SOMA’s Grip On BioShock Comparisons, Indie Influences

By Nathan Grayson on April 10th, 2014.

SOMA didn’t scare the scuba suit off me, but I did find a creeping sort of potential in its soaked-to-the-bone corridors. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 2 this ain’t. Or at least, it’s not aiming to be. Currently, it still feels a lot like a slower-paced, less-monster-packed Amnesia in a different (though still very traditionally survival-horror-y) setting, but Frictional creative director Thomas Grip has big plans. I spoke with him about how he hopes to evolve the game, inevitable comparisons to the Big Daddy of gaming’s small undersea pond, BioShock, why simple monster AI is better than more sophisticated options, the mundanity of death, and how SOMA’s been pretty profoundly influenced by indie mega-hits like Dear Esther and Gone Home.

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Hands-On Impressions: A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

By Nathan Grayson on April 9th, 2014.

Being from Texas, I can count the number of snowmen I’ve built on one hand. Being from Texas, they were also about the size of said one hand. I did get the chance to slap together a bulbous yeti of truly epic proportions in college, though. I took so much pride in that dumb thing that I nearly tried to put a hit out on whomever kicked it down during that coldest of winter nights. I can identify with A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build‘s title, is what I’m saying. The game itself, however, is probably not what you’re expecting – a thing of snow-white relaxation and contemplation, not astute snowperson defense. It’s a simple yet wickedly challenging puzzler from Sokobond designer Alan Hazelden, with lovably, huggably soft personality to match.

Each snowperson has a name. A name! Awwwwwwwww.

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What’s Up With Warframe?

By Jim Rossignol on April 9th, 2014.

By which I mean: I’ve played Warframe over the past couple of weeks and will now write about it, for your possible edification.

Warframe is a sci-fi over-the-shoulder shooter where space ninjas have upgradeable sharkfin heads. Sadly that doesn’t quite clinch the deal, because the free-to-play beast of Digital Extremes has been in beta for a year now, and still hasn’t quite driven home the wakizashi of success. But has that journey delivered it from the hollow purgatory of its early release? Or will it determine to be a footnote in the history of free-to-play experimentation?

I donned my impossible fish helmet to find out.

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Wot I Think: Rehearsals and Returns

By Alec Meer on April 9th, 2014.

Rehearsals and Return is the new game from (primarily) Peter Brinson, creator of the remarkable art/history/politics vignette The Cat & The Coup. This shares a certain cut-up appearance and a maudlin tone (well, depending on how you approach it), but it’s a rudimentary platform game set to surrealistic, sometimes chaotic backgrounds, wherein you collect dialogue options then make decisions about how to treat assorted famous and infamous figures. And a few less famous ones too.

At present it costs just $1, and will eventually rise to $4. This is a discussion of the experience I had with it, not of its value proposition.
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Impressions: VoidExpanse

By Ben Barrett on April 9th, 2014.

VoidExpanse strikes me somewhat as an inevitability. The years of Eve coupled with Elite and Star Citizen’s stratospheric success means a lower budget, retro-styled take on the same idea was viable. Its isometric viewpoint sets it apart from those peers, as does its extremely unpolished, early access state. As with any member of the space trading, exploring, bang-banging massive, the promise of the final game is an incredibly enticing one. The difficulty is seeing through the crashes, balance issues and unfinished mechanics to judge its core worth. VoidExpanse made that especially challenging, but there’s hope.

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Pre-Preview – Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

By Alec Meer on April 9th, 2014.

Yesterday I was shown around half an hour of footage from the new Borderlands game, which everyone already knew about as it got leaked on Monday. Here’s what it’s all about.

I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to take the messy portmanteau ‘Pre-Sequel’ too seriously, given Borderlands’ traditionally derisive-about-everything tone. So while it’s playful rather than the latest ‘expandalone’ or ‘freemium’ or whatever the latest newspeak horror someone’s marketing department has retched up, let’s just hope no-one else is inspired by it and we don’t find ourselves drowning in pre-sequels by this time next year.

Yes, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a brand-ish new Borderlands game, and due out somewhere around the tail end of this year. More importantly, it’s set on the moon and features jetpacks.
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Cardboard Children – Rab’s Top 50 INTRO

By Robert Florence on April 8th, 2014.

Hello youse.

Before the column goes VIDEO HEAVY over the next few weeks, I wanted to glide into it with a little chat about how I went through the process of deciding my TOP 50 BOARD GAMES OF ALL TIME. It was really hard, and I’m still unsure of myself, and I want to give you all an opportunity to remind me of any great games I might have missed, because I’m in a panic about it. Let’s talk.

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I Am Overencumbered: Why Game Inventories Matter

By Rob Sherman on April 8th, 2014.

Rob Sherman, author of interactive fiction project Black Crown, asked if he could write about videogame inventories. We were powerless against the result, which pairs a personal journey through the English countryside with the a treatise on the power of possessions and the reasons videogames must do better in representing them.

There was once, and still is, a boy and a man called me, and one summer, two summers ago, I could be found tiptoeing along a main road in southern England, my boots full of dusty blood.

I had only taken them off once in the last day, and at that point I had nearly wilted from the sight and smell. I took my diagnosis on top of a chalk escarpment, a widow’s peak, a combover of woodland. The couple on the bench next to me were after-work drinking from cans, and looking at the wealds rolling away from them. They must have thought that some medieval leper had staggered out of the local hospitalers, holidaying on his stumps.

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Impressions: Landmark

By Craig Pearson on April 8th, 2014.

And not a giant cock in sight.

You can now join Landmark for just £14. Sony’s Minecraft-esque adjunct to EverQuest Next has lowered the barrier of entry into the closed beta so even a frugal Scottish freelancer can stroll in. I’ve spent the weekend wandering the worlds, admiring what’s being built and testing the tools.

I am currently not dead, but if I died and you were to look through my search history and Twitter account, you’d probably think Landmark was the killer. I’ve only been able to play it with passive-aggressive search engine queries and complaining on Twitter. There is no game here. Not yet, anyway. Landmark, has a bright future, but it’s also a honest-to-glob alpha, and probably one of the earliest games I’ve ever bought from a major company. Here’s what I’ve typed into Google and Twitter, and here’s what those searches say about the state of the game.

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Change Is Coming: GDC 2014′s Advocacy Track Free To See

By John Walker on April 8th, 2014.

A real highlight of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in the last couple of years has been the Advocacy Track. This is made up of a series of talks, round tables and presentations regarding issues within gaming about diversity, tolerance and inclusivity. And in a GDC where not a single woman was giving a full length talk at the Independent Games Summit, there are clearly still some massive issues. Rather brilliantly, the sessions within this track are being made free to all, rather than just those who attended the conference. Highlights are below.

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The Lighthouse Customer: DayZ (Experimental Branch)

By Christopher Livingston on April 7th, 2014.

Give me that old-time zombie religion.

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, survival horror in DayZ’s experimental branch.

While nearly two million players have paid to act as DayZ’s beta testers, there’s a much smaller subset of lighthouse customers acting as beta testers to those beta testers. On a handful of DayZ experimental branch servers, changes are rolled out and played with weeks before being introduced to the early access game at large. This week I opted into the experimental branch, keen to inhale the future of DayZ before most players even get a whiff.

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