The Unresolved Gaming Mysteries of 2013

In 2013, next-gen consoles — previously the dominant fodder of the rumor mill — were announced and released. Many next-gen rumors turned out to be true — unpopular and confusing DRM policies were announced and reversed, launch titles were delayed, game resolutions differed. Yet these next-gen matters were not the only prominent rumors of the year.

The Existence of Fallout 4

What is perhaps the last explosive rumor of the year — and the one that most immediately comes to mind — appeared on this very site. A Kotaku reader sent Jason a wealth of casting documents for "a casting call for a project code-named Institute." While not mentioning Fallout directly, the casting documents contained references to existing series lore — such as the Institute and the Commonwealth — and casting call scripts contained the series famed opening line "War. War never changes." More intriguingly, the documents pinpointed Boston as the setting for Bethesda's next post-apocalyptic RPG. This was not the first hint of a Boston-set Fallout: early last year, somewhat specious rumors of Bethesda employees scouting MIT circulated on Reddit. For Fallout fans, the leaked documents marked some good news after a much-discussed fake ARG.

Amazon's Gaming Console?

In August, Game Informer reported that Amazon — the company that sells Kindles, spindles and, well, everything — was preparing to release an Android-based console with a dedicated controller in time for the holiday season. Job postings from earlier in the year hinted at increased gaming ambitions and Amazon had been poaching all sorts of major talent — particularly developers from Microsoft — for months, but a dedicated gaming device seemed like a niche proposal for the company.

The day after Game Informer's report, TechCrunch published a story claiming the rumored game console was actually one part of a general AppleTV-esque set-top box in development at Lab126, Amazon's Silicon Valley-based hardware R&D lab. Sources told TechCrunch the Amazon box would be powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, putting it potentially in the ballpark of an Xbox 360 performance-wise.

A month later, Gamasutra reported that Amazon was attempting to court American game developers to develop for the device. According to the site, Amazon didn't explicitly discuss a device, but rather, the company suggested to developers "that it would be a very good idea to add gamepad support to their games."

Ultimately, the Amazon device was neither announced nor released this year. The Verge reported in late October that Amazon decided to delay its set-top box device, and claimed the set-top box's Android OS shared much code with the forked Android operating system found in Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets. Maybe we'll hear something about it in the new year.

Grand Theft Auto V on PC?

Several weeks after the open-world sequel's record-breaking release, sources told Eurogamer Rockstar was planning on launching a PC version of their blockbuster title in the first quarter of 2014, ostensibly mirroring the launch pattern for the Grand Theft Auto IV. Though, as Jason pointed out, there were eight months separating the console and PC releases of the last GTA, and September to Q1 2014 is four to six months, not quite exactly mirroring the last game.

Eurogamer's report came after a quickly removed job posting for Rockstar Leeds indicating the studio was working on an unnamed Rockstar game, as well as assets in the iFruit companion app suggesting a PC SKU.

Rockstar hasn't explicitly said GTA V is hitting PCs, but all of the past titles in the franchise have arrived on computers, so it seems logical to assume non-console gamers will be able to enjoy the game sometime soon.

Grand Theft Auto Voice Actors Teaming Up For Something

According to an IGN report, Shawn Fonteno — voice of Franklin in the latest GTA — said at October's New York Comic-Con he was teaming up with Young Maylay, the actor who voiced Carl Johnson in San Andreas, for a project. When asked by moderator Greg Miller about what such a project may be, Fonteno quickly became evasive and "changed the subject." Fonteno's coyness led many to wonder if this might be some sort of GTA V DLC in which the two characters meet.

We'll see whether that is the case soon: Rockstar recent said "substantial additions" for GTA V's single-player mode are planned for 2014.

Sonic Racing Studio Handling Next LittleBigPlanet?

In February, multiple sources told VG247 Sumo Digital — developer of last year's well-received Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed — was working on LittleBigPlanet 3. Fans discovered a Sumo contractor listing the game on their CV several months later.

Sony's almost certainly keen to continue their most prominent family-friendly franchise for the moment, and Media Molecule is busy with some silly dream sculpting rock fantasy Move thing for PS4, so it would hardly be a surprise if another studio were handling the next entry in the creative platforming series.

Sega Working On Alien: Isolation?

Several months ago, a source told Kotaku details of the 2014 game Alien: Isolation, Sega's next Alien game after the boondoggle that was Aliens Colonial Marines. A cross-generation first-person shooter in development at Total War studio Creative Assembly, the game places players in the shoes of Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda Ripley, who, in line with the original film, "[spends] most if not all of the game on a single space station" dealing with a single alien. According to the source, Alien: Isolation "uses both stealth and horror elements" and is "inspired by games like Dishonored and Bioshock."

Sega is apparently set on avoiding a repeat of Colonial Marines — and has already delayed Alien: Isolation's announcement, which was initially set for this past E3. The gap between announcement and release on Alien: Isolation will certainly be far shorter than the nearly five years between the Colonial Marines announcement and release.

Earlier this month, possible screenshots of the game leaked that seem reminiscent of indie horror sci-fi title Routine, a game likely channeling many of the game influences as Creative Assembly's title. Though undoubtedly, Sega's game have a much larger budget, and footage will probably reflect it.

The Death of Dead Space?

In March, VideoGamer published a story claiming Dead Space 4 — which the site said was being prototyped at Visceral Montreal prior to the studio's closure — was cancelled and the series future was in doubt following disappointing sales of Dead Space 3. Unsurprisingly, developers took to the internet to deny the story.

In an unusual move, EA COO Peter Moore wrote in the comments of GameIndustry.biz, where he accused VideoGamer of fabricating the story to generate clicks and advertising revenue. VideoGamer, however, stood behind their story and said they would not have ran the story if they weren't certain of the source.

Why would the COO of EA take the unusual move of forcefully denying the story in an internet comment section? Dead Space was a marquee brand for EA and a PR denial or non-response for lower than expected sales ostensibly could adversely affect the company's stock price.

That said, EA admitted in a May conference call that Dead Space 3 sold below expectations despite topping the NPD charts for February. And EA's Patrick Söderlund told Eurogamer in June there were no plans for another Dead Space title, but another one could maybe happen one day.

But EA's May announcement of securing the Star Wars game rights was almost certainly a nail in the coffin of Dead Space, as Star Wars is a far more popular franchise with much broader recognition. So much for the plans to turn Dead Space into a space Uncharted-type action-adventure franchise with FPS games and flight sims as well.

As to what space adventures Visceral Games is currently working on, they are possibly developing an open-world Star Wars game.

The Continued Mysteries of Valve

Slowly but surely, Valve has turned into the gaming industry's most notoriously secretive company, but this year we saw some hints at what might be happening at Gabe Newell's quasi-anarchic factory.

In June, the eagled-eyed Valve obsessives at ValveTime managed to get access to apparent data of email group listings in Jira, the project management software Valve uses, containing both current and former groups. The data revealed numerous "Left 4 Dead 3" groups, and the Left 4 Dead 3 lists contain "around 68 people," according to ValveTime's sources. Additionally, ValveTime claimed a Half-Life 3 group contained 42 people as of June. ValveTime also noted names for groups with various designers that sounded like unannounced titles — "Cries Unheard" and "Microbe Wars."

In an update to their story, ValveTime later posted what it claims is a list of all 791 Valve email groups as of June. Given that we only have names, it is unclear for the most part what, but I think I can decipher some things of interest. There are six Left 4 Dead 3 groups: "L4D3," "L4D3 Audio," "L4D3 Developers," "left4dead3_assertions," "left4dead3_contentassertions" and "Left4dead3_minidumps." The list also features two "Microbe Wars" groups — a titular one and "Microbe Wars Core." Presumably referring to a core team beyond Valve's infamously amorphous project groups, the "Core" name appears numerous times in the list, including: "Apps Core," "Controller Core," "Hardware Core," "RetroCore," "SteamMMO Core" and "Vortex Core."

Many of those projects with "Core" groups we know well — Steam's application offerings, the Steam Machines and its controller, but the other three are more mysterious. SteamMMO is presumably an effort to integrate support for massively multiplayer games within Steam. Vortex, which has two other lists ("Vortex" and "Vortex Programmers"), was namedropped by Gabe Newell during a podcast last year, and is apparently shepherded by Michael Abrash, who is working on things like wearable computing. Little is known as to what RetroCore might be, but the name is adjacent to "Retrovirus" on the list.

Further indication of more zombie action ahead from Valve came from a photo from an August Dota 2 fan tour of a Valve change log showed several items containing "L4D3" and "Source2." Sources told Rock Paper Shotgun the photo was authentic.

A few months later, in early October, ValveTime once again reportedly accessed JIRA data, which the site claims showed an increase in the size of the Half-Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3 and Source 2 groups. Additionally, a new "Half-Life 3 Core" appeared in the database. The site also posted a purported list of developers on the projects that suggest two prominent newer Valve developers — Doug Church and Clint Hocking — are now working on Left 4 Dead 3. It is worth noting, however, that most of the developers attached to Half-Life 3 appear on the longer dev list for Left 4 Dead 3, which seems to be further along by sheer headcount.

A League of Legends Card Game?

A purported hack of the Twitter account of Riot Games' president and cofounder Marc Merrill revealed images from a project called League of Legends: Supremacy, a card game the hacker claims was "fully completed, but never released." The hacker posted various since-removed images from the game that depicted a fairly standard computer card game. However, following the hack, Merrill tweeted that Supremacy was an experimental project, not necessarily intended for release. Though it is worth mentioning that Riot previously registered trademarks and web domains with the "Supremacy" name.

The Ever-Expanding Universe of Assassin's Creed

Spoilers ahead

A weird meta in-game email thread from the latest Assassin's Creed game may potentially tease the future of the franchise. Developers from Ubisoft Montreal's in-game counterpart Abstergo Entertainment discuss what settings to explore in future games, including previously unexplored settings: 16th century Ottoman Empire, New England and the American Midwest of the 19th century, the French Revolution, 13th century Egypt and Northern Africa, the Summer of Love and Ashikaga shogunate.

Some of these listed events had accompanying art in the email thread. Most of that art was either famous paintings or previously published Assassin's Creed universe art, but the final piece of art, depicting a warrior against the Egyptian pyramids, appeared to be from a separate project entirely. The character in the art looked exactly like the lead character from the cancelled Egypt-set Ubisoft Montreal project Osiris, which led me to wonder if Ubisoft might be repurposing the concept into an Assassin's Creed title. The Assassin's Creed franchise has swallowed up unrelated Ubisoft projects before: Ubisoft Massive's "Desmond Journey" puzzle sequences from Assassin's Creed: Revelations was initially a small and original puzzle game project.

A Ubisoft survey from earlier this month Stephen took interestingly asked about whether players would be interested in a spinoff pirate game unattached to the Assassin's Creed franchise, suggesting Ubisoft might be considering a pirate game franchise. Ubisoft also asked players to rank a list of elements players might like to see in a pirate game, options like multiplayer combat, in-game activities, and customization of one's character/ship/hideout. At the end of the survey, Ubisoft quizzed about whether players would be interested in buying a new Red Dead Redemption or Uncharted game, presumably gauging their interest in something similar to those games.

superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com. Everything in his bi-weekly Kotaku columns is lying in plain sight online and linked for you to investigate yourself.