Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles catches your eye immediately. With its striking, saturated, stylized scenes, this 3D open-world RPG may remind you of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Developed by a small team (3 staff and 2 contractors) at Australia’s Prideful Sloth, Yonder differentiates itself from that game and others in that it has no combat whatsoever.
We played a portion of the game and visited a new biome, which you can see in the gameplay video above. There are eight biomes in all, so what you’re seeing represents just a slice of what the game offers in terms of diversity and scope. Note that the video was captured on PC.
Zelda was not the only influence for Yonder. Prideful Sloth director Cheryl Vance says Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon were also touchstones throughout the game’s development, something that becomes obvious when you dig into the game’s farming system and meet the animals that inhabit the world. Additionally, she mentions a game that might surprise you: Shadow of the Colossus.
“Shadow of the Colossus was really impactful for me from the point of view of how beautiful and empty the world was, and you still enjoyed being in it,” Vance said. “Between us and the contractors, we’ve probably got 100 gaming years under our belts–so a lot of influences in small, little ways, too. So many different things.”
Your goal in Yonder is to clear out the “Murk,” an evil presence that physically blocks your progression, by collecting sprites throughout the world of Gemea. Sprites are scattered throughout the world, and you also need to complete quests, including farming, to get what you need.
At the start of our gameplay demo, we came across a creature that looked like a buffalo who was chomping down on grass and minding his own business in the middle of a grassy field. Upon approaching the creature, it turned its back and shied away. To obtain the affection of a creature you must find the food it likes. After doing that, floating hearts appear and you’re likely to let out an ‘Awww’ the first time you see this animation. After you’ve befriended an animal, you can lead it back to your farm where it will stay. You can customize the look and layout of your farm, placing items like stables and stalls on a grid system to your liking.
You must also grow crops, and collect items on quests (including things like gathering wood and cooking food) to curry favor with locals and get the items you need to eradicate the Murk. The Murk descended on Gemea due to an item called the Cloud Catcher becoming corrupted. It is your job to restore it and bring the world to peace again.
But why no combat? Vance told GameSpot that not including combat helps the game potentially appeal to a wider audience.
“That really came down to more of the influence of Harvest Moon and things like it…it’s just more of a thing of going, ‘What can we do and not wanting to put it in there was sort of the pillar we have, which is the called the ‘safe, inviting world.’ It’s more about being able to load it, not run five minutes, and then get splattered. Our focus was the Nintendo audience, initially, [but now] it’s broadened past that, which is nice to see.”
Yonder has been purposefully designed to cater to a more casual crowd; those who want to pick up and play and not get frustrated with challenging controls.
“Not everybody wants to die. Once you get into the world, it doesn’t feel like [combat] needs to be there. It’s not something…it would feel odd, putting it in,” Vance said.
Combat can sometimes, for some games, “get in the way” of the story, she explained.
While our Yonder demo was limited to a particular section of the larger world map, when the game launches, people will be able to basically run from one end to the other right from the start. It is this kind of freedom that Vance and Prideful Sloth wanted to emphasize, and combat was seen as something that could have gotten in the way of that open-endedness, she said.
There is a full day/night cycle in Yonder (some objectives and activities are only available at certain times of the day), as well as environmental effects such as rain. On top of that, Yonder has seasons, though our one-hour gameplay demo only brought us six days into the game world, so we did not see how the world changes with each season. One example Vance provided of how a particular season can impact gameplay is that in the winter, lakes will freeze, allowing you to cross where you otherwise could not.
The camera in Yonder is a treat. Presented from a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective, Yonder’s camera is set far enough off the character to provide a wide field of view. Sometimes the camera is low to the ground, which provides a nice effect that frames the world in such a way that you can take in more of what’s around you. Prideful Sloth worked with John Nesky, who worked on the camera features for thatgamecompany’s acclaimed adventure game Journey.
Yonder launches on July 18 for PlayStation 4 and PC. Prideful Sloth is considering other platforms, though that will depend on if the game is successful. There are only two programmers at Prideful Sloth, Vance reminded us.
Here are some other things you might find interesting about Yonder:
When you jump off a high space, you float to the ground with an umbrella.
Tools do not break, so once you have an item in your inventory it will always work.
Yonder also has a trading/currency system; You can trade items you collect in the world to merchants or sell them.
The in-game economy, which is still being tweaked, Vance told us, will respond to your decisions. Flood the market with a lot of one item and its value will drop.
The creatures have silly names, including the Fabbit–which is a fat rabbit.
Prideful Sloth has a lot of ideas for what it could do for DLC or a sequel, if the first game is a hit.
According to his public LinkedIn profile page, Lee joined Microsoft in 2003 as a software test engineer, before joining Microsoft’s game development division as a software development testing engineer in 2004.
According to Time, the popular sandbox game runs at 720p in both docked and mobile modes. Some fans might have wanted to see 1080p, but this is not possible due to “issues currently experienced shifting from one resolution to the other when docking/undocking,” Time reported (via DualShockers), citing a Microsoft representative. According to the spokesperson, the Switch’s power is not holding the game back from reaching 1080p, but instead the “issues” laid out above are to blame.
As Time points out, it is possible that Minecraft for Switch could reach 1080p if those items are sorted out. We will report back with more details as they become available.
Priced at $30, Minecraft for Switch features local and online multiplayer support as well as Mario-inspired skins, as you can see in the image gallery above.
In other Switch news, the eShop got a welcome upgrade recently, as it now allows users to store their credit card information. Previously, you had to enter it every time you made a new purchase, unless you were willing to add credit to your digital wallet on the system.
James Gunn wasn’t always sure that he wanted to come back for the third chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy series. In April, he announced his intention to direct the upcoming film. He almost didn’t do it, and now the director has revealed one of the reasons why he was hesitant about coming back.
SPOILERS FOR GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 FOLLOW BELOW.
In a Facebook Q&A, Gunn said he almost said no to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 because the character played by Michael Rooker, Yondu, is unlikely to factor into it much for obvious reasons.
“Let me tell you, there was nothing harder for me than the choice to kill Yondu in this movie,” Gunn said, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, when asked why Yondu had to die. “Michael Rooker, for all the crap I give him, is one of my closest friends in the world and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a movie without Michael Rooker in the future. I almost didn’t do Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 because there was no Michael Rooker in it and I couldn’t see making the movie without him.”
Rooker has been in every one of Gunn’s movies to date, going back to Slither. Gunn went on to say that he wrote versions of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s script where Yondu survived. But ultimately, that felt “dishonest,” and it was changed so that Yondu didn’t make it.
“He means that much to me and I love him that much. And it was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make from a storytelling perspective to choose to have Yondu die,” Gunn said. “I wrote a bunch of treatments where Yondu did not die. There were other endings–he was saved at the last minute after taking the sacrificial stance, and I wrote many drafts like that. And I realized I was being dishonest. That was not what this story was. For me, the most important thing in making a movie is to tell the truest and most honest story possible, and that’s whether you’re making a $500,000 indie film or a $200 million dollar spectacle film.
“And the truth of this story, this was about a father’s true and ultimate love for his son,” he added. “This is a movie about, Who really are our fathers? Who really are our siblings? And the only way for it to be an honest story was for Yondu to die, and anything else would have been half measures, and would have been me backing out because I was afraid to tell the truth. And so that’s why Yondu dies.”
Windows Central has obtained internal Microsoft documents that reveal a number of interesting data points and context around who the typical Xbox gamer is and more.
Based on the responses of 2,000 gamers in the US, the documents, distributed to development partners to help them understand the audience better, show that the 58 percent of Xbox gamers are male, compared to 42 percent female. The 25-34 age bracket is the biggest, at 28 percent, followed by 35-44 (23 percent), 18-24 (18 percent), 45-54 (15 percent), 13-17 (10 percent), and 55-65 (6 percent).
45 percent of respondents said they live with their spouse, followed next by 23 percent who said they live with their parents. In terms of household income, $50,000-$74,999 (21 percent) and $75,000-$99,999 (21 percent) were the highest in terms of percentages.
Another slide is focused on player behavior and how players fit into groups. Fifty-three percent of users are interested in “Socializing,” which Microsoft defines as spending the most time on Xbox Live (17 hours per week) and has four times more friends than average. Forty-nine percent are in the “Exploring” category (plays an average of 15 games per year), while 31 percent are in the “Achievement” group, which means their Gamerscore is 2X more than others, have spent 37 months on Xbox Live, and play around 14 hours of multiplayer each week.
VG247: “Horizon: Zero Dawn players have shared impressive screenshots of the game since release, but with this weeks update to Photo Mode, user images are even more impressive.”
Amiibo figures have occasionally gone on sale in the past, but if you’re in the market for those from the Animal Crossing series, now is as good a time as any to take the plunge.
Among Best Buy’s deals this week is a sale on most–but not quite all–of the figures in the Animal Crossing line. This brings the likes of Tom Nook and Mabel down to just $2, as well as Resetti to $3. There’s also a three-pack with Cyrus, Reese, and KK Slider for $5, which works out to less than $2 per figure.
The key absence here is the Villager, the Amiibo edition of the player’s character in the series. That’s presumably due to the fact that it’s a part of the Super Smash Bros. line of Amiibo figures, rather than the Animal Crossing one. You can see all of the figures on sale here.
Gamers Club Unlocked members, who receive 20% off new games at Best Buy, also see their discount apply here. That brings the prices down to anywhere from $1.59 to $4.