building. This keeps the game focused on telling its story at a brisk, cinematic pace. When combined with the context of the situation, and the movie-quality soundtrack, this editing can build a lot of tension and suspense. Who would have thought that a montage of walking down empty hallways for less than a minute could be such a tense experience?

Furthermore, the levels are designed such that these edits sync up with player inputs so as to create a surprisingly smooth and purposeful stream of inputs. These aren't cutscenes. I remain in control of the character, and these sudden cuts rarely, if ever feel jarring. They might be surprising (especially the first few times they happen), but I never felt like I had no idea what was going on (with maybe a few exceptions late in the game).

Cinematic edits cut down on tedious travel and keeps the story moving at a brisk pace.

This style of carefully-paced editing can also be problematic. Scenes will sometimes transition without player input, creating frequent points of no return, even if I wanted to go back and examine something else or try another interaction. Even though the player remains in control throughout, I still had virtually no agency in how scenes would progress -- let alone how the larger story unfolds. This probably could have been a first-person animated film and wouldn't really lose much in the translation.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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