The RPS Bargain Bucket: Bytes Of A Feather

By Cassandra Khaw on January 24th, 2015.

Confession: I bought Heroes of the Storm’s Founder Pack. Sometimes, even professional bargain hunters are brought low by the seduction of immediate gratification. (Or something. Hi! Are you playing too? You should add me on Battle.Net if so. casshirek#1483 is the battletag in question.) Moving on, this week’s bargains are an entertaining montage of genres. Bundle Stars is the clear winner of the “holy crap, those are some shiny offers they’ve put together” competition, beating out even crowd favorite Nuuvem. This week’s plushie is from kfix! I am nursing a fever. Halp.

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S.EXE: Seven Stories About Love

By Cara Ellison on January 23rd, 2015.

The first time I ever wrote anything about games, it was because I was still brokenhearted about a relationship that had dissolved years ago. PC Gamer edited the 4000 word essay into a six pager about Dota in 2012 and it is still one of the best things I have ever written. But wherever I go, whatever I do, games participate in a meaningful way in many of the relationships I see. Welcome to a special edition of S.EXE: the love letters edition. Brace yourself, you are in for chop. Here are seven stories about falling in love next to a loading screen.

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Remembering Vangers And The Virtue Of Nonsense

By Marsh Davies on January 23rd, 2015.

Be a good vanger and take the nymbos to Incubator, would you? Grab a jar of phlegma while you’re there – the Podish bunch are due a good smearing. Maybe snap up a tabutask or two if you think your mechos can take it. What’s that you got? An Oxidise Monk? Pfft. Still, if it’s Plump-Up, you might try and run an Eleerection – though take care of that eLeech, vanger. They might just be reincarnated pod-eaters who plumped-out to death, but they still deserve better than to cark it in the back of some rattletrap raffa driven by some know-nothing rambler who crumples into the first stinker he sees. And if you don’t win Eleerection you aren’t ever going to reach Glorx, much less anywhere else in the Chain.

If you understood that, then you probably already have some idea why Vangers – re-released on Steam and GOG last year – is one of the oddest, most original and overlooked games in history. If you didn’t understand it then you are in the position everyone else was in June of 1998, bewildered by their purpose in a gameworld designed to be explicitly, unintelligibly alien in almost every respect.

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Text, Lies And Videotape: Her Story Interview

By Adam Smith on January 23rd, 2015.

Sam Barlow has one of the most impressive CVs in gaming. By my reckoning, he only has six releases to his name but two of those games are comfortably inside my list of all-time favourites – the experimental interactive fiction of Aisle and the masterful Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The latter might never come to PC but hopefully it’ll arrive in digital download form on the Wii U’s eShop sooner rather than later.

Barlow’s next game, Her Story, has elements of true crime, police procedural and confessional monologue. During a sprawling conversation last week, we discussed how it continues to play with interactive storytelling techniques, and how it has as much in common with Alan Bennett as True Detective.

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Have You Played… Brogue?

By Graham Smith on January 23rd, 2015.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

You hear combat in the distance.
You feel a sense of loss.
You hear something die in combat.

Brogue is a freeware roguelike with attractive ASCII graphics, intuitive mouse controls, and monkeys who will steal your heart and your portions.

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Shadowrun Devs On Hong Kong, Kickstarter, Fans & Story

By Alec Meer on January 23rd, 2015.

Shadowrun just keeps on returning. The cyberpunk RPG has has various game adaptations over the last few decades, but it was the Kickstarted Shadowrun Returns which most nailed the concept. Narrative and choice expanded in excellent follow-up campaign Dragonfall, which then saw a further improved Director’s Cut, and after all that devs Harebrained Schemes had a loyal enough fanbase to pull off their third successful Kickstarter, even in an age where there’s a lot of worried muttering about the future of crowd-funding for games. No such worries for Harebrained co-founders Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman, whose upcoming Shadowrun: Hong Kong was funded in less than two hours and now has over $600k pledged – six times what they’d asked for. Blimey.

Earlier this week, I talked to the pair about why they went back to the Kickstarter well, what they’re doing differently this time, how they’ve been able to make story an increased focus, what the community’s up to with the Shadowrun editor and being sent free pizza.
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Raised By Screens, Chapter 11: Sam & Max Hit The Road

By Alec Meer on January 23rd, 2015.

Note – this series has primarily been for RPS Supporter Program members-only, which is why you probably can’t find most of the rest of ‘em, but I unlock the occasional chapter for everyone (along with many of our other initially subs-only features).

Raised By Screens is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a memoir – glancing back at the games I played as a child in the order in which I remember playing them, and focusing on how I remember them rather than what they truly were. There will be errors and there will be interpretations that are simply wrong, because that’s how memory works.

The last chapter was dedicated to my brief, complete immersion in point and click adventures generally, but among the slew of comedy puzzlers I devoured at that time, one particularly stands out. For many years, I’ve reflexively said its name when asked what my favourite early 1990s PC game was (or at least my second-favourite; my most beloved game of all time will be discussed in the next chapter, and will hardly be surprising to regular Rock, Paper, Shotgun readers), but until very recently I’d never thought about why. For the longest time, I said its name purely from fondness – whenever I thought of that era of gaming, this was the title that I simply felt warmest about when I conjured its sights and sounds in my memory. It’s time to try and discover why that is. It’s not purely because I regularly find myself whistling the incidental music.

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The Flare Path: Dreadnoughts And Droid Thoughts

By Tim Stone on January 23rd, 2015.

Though my Battle-of-Jutland-through-the-eyes-of-a-ship’s-cat war movie remains unfunded, untitled and largely unwritten, I have mentally sketched out the final scene.

EXT. FIRTH OF FORTH. DAWN.

Passing under the awesome edifice of the Forth Bridge, the bruised and battered HMS Warspite is pelted with coal by disappointed railway workers. Tickles, asleep in her customary spot atop ‘A’ turret, wakes and dashes for cover. Scampering across the bloodstained, shrapnel scored deck, she is struck by a flying lump of anthracite and drops down dead. As the camera rises incorporeally into Warspite’s swirling smoke plume, we see Able Seaman Peters run to where Tickles lies, and fall to his knees beside her.

THE END Read the rest of this entry »

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A Good Puzzle Game Is Hard To Build

By Marsh Davies on January 22nd, 2015.

Making a puzzle game is certainly no piece of cake! Ha! Ha! Ha! *cuts wrists*

I love puzzle games. But it’s not beating them that’s the exciting part: it’s understanding them.

Whether mulling over a cryptic crossword or somersaulting through Portal’s portals, there’s a moment of epiphany which, for me, pretty much transcends all other moments in gaming. But how do you design a puzzle to best provoke that eureka moment? What gives a puzzle its aesthetic, its pace and texture? Why does one puzzle feel thrilling while another feels like a flat mental grind?

I’ve asked three of my favourite puzzle game designers to demystify their dark magicks: Jonathan Blow, best known for the puzzle-platformer Braid and currently hard at work on firstperson perplexathon, The Witness; Alan “Draknek” Hazelden, creator of Sokoban-inspired sequential-logic games, including Sokobond, Mirror Isles and the forthcoming A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build; and Jonathan Whiting, a programmer on Sportsfriends and collaborator with Hazelden on Traal, whose own games are a regular Ludum Dare highlight.

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The Old Weird Web: Formative Online Gaming Experiences

By Jeremy Laird on January 22nd, 2015.

Usually you’d find Week In Tech in this spot, but it’s been a particularly big week in tech already. With the big Microsoft Win10 and Holowhatsit announcements covered here and here and here, for this column I’m proposing to go off the reservation. Let us, each one of us, reminisce and indeed celebrate our earliest experiences of the internet and of course gaming thereon. And then ponder what the future holds for our internet connections and how we game on them.

I’m thinking less social history, more unapologetic geeky nostalgia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Windows 10 Good For PC Gamers Or XBone Owners?

By Laura Hudson on January 22nd, 2015.

“It’s time for us to talk about gaming in Windows,” promised Head of Xbox Phil Spencer in December. A little over a month later, Microsoft has finally stepped up to the plate with a slew of big announcements about Windows 10, Xbox and PC gaming delivered at its Redmond campus yesterday morning.

The big news for gamers—aside from holograms—is that Windows 10 will not only support multiplayer gaming between Xbox One and PC, but allow you to stream Xbox One games locally to PCs or tablets.

Which is all well and good for Xbox fans, but where does that leave PC gamers, especially ones who don’t particularly care about Xbox?

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Infinifactory: Early Access Impressions

By John Walker on January 22nd, 2015.

Oh my goodness, Infinifactory is difficult.

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Hands On With HoloLens And Augmented Reality Minecraft

By Laura Hudson on January 22nd, 2015.

“Is it real?” I ask. I’m looking around at the landscape of Mars, where a dusty, rocky desert stretches in every direction, reddish mountains rising in the distance. It looks so vivid, so strangely plausible that it’s hard to believe that I’m actually looking at the surface of another planet and not the set of a sci-fi movie.

The gentleman who works for Microsoft assure me that it is, in fact, real—depending on how you think about it. I’m currently wearing a prototype version of the HoloLens, a new augmented reality headset announced yesterday by Microsoft, and exploring real three-dimensional images collected from the Mars Curiosity rover using a tool called OnSight.

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