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Feature: 20-year-old MMO adds 2000 years of history

Runescape’s developers explain why they chose archaeology as the MMO’s newest feature

Runescape’s newest update, Archaeology, adds a whole new skill to the almost two-decade-old MMO, but there’s some necessary context for what it brings to the table - at least historically speaking. At only 10 years old, I was as industrious as they came, and actually set up my own in-game business. I had people - probably much older than I was - chopping wood for me, which I then sold for profit or used to increase my Firemaking skill, like a proper little capitalist. All I had to give them in return were axes worth a measly fraction of my wealth.

Runescape was a simpler game in those times, where ordinary skills could be paired with one another to create basic but effective economic structures, most of which were founded upon the exploitation of fresh-out-of-Lummy naivete. But that was 14 years ago. Runescape is a different beast now, and the addition of Archaeology is unprecedented in more ways than one. “Skilling is not traditionally a vehicle for storytelling,” lead designer Dave Osborne tells me in an interview conducted over Zoom. “This completely upends that expectation.”

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If Black Mesa actually getting finished left you lost without a fan-made refresh of an old Half-Life to cheer on, rejoice: the new hotness is bringing Half-Life 2 into Half-Life: Alyx. Several modders are already showing off their progress in bringing Gordon's adventure to Alyx's shiny new VR game, though it's all hella far from finished. Hey, we all need something to believe in. Come check out these two projects.

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Feature: Move your silly buttocks, you fool

I still love The Dig despite just about everything

I love The Dig. While I definitely played it in 1995, I've almost no memories of that. But the last time I played it in 2011, I rediscovered a LucasArts adventure that felt like something truly special, something unique in their oeuvre, and something that hit the sweet spot of the science fiction I most enjoy. In this difficult period, returning to it sounded just the ticket.

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Mount & Blade 2 is now out in early access

It's time to saddle up and ride out, for Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord entered early access this morning. The long-awaited follow-up to Warband (one of the best RPGs, don't you know?) will once again send us out to ride around a sandbox medieval world, raising armies, politicking, laying siege, and charging around big battlefields with hundreds of soldiers throwing down. But if you'd rather wait for the full and finished game, it's expected to leave early access in "around a year." For now, onwards to the launch trailer!

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Some of you will remember 2002's Soldat, a side-scrolling 2D shoot 'em up with multiplayer and jetpacks. You lot might be especially interested in the free demo for Soldat 2, which is the same thing but without the multiplayer. It's being made by Michal Marcinkowski, the same guy who did the original.

I'm not tainted by nostalgia, and I enjoyed myself too. It's pretty good! It makes me miss The Showdown Effect.

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Rejoice, keyboard deals hunters, as Fnatic's Streak and miniStreak mechanical gaming keyboards have had their prices slashed once again over on Amazon UK. This time, it's the Cherry MX Brown versions of the Streak and tenkeyless miniStreak that are mainly on offer, with the Streak going for a third off at £90, down from its usual £120, and the miniStreak for £75, which £15 cheaper than normal. Fnatic's older Rush keyboards are also on sale, too, so come on down and let's get this keyboard deals party started.

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Five years after Absolute Drift, Funselektor have found themselves behind the wheel once again. This week, the minimalist driving developers released a free demo for Art Of Rally, a top-down distillation of the (objectively best) motorsport that takes Absolute Drift's textureless powerslides and lets them loose on delightfully toy-like Nordic forest tracks.

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What happens after World Of Warcraft: Classic? It's something the MMO throwback was always going to have to deal with, eventually. There's only so much content to revisit after all. As Classic's expiration date slowly draws closer, Blizzard have begun asking players what they'd like to see next - specifically, whether they're ready to head back through the Dark Portal in a Classic-style return to World Of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

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Screenshot Saturday Sundays! A virtual picturebook of holiday snaps from across the game development globe, delivered straight to Twitter's doorstep every seven days. This week, we're basically running down good lockdown practice: wash up often, eat well, and remember to take a nice walk now and again. Maybe don't go hopping on trains right now, mind.

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Read our finest PC game reviews

RimWorld: Royalty review

Sycophants and Sick-o-'phants

29

Yes, Your Grace review

Can't stand the reign

22

ARK: Genesis review

Yabba dabba don't

40

It feels criminal to do this to Doom Eternal. Doom is the ur-FPS. Not the first, by any means, but the most - the first-person shooter we've been chasing for decades. In their own act of heresy, though, modders have plucked the eyes from our Doom Slayer and hung them a few feet behind his rear, turning Doom Eternal's meaty in-your-face gorefest into a ludicrously nippy third-person adventure.

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No, I didn't spill coffee on the keyboard. Yes, the ellipses are part of the title. 10 years after its console debut, NieR is heading to PC with the elegantly-titled Nier: Replicant vers.1.22474487139... - not a remake or a remaster, Square Enix insist, but a spruced-up re-release that's polishing up the audio, sprinkling in some new content, and finally bringing the cult-classic RPG to Steam.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for continuing to stay inside. Here's the best writing about videogames from the past week.

In a remarkable piece for Vice, Jess Morrissette laid out the toxicity-endorsing marketing practices of companies in the early 2000s. The headline is a little overstated, seen as Morrissette does recognise the mutually reinforcing relationship between players who brought toxicity and the companies who capitalised on it.

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This week, Mount & Blade 2's early access launch date was moved up by one whole day, Epic Games launched a publishing scheme, Half-Life: Alyx was the talk of the town, and that ol' new coronavirus continued to disrupt things. Read on for more of the week's PC gaming goings-on in our News Digest, and do also check out the Weekly Updates Update for the week's big patches.

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It's not a great time for physical games. While us videogames lot are enjoying more time than ever to play, it's practically impossible to run a weekly board or card game meet when all the shops are shut and any human interaction could lead to contracting a (potentially deadly) virus. In an effort to keep the magic alive, Wizards Of The Coast are running three weeks of special Friday Night Magic events to help MTG communities stay alive online with Magic: The Gathering Arena.

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Google Stadia might still be struggling to find its place in people's living rooms. But for one studio's home offices, it's becoming an invaluable piece of tech. After Covid-19 hit their home state of Washington pretty hard, Destiny 2 developers Bungie have explained the beefy laptops and cloud streaming workarounds that aim to keep Guardians fighting while working from home.

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Feature: Sea for yourself

In Other Waters is emphatically not Subnautica

It's an infinite universe, you know. And if there's life out there, there'll be absolutely tons of it. Loads and loads and loads of planets, with unfathomable numbers of worms and that to categorise. But the human imagination is, alas, less infinite. And so, even though there could be as many games about exploring alien oceans as there are (potentially) alien oceans to explore, any such game will instantly be compared with the mighty Subnautica, and will have to work hard to prove its originality, if it wants to make a name for itself.

Enter, then, In Other Waters. It's one of the games the RPS VidBuds have been playing this week as part of Rezzed Digital, and indeed, its premise is near identical to Subnautica's: someone is stuck on a watery alien world, and explores the local ecosystem while working away at some larger mysteries. But beyond that premise, it takes a wildly different approach to almost every element of its design, to the point where comparison is near-meaningless. And you know what? It's bloody brilliant.

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For as long as there's been Minecraft, there's been people who want to re-create the world in Minecraft. For one modder, though, it's not enough to have a to-scale replica of our pale blue dot recreated in Mojang's block-builder. A new project named Build The Earth is looking for talented builders with too much time on their hands, bringing them together to fully recreate every last man-made structure on Earth in Minecraft.

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Feature: Robots in disguise

Unspottable challenges you to be a convincing NPC

The RPS VidBuds have put up a bunch of let's plays as part of Rezzed Digital, as this year's iteration of the usual Indies Uncovered stream, and they've already found some solid games in the pack. But one of the surprise standouts from the bunch, for me at least, is Unspottable.

I hadn't heard of Unspottable before, but after watching VidBud Matthew and Hardware Queen Katharine play together, I am both impressed and intrigued. It's a multiplayer versus game where you have to blend in with a group of identical NPC robots (or robits, as is more correct), whilst also trying to spot which robits are your fellow players. Once you think you have spotted an interloper, you must deal with them in the traditional manner of dealing with interlopers: that is to say, you punch them a good'un.

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Don't miss our superb hardware coverage

The RPS Rig: Everything you need to play games for less than £1000

How to build a great 1080p gaming PC without breaking the bank

69

The killing fields are open, team. Predator: Hunting Grounds's free weekend kicked off last night, letting you skulk about a lush open forest full of heavily-armed soldiers, super-powered alien mercenaries, and enough mud to give Hollywood's favourite muscle-man a mud bath three-times over - all without spending a penny.

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Feature: Games for troubled times

Priceless Play – 28 March 2020

Right. Well. It's a bizarre situation we find ourselves in (and I do hope you are in), and I am here to provide you with your weekly dose of free games. I can't deny that it's rather surreal to turn on my video game machine (that's my computer) and behave as though everything is some semblance of normal. While this routine remains the same, so many other things do not.

The games below the cut are a mishmash of things -- games with peaceful meditations, games with poems, games to celebrate and bemoan being in isolation, and a rhythm game so difficult I might as well be Miles Teller in Whiplash.

Wherever you are, I hope you're well, safe, and taking care of each other.

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Bouncy mobile block-buster Holedown is worming its way onto Steam. Following brilliant, abstract kinda-sorta-RTS Rymdkapsel, Swedish developer Martin "Grapefrukt" Jonasson's 2018 puzzler is a deceptively smart little gem that has you shattering planets at the behest of an ever-present communist worm. Two years later, the worm's domain is spreading to PC - and this time, you can bring a friend.

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Watch the final day of Rezzed Digital here

Rezzed Digital, the livestreamed stand-in for EGX Rezzed, wraps up today with a final few hours of fun. All are invited to come watch streams of Gang Beasts and something named 'Animal Crossing' [? -ed.], even if they are hosted by non-us people. Do remember that you can still watch Thursday and Friday's archived streams, if you missed out on the sessions including Imogen talking about getting into writing about games as well as Jason Statham coming for Nate. Matt, Sin, and Alice Bee have looked at their favourite games that were due to be at Rezzed also, and the VidBuds played some nice ones too.

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As Rezzed Digital continues, I will continue to highlight some of the fine work being done by the VidBuds for Indies Uncovered. Usually a series of livestreams, the VidBuds have adapted to present circumstances by turning them into a series of lovely demo videos on the RPS YouTube channel.

Another one I'm keen to highlight is the demo of Wingspan, a digital version of a popular bird-based board game. VidBud Matthew has a lovely time with it (depending on your interpretation of lovely).

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Resident Evil 3's multiplayer horror mode was meant to have a free beta beginning today. Capcom say that "technical issues" have delayed the beta for PC and PS4 players but not Xbox One, interestingly. They've yet to give an update on when the beta will be available for PC players. Fortunately there's still the regular RE3 demo while we wait.

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Feature: One Off The List

The most satisfying physics in PC games

An obscenely rich teenager throws his VR controller across the room in a fit of blind panic while playing Half-Life: Alyx. It leaves the window of his bedroom at 5m/s. It falls 10m vertically and hits his neighbour’s greenhouse, smashing the glass. How many metres did the controller travel horizontally before coming to a stop in the tomatoes? Use a kinematic formula to determine your answer and show your wor--

UGH, physics. Here are 10 games where physics is not boring, but good.

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Summer Games Done Quick, the warmer branch of the biannual speedrunning and charity marathon, will be delaying until August 2020 because of the Covid-19 coronavirus. SGDQ's organisers explain that the event planned to take place in June is being pushed back by two months. Game submissions and volunteer applications are being wiped clean so that those who are still able to attend can submit information.

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