Blaseball just had its weirdest weekend yet; a high bar for an internet baseball sim about incinerations and forbidden books. Yet this last Saturday's Season 9 playoffs culminated in what can only be described as the perfect confluence of storylines, both intended and circumstantial. Welcome to a new age of Blaseball.
If you're late to the party, we have a helpful explainer that can help you get the gist of things. The tricky part is that it only covers the basics of Blaseball, as it pertains to simulated baseball using fantasy names and fake money for gambling.
The part where the community collectively peers into the abyss and fiction emerges has shifted radically since the "splort's" debut. Following one of developer The Game Band's breaks earlier this year, Blaseball returned with more of its simulation readily shown, and soon after the league started getting wild.
Going into this weekend, players had been swapping teams due to Feedback and getting encased in giant peanut shells due to a mysterious Shelled effect that hit a number of big players, including superstar slugger Jessica Telephone. Players had collectively pooled their efforts to bring back Jaylen Hotdogfingers, the first player to ever be incinerated by a rogue Umpire, by selectively idolizing them until they were in the 14th spot on the Idol ranking leaderboards.
Jaylen's return was exciting until they started beaning batters and making them Unstable, leading to even more incinerations. (They later refinanced their Debt to the afterlife to instead instill Flickering when they beaned someone, causing them to be susceptible to Feedback.)
There was also a Pitching Machine, at some point. To be honest, it can be hard at times to follow, though writers like Cat Manning have been putting together great primers on the evolving narrative. Characters like Jaylen Hotdogfingers and Jessica Telephone have managed to take on lives of their own, thanks in large part to the endless production of really great fan art, and to the system itself providing incredible beats at just the right moment.
When it came time for the Season 9 playoffs, between the Charleston Shoe Thieves and the Baltimore Crabs, the series got intense. Both teams have pretty fervent fan bases, and Jaylen Hotdogfingers had feedbacked across the league to land on the Shoe Thieves. Their meeting in the playoff's finals came down to the bottom of the ninth where, with two runners on and a 2-1 count, Stu Trololol lived up to their name and slammed one out of the park for a series-winning dinger.
It should have been a moment of celebration for the Shoe Thieves, but their joy was quickly brought to a grinding halt. An emergency alert sounded, and then appeared The Shelled One, a god in the form of a giant peanut. The nutty deity had been lording over Blaseball for some time, mocking the players' hubris. "Time to teach you some discipline."
What ensued can only be described as a sports JRPG boss battle. Rather than the typical box score that shows up for an average Blaseball game, two life bars appeared. The Charleston Shoe Thieves had to take the field again, this time against The Shelled One's Pods: a team made up of the various Blaseball players who had been Shelled over time.
To put it in less jargon-y terms, imagine if, at the conclusion of the World Series, a god descended and challenged the winning team to a match, playing against the spirits of baseball's greatest. And folks, it did not go well for the Shoe Thieves.
The battle raged on, inning after inning. The giant peanut-god taunted players as its batters clobbered the ball. Weather shifted on a dime, hailing peanuts and sending out waves of reverb. All hits, balls, strikes, and outs were converted to damage, but the Shelled One's life bar was too big for Charleston to overcome.
Try as they might, the Shoe Thieves weren't able to withstand the onslaught of the Shelled Ones. But in a truly brilliant confluence of the game's automated systems perfectly matching narrative, Jessica Telephone stepped up to the final at-bat, and wielding her signature Dial Tone bat, knocked the final ball out of the park.
The Shelled One mocked players, disappearing after delivering a final message: "Want to save your friends? Give me your best shot. I will be waiting." With it, the Shelled players were taken away. All hope lost, the Monitor, a mysterious friendly squid and another of Blaseball's mysterious deities, appeared asking if they had missed something. "Shoot, let me know next time," the squid said before departing once more.
Today is a new morning for Blaseball players, who now have to contend with new decrees and an impending rematch with a peanut god who's holding their favorite players hostage. It means fan-favorites like Jessica Telephone now being turned against the league. It's also a sort-of unifying moment for players, as they now have a goal: defeat the Shelled One and save their friends.
Yes, it is absolutely an anime-as-hell narrative. It's also one of the most incredible developments to see happen live in some time. Blaseball started out as a creative sports sim, hoping to provide some level of community using a fantasy sport and funny names. The fan art, Discords, and collaborative fictional efforts that have spun up around it have been more than just a lifesaver amid the current quarantine: they've been a new benchmark in collaborative fiction. This weekend's events have already been immortalized in various very good fan portrayals, and Discord users are coordinating new plans for Season 10.
Will we defeat the Shelled One and save our friends? Will Jessica Telephone, York Silk, Wyatt Pothos, and the rest be forced to play as an omnipotent peanut's all-stars for eternity? Will a squid somehow get involved? Blaseball continues to surprise with each week's new developments, but it also rarely misses. With this week's games building up to a potential comeback against the unholy legume, right now's a great time to get into Blaseball.
Major Game Releases: October 12 to October 16
Here are the major releases for the week of October 5 to October 9. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Torchlight 3 [October 13 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One]: Torchlight 3 began life as Torchlight Frontiers before it became a full-fledged sequel and surprised fans. It's been in early access for a while, but this week will give us the full product in addition to console releases. If you enjoy your Diablo-like action adventure games mixed with high fantasy and a touch of steampunk, get ready to hack, slash, and shoot.
- Cloudpunk [October 15 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch]: This odd but endearing game about delivering shady packages and shadier passengers is already on PC, but now you can look forward to a console release. Sci-fi cyberpunk games about grey delivery services hit harder during this age of COVID-induced lockdown, that's for sure.
- NHL 21 [October 16 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One]: Hey! It's time for hockey! I live in one of the few pockets of the world where an NHL release is bigger news than a Madden release, but EA is clearly playing it cool with NHL 21, so to speak. There currently isn't a plan to bring the game to PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. The NHL 94 Rewind pre-order bonus is a great consolation prize, though.
- Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit [October 16 for Switch]: I'm not sure how well this AR Mario Kart hybrid will work, but we'll find out soon enough. You drive a Mario Kart toy with a camera attached to its head, effectively turning your house into a living Mario Kart course. Look forward to getting a rat's eye view of your kitchen! Oooh, betchya didn't know you had so many crumbs under the fridge, eh?
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- Oh no, Level-5 is halting operations in North America. This is sad news for those of us who enjoy(ed) Level-5's output, which includes classics like Dragon Quest 8, Ni no Kuni, and the Professor Layton series. There's no official reason given for the closure, but it's worth noting the developer's output has slowed considerably since the early '10s. Inazuma Eleven: Great Road of Heroes was supposed to arrive in 2018, but it's since been pushed back to 2021. That's a big snag for one of Level-5's most popular series. It's also likely Level-5 put its North American services on the chopping block because Yo-Kai Watch never became the Pokemon-level success Level-5 hoped it'd be over here.
- Amazon's Crucible isn't coming back. The hero shooter launched in May, quickly went back into closed beta, and has since been cancelled outright. Crucible didn't garner a lot of favorable reviews during its short life. It received an average score on Metacritic, and while critics acknowledge most of the game's parts work together, they also criticized its inability to find a personality of its own. Crucible's failure is another example of Amazon Games' inability to keep its projects alive and well. New World, Amazon's upcoming MMORPG, is the only notable project left standing for now.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon sounds like a blast. It also addresses a common criticism that comes up with JRPGs: why are all the genre's heroes snot-nosed teenagers? No offense to any teens reading this site, but y'all know nothing. ("That's why you're kids! 'cause you're stupid!") That's OK though! I was stupid as a teen. It's all part of the growing-up process. I'm just saying I like it when an RPG gives me someone over the age of 30 to play as. And according to the Like a Dragon preview by reviews editor Mike Williams, that's exactly what the latest Yakuza does. You control a bunch of old-ass adult losers who probably throw out their backs every time they attempt to deliver righteous justice. I relate. So much. Oh God, I'm getting old.
- Remember great game commercials? Pepperidge Farm doesn't remember ("We just make cookies"), but we do. Cable shares a lot of real estate with streaming services, which means game commercials aren't as engrained in pop culture as they used to be. But there was a moment in time—around 2006 through 2008, before streaming became widespread—when we saw some of the best game commercials ever directed. Take our hand and walk with us through Rapture, and over the Halo 3 "Believe" diorama.
- "Open wide for some socceeeeeer!" Our FIFA 21 review is in. The verdict, courtesy of Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey, is a thorough "Ehhhh?" While there are some much-appreciated improvements, career mode falls flat. Still, according to Kat, "Ultimately, FIFA 21 may not be the comprehensive update everyone wants, but it's enough to generate some positive momentum heading into the new console generation." Now line up for your autographs from Ariaga and Ariaga 2.
Axe of the Blood God for October 12
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
Larian founder Swen Vincke returns to the podcast to discuss the initial feedback on Baldur's Gate 3's early access release, turn-based vs. real-time with pause, dice rolls, and more! Plus, Kat and Nadia share their impressions on Genshin Impact, the Monster Hunter movie trailer, and more! Listen here!