Posts Tagged ‘beta’

Hothtober: Star Wars Battlefront Beta Out Next Month

I’ve felt so little about Star Wars for so long now, and had so much distance from a fictional universe I threw myself into in my late teens that it no longer feels quite as over-exposed and cynical as it once did. This means I’m starting to find it vaguely appealing again. Nostalgia inexorably returns, God help me. Whether that will be aided or undermined by the looming marketingageddon of The Force Awakens I don’t know, but I do look at images of DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront [official site] and think ‘yes, those are science fictional battles I want to be a part of.’ It’s the industrial look of the ships and structures that does it, a sweet spot between functional and stylised that the prequel movies totally bungled.

I don’t care about the characters, though. Mostly I just want to drive an AT-AT. Oh God now I’ve opened an eBay tab and typed ‘AT-AT’ into it. This is bad. If I can just hang on until October, when the Battlefront Beta will be released, maybe I’ll be OK.

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Premature Evaluation: Universe Sandbox 2

Universe Sandbox 2 has some perfectly reasonable restrictions on what it is willing to simulate, but isn’t always clear about why it’s stopping you from doing something. I wanted to recreate the 0.1 fm wide black hole from Larry Niven’s 1973 story The Hole Man, for instance - and found the scale doesn’t descend that low. It’s not especially surprising that the game doesn’t model subatomic sizes, but getting the diameter below a couple of kilometres is also impossible and attempting to do so has this strange effect of deleting what you just typed and replacing it with the lowest number that the program will accept, and yet nonetheless changing a bunch of other stats that would be affected by a further reduction in diameter.

Each week Marsh Davies orbits the supermassive blackhole that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or gets shredded to subatomic spaghetti as he tumbles towards a point of infinite mass. This week he has become death, destroyer of worlds, and really quite a lot of moons as well, in Universe Sandbox 2. Otherwise known as Universe Sandbox², if you’re the kind of terrible prick who insists on using Character Map to enforce your brand. Anyway, the game’s great.

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Premature Evaluation: Duskers

Duskers’ premise has the player investigating the disappearance of human life from the known universe. Hulks float through the emptiness of space with only the garbled fragments of old log entries as evidence for the existence of their crew. The game puts forward a few different possibilities for you to look into and eliminate, and these suggest an action that humankind takes which inadvertently precipitates its destruction: a nanotechnological experiment gone wrong, creating a grey goo that atomically disassembles human matter, or simply the use of a super weapon so devastating that the resultant chaos causes the rapid decline and extinction of the entire species. But, assuming that humanity survives to become a space-faring people at all, perhaps the larger existential threat is inaction.

Each week Marsh Davies pulls apart the fritzing hulks he discovers drifting through the lifeless void of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or accidentally flushes himself out of an airlock. This week he’s been tentatively probing Duskers, a space-set roguelike in which you remotely operate a crew of drones as they strip derelicts of resources and attempt to uncover the reason for the dramatic depopulation of the galaxy.

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Superhot Is The FPS Made Cool Again

Superhot [official site] is the first-person shooter deconstructed. You don’t move and shoot, jump and dodge. You move then shoot, jump then dodge. The reason for your turn-based decision making is that time only moves when you do. I’ve been playing the beta for the past week, and it’s superb.

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Premature Evaluation: Crest

Crest seeks to explore the way religions evolve, say the devs - although “devolve” might be more accurate here, your various edicts warping with the strange whims of your followers. There is certainly precedent for that, in the long and bloody history of religious misinterpretation. One of the most famous instances of such semiotic slippage in Christianity occurs when St Jerome - the patron saint of translators, no less - attempts to produce a new Latin translation of the bible from the original Hebrew, rather than from the Greek which had been the basis for the Latin translation hitherto. And in so doing, he unwittingly creates a pervading racist slur that plagues an entire people to this day.

Each week Marsh Davies brings a rain of fire upon the Sodom ‘n’ Gomorrah that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the sordid pleasures therein. This week he fixes a puritanical eye upon the hapless hedonists of Crest, a god game in which your only interaction is to set a list of commandments and hope the humans heed your Word.

The god of Godus was less Jupiter than janitor, a god whose entire divine being was dedicated not to righteousness but to relentless menial labour. Crest’s god, by contrast, has a bit more responsibility, being required to describe an entire moral framework with a few judicious instructions. Though, that’s not to say your chosen people won’t find your religious writs open to some degree of interpretation. 180 degrees, in fact. Tell them to seek food and look after the elderly and, a few generations later, the tribe is waging a xenocide on gazelles and dancing until they drop dead.

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Premature Evaluation: Zombie Playground

With each new year I think zombies must be about to suffer some sort of cultural burnout - but as relentless and implacable as death itself, they just keep on coming. I suppose their cultural indelibility makes sense given the momentousness of death and the widespread inability to truly believe in its finality. Also the fact that, historically, we have been fucking terrible at actually determining whether someone was dead or not, even as we stuck them in the ground. And we still are.

Each week Marsh Davies tears into the unholy children of Early Access with a wiffle bat and comes back with any stories he can find and/or ends up as a brain-pan buffet. This week he’s played Zombie Playground, a thirdperson brawler set in a school.

Back in 2012, at least 3787 people looked at Jason Chan’s painting – a helter skelter, valiantly defended against hordes of undead tots by four equally pre-pubescent warriors wielding mops and bin-lids – and thought, “Wow! What if this was a game?” Of course, the question they should have been asking is, “Wow! What if this was an extremely rudimentary fulfilment of the Kickstarter promises?” But nonetheless, ask they did, and stump up cash they did, and for three years, these wide-eyed would-be zombie-botherers have continued to ask the same question, albeit with a decreasingly civil tone. Following long periods of silence, and tumult behind the scenes, development duties have shifted to a partnership of three other companies and now, finally, the backers have some sort of answer.

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Premature Evaluation: Dungeon Souls

According to the design documents on the game’s Tumblr site, Dungeon Souls dungeon is, in fact, a tower. But that’s actually not inappropriate given the tangled etymology of the word “dungeon”. Dungeon in the sense of a subterranean prison emerges only in the 14th century, and there seem to be conflicting theories as to how.

Each week Marsh Davies wriggles free of his shackles and flees, filthy and naked, from the dank imprisonment of Early Access, bringing you stories of the depravities he endured therein. This week he’s playing Dungeon Souls, a frenetic top-down roguelike in which the player battles through successive tiers of peril, nipping between abruptly spawning enemies and hails of magic bullets.

Titan Souls, Twin Souls, Crystal Souls, Crossing Souls… if Namco ever wanted to stake a claim to that “Souls” suffix, I suspect the horse has bolted, flown to Belize and can now be seen scooting round Tranquility Bay on a jetski, trying to clasp a piña colada between its hooves. But whereas the lack of opposable thumbs ultimately renders this a tragic scene, the existence of Dungeon Souls should be one of celebration, derivative though it is, both in its name and in its action – which borrows heavily from both Nuclear Throne and Spelunky.

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Premature Evaluation: Train Valley

Train Valley offers quite a focussed and fun optimisation challenge rather than a sprawling simulation of every aspect of rail management. Nonetheless, it makes some efforts at historical accuracy - at least in terms of the style of the engines you use - setting its challenges across two centuries of rail transport in Europe, America, Russia and (when it gets a later content patch) Japan. The Gold Rush gets a hat tip, as does World War 2 - so it was with a tiny amount of completely irrational sadness that the date of 1864 came and went while playing the game’s European levels, and there was no mention of the One Thing I Know About Railways: the first British railway murder.

Each week Marsh Davies boards the Steam locomotive as it chugs its way through Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or is cannibalised by rabid commuters while delayed in a siding. This week he’s played Train Valley, a chirpy but challenging rail construction sim.

My attempts to run a railway system make a good case for nationalisation: the absurd delays as I reverse trains back and forth over a switch in the track, somehow making the same signalling error each time; the piles of cargo that end up in the wrong town, or so late that its value has completely expired; the destruction to wildlife, farmland and neolithic monuments; the forced relocation of indigenous people. Oh, and the massive loss of life, too, I suppose. At the end of it all, I go bankrupt – and yet they keep giving me another chance.

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Premature Evaluation: The Magic Circle

One of the things I like most about The Magic Circle is its name. It captures the illusory nature of these conjured worlds, their potential for wonder and the artistry that informs them. Celebrated sentient beard and author Alan Moore has, in his mischievous way, declared himself a magician and all art a kind of magic. Defining art as the act of creating illusions to work an effect on the mind of the audience, he claims this is as close to a shamanistic understanding of magic as we have in this century.

Each week Marsh Davies plays unfinished and broken games on Early Access and usually tries to come up with an introductory sentence which says exactly this while using imagery appropriate to the idiom of the given week’s game. But the idiom of this week’s game is being an unfinished and broken game! So, job done. It’s The Magic Circle [Steam page], a game set within a game, in which the player edits the properties of the world around him while exploring the strata of the game’s many abandoned developmental stages, unravelling the story of its creators in the process.

I have tamed Jim Rossignol’s bumhole. I’ve also made Jim Rossignol’s bumhole fireproof, which is just as well, since Jim Rossignol’s bumhole spews gouts of flame when angered. Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has a lightning rod jammed in it, too, which deactivates forcefields. With my latest effort, Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has sprouted a little propeller, allowing Jim Rossignol’s bumhole to fly about. John Walker’s angry red Weeto has many of the same properties, and it should surprise no one that Alec Meer’s huge husky third leg is shaped like a ginormous mushroom.

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Premature Evaluation: Exanima

Exanima has an unusual relationship to the body. Its physical simulation of every limb creates a greater sense of your avatar as a real tangible object. And yet, at the same time, the fact that you can’t control it with the same instancy as you can your own body actually distances you from the avatar, perhaps to a greater degree than a less nuanced control-scheme might. I feel like comprehensive physics simulation could go through the same sticky patch as motion control did on consoles, where it proved a less efficient conduit between player intent and avatar expression than just pressing a button.

Each week Marsh Davies lurches drunkenly through the dank cloisters of Early Access and brings back any stories he can find and/or spasms like a misfiring physics object caught in a doorway. This week he wobbles and flails in the low-fantasy RPG Exanima, a smaller standalone “prelude” to the Kickstarted open world game Sui Generis.

Exanima isn’t like other RPGs, the Steam store page tells you with some insistence. It’s true for several reasons, but the most obvious is its fully physics-modelled combat which renders close quarters engagements as tense, tactical affairs conducted between two or more appallingly drunk people. Every collision has a physical effect, as subtle or extreme as the speed with which it occurs, and so combat is about caution and timing, dodging incoming swings and finding the time to wind up, directing your weapon in a sweep to connect with your opponent’s most vital areas with the most momentum possible. At least, it’s about these things inasmuch as these things are even possible while piloting someone with a near-lethal blood-alcohol level.

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Premature Evaluation: Mordheim: City of the Damned

I’ve always enjoyed the mash of historical periods and technologies that occurs in Warhammer. It starts with a base layer of sub-Tolkien medievalism and dark age myth, but then, as it attempts to differentiate the factions, teeters into the Enlightenment and, at its most fanciful, veers into steampunk Victoriana. The human factions are a case in point. Bretons are drawn as though from the age of chivalry, as depicted in late medieval French romance: all jousting knights and noblesse. The Empire, meanwhile, is styled very much after 16th century Germany, with elaborate cannon and plentiful muskets, and a dash of 17th century dress-sense in their flamboyant feathered caps.

Each week Marsh Davies bleeds for you in the cold, accursed alleys of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or a repulsive corruption born of arcane mutagenic powers. This week he and his band of rat-men scuttle through the streets of Mordheim: City of the Damned – a turned-based tactics game set in the world of Warhammer. Fellow Skaven-fancier Adam had a slightly cool impression of it last November, but have the subsequent five months made a whisker of a difference?

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Protoss The Button: Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void Beta

The poor old Adept will have to retire his name if I ever control him

Good news if you’ve been waiting to see how Big Stubbly Man and Chitin Stilettos Woman managed to defeat timeless evil once and for all until the next sequel: the third and final chunk of StarCraft II is very much on its way. In fact, beta invites for the Protoss-focused Legacy of the Void are due to go out before the end of the month. “Much has changed” since the last time Blizzard let us have a peek at their void.
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Premature Evaluation: StarCrawlers

I’m writing these alt-texts on what is often now called Mother’s Day here in the UK, but can be helpfully distinguished from the American day of the same name by its more accurate title, Mothering Sunday. The origins of each are different, though intertwined, and certainly the popularity of both celebrations share a common factor: the pain many mothers felt at losing their sons to war - which is definitely entirely relevant to SpaceCrawlers and not at all a wild digression born of my waning attention span.

Each week Marsh Davies plunders the ravaged hulk of Early Access and smuggles out any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the terrors of the interdimensional void. This week he murders robotic wait staff and asset-strips sci-fi dungeons in space salvage RPG StarCrawlers. It goes on sale tomorrow.

Is it any wonder that some members of the gaming community nurse a persecution complex when, in the games themselves, so few people, animals, robots, or multifanged amorphous spacethings are ever pleased to see us? In StarCrawlers, even the cleaning droids and busboys want to have a pop, lobbing chinaware and squirting me with detergent. Admittedly, I am usually there to plunder their derelict spacestation, or sabotage their data centres, or “deliver a severance package” to a megacorp employee who has, in a literal and shortly rectified sense, outlived his usefulness. But still, it is a bit of a hit to the self-esteem that you can’t walk from one room to another without some haywire robot or grotesque alien hatchling flinging itself at you. “Where’s the beef?”, I mutter to the hatchlings, as I ruefully sunder them with psychic horror channelled from the abyssal nightmare of the void.

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