FIFA 17 breaks series’ launch week sales record

A small game named FIFA 17 released in the UK last week and earned the highest UK launch sales of any FIFA title, ever.

FIFA 17 sales were 18 per cent up on last year – and enough that it edged past previous high watermark FIFA 13.

53 per cent of copies were sold on PlayStation 4, while 41 per cent were sold on Xbox One – despite Xbox One S console bundles including the game packed in.

Amazon Prime now includes Twitch Prime subscription

Amazon Prime members now get a free Twitch Prime subscription as part of their existing package.

The service bolsters Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, with a bevvy of monthly freebies. At the moment you can nab a copy of the Twitch-focused Streamline, a new Hearthstone hero, plus skins for Smite and Paladins.

Twitch Prime supercedes the previous paid-for Twitch Turbo subscription – you just need to link your Twitch and Amazon accounts on the Twitch site.

How Japan’s best-loved RPG is bringing structure to those paralysed by choice

If Minecraft’s greatest trick is the way in which it leaves players to do as they please within its verdant, destructible playpen, then it’s one hasn’t travelled the world with equal success. “In Japan, people like to be told how to play their games,” explains Noriyoshi Fujimoto, one of the creators of Dragon Quest Builders, a game that attempts to splice §Minecraft’s giddying freedom with the kind of quest-based adventuring for which Japan’s beloved RPG series is known. For Fujimoto, Minecraft’s guidance-free approach, which leaves players free to build a tower to the stars, dig a tunnel to the Earth’s core, or chase sheep all day, goes some way to explain why its gargantuan and enduring success hasn’t been replicated in Japan. “Minecraft is just finally starting to become popular with primary schoolchildren here,” he says, sitting in a stretched sofa at Square Enix’s Tokyo office, a plushie Slime (Dragon Quest’s googly-eyed merengue blob mascot) perched on his lap. “But it’s clear that it just isn’t going to have the same breakout appeal that it’s enjoyed overseas.”

For Fujimoto and his team, which includes Etrian Odyssey creator Kazuya Niinou, Dragon Quest Builders attempts to bridge the gap. “It was easy to see that, if we gave players some of the guidance they were looking for, combining the signposted quests of Dragon Quest with the sandbox parts of Minecraft, then we just might have a hit on our hands.” It’s a slick pitch and one that, it should be remembered, Minecraft’s original developer Mojang also made when, for the first ‘full’ release of the game, it folded in an adventure quest-line complete with an endgame for those who need to ‘beat’ a video game rather than simply enjoy one: a giant dragon that, when discovered and felled, concludes the storyline. Mojang’s attempt was, however, somewhat half-baked, one that revealed the essential tension between Minecraft’s essential fluidity and the strictures of formal quest design.

It’s a tension that, for a long time, befuddled the Builders team. “The first draft of the game had a huge amount of freedom,” explains Fujimoto. “You could do whatever you wanted. But we quickly ran into fatal problems. For example, the game might ask the player to go to a certain area that they had already completely destroyed.” The team threw that version out and started again. “We started adding limitations till we struck a balance that seemed to work,” he says. “For example, we would make certain landmarks indestructible to prevent you from blowing them up. But there might be a hundred different paths you could choose to get from A to B. In any other game you might have a road to get from A to B, but here you have the choice to dig a tunnel, or build a bridge. The journey itself is not laid out for you, even if the mission objectives are.”

Gameboy wonder – the miniature epics of Daniel Linssen

Even today, in the age of 4K screens wider than living room walls and (theoretically) mainstream VR headsets, Nintendo’s Gameboy exerts a peculiar fascination. The hardware itself may have long since ceased production, but it continues to bewitch developers – take a tour of the indie storefront Itch.io and you’ll soon be in tributes, from first-person horror games coated in LCD fuzz to borderline copyright-unfriendly riffs on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. How to explain this enduring appeal, the draw of nostalgia and Nintendo’s peerless first-party licenses aside? For Daniel Linssen, an independent based in Sydney whose games are among the wittiest and most elegant I’ve played, it’s a question of limitation.

“When you’re working with only four colours and tiny sprites, it seems possible to find the perfect sprite for a particular object,” he says. “There are only so many possible combinations, after all. And as the number of possibilities increases I find myself agonising over details that become less and less significant. So even though a higher resolution or more colours would make the game look ‘nicer’, there’s a certain satisfaction to finding the best solution in a very limited space, rather than a good solution in a much more open space.”

The idea of doing the most you can with a little is integral to game jams, which invite developers to cook up fully playable projects in days based on a (typically eccentric) theme. Much of the indie community’s most pioneering work can be found among the submissions to competitions like the 14-year-old Ludum Dare event, and – which draw heavily on classic 8- or 16-bit platformers and RPGs – are captivating efforts indeed.

Digital Foundry: Hands-on with Mantis Burn Racing on PS4 Pro

When we were first invited to go hands-on with Mantis Burn Racing – PlayStation 4 Pro’s first native 4K title running at 60fps – it’s fair to say that we didn’t have to think twice about taking up the offer. It was a chance to see a title running at the new hardware’s optimal video output, and to talk directly with VooFoo Studios, the Birmingham-based UK developer behind the game.

Best described as a modern 3D refresh of Codemasters’ classic Micro Machines series of top-down racing games with a very different visual style, it’s perhaps understandable how Mantis Burn Racing manages to hit 60fps at 4K. It doesn’t run on the most technologically advanced engine on the market right now – in fact, its underpinnings are based on proprietary VooFoo tech used everywhere from iOS to Android to Wii U – but the end result is a game that looks and feels different and while it’s not pushing the state of the art, it still has its own charms.

Various gameplay modes are on offer but the basic gameplay remains constant – it’s flat-out circuit racing built upon a solid combination of excellent, dynamic, sweeping camera work and a highly satisfying drift mechanic. The game’s visuals are distinctive too – two separate areas are included in the game: an industrial cityscape and a detail-rich rocky environment, though some stages merge the two. The more natural environments are where Mantis Burn Racing’s visual really shine – light, shadow, intricate detail and a substantial post-process pipeline combine to produce a great look, with lighting values and indeed textures taken from photography and baked in at a high resolution. It’s here where you get your value from the native 4K framebuffer.

Watch: The least responsible uses of Watch Dogs 2’s godlike hacking powers

Welcome to your weekly round-up of the video happenings over at Outside Xbox, where this week we have been playing Ubisoft’s memetastic hack-’em-up Watch Dogs 2.

Watch Dogs 2’s hacker hero Marcus Holloway wields mighty hacking powers that could change the world for the better, though that is not what we did with them. In this new Watch Dogs 2 gameplay we used them to mess with the citizens of San Francisco just “for the lols”, as the kids say.

Whether Marcus’ hacking powers are put to use remotely controlling cars, flattening people with window cleaning platforms or starting house parties where he is propositioned by a Roomba, really none of this is helping Deadsec’s cause against the corrupt corporations of Silicon Valley.