Author Archive

Wot I Think: WildStar Reloaded

Released in June last year, WildStar’s player count didn’t so much dwindle as vanish into the nether. Despite comic book stylings and zany humour, logging on was a lot like touring a nursing home, the party atmosphere muted by the aspect of Death trailing behind and checking his watch. Or if not death, then the spectre of the game’s inevitable free-to-play conversion.

For the past few days I’ve been relearning the ropes in WildStar Reloaded [official site], which isn’t a shot in the arm so much as a new bionic hip. Quaint trappings like the subscription fee have been removed, but developers Carbine have gone much further, also overhauling and streamlining the game in umpteen different ways. Here’s wot I think after a hectic opening week.

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The Making Of Rocket League

“Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was a moderate success but the phrases ‘niche genre’ and ‘cult classic’ don’t exactly whet the appetites of people wanting to make money,” Jared Cone tells me. The lead gameplay programmer has agreed to talk about the making of Rocket League [official site] – its physics, its multiplayer, its tremendous success – but the difficulties start before the coding began, with the 2008 release of predecessor SARBC and its middling reviews and sales.

“There wasn’t an inkling of interest coming from anybody. That’s why Rocket League, like its predecessor, is completely self-funded,” says Cone. “We would do work-for-hire jobs to pay the bills while working on Rocket League in our free time and between contracts. It was difficult and the game had a low probability of ever releasing, but in the end it was probably for the better because we got to make the game we wanted to without having to cater to outside interests.”

Psyonix were free to chase the fun. Seven years and five million Rocket League downloads later, it looks like they caught it.

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Which Digital Game Store Is Best For Refunds: Steam vs. UPlay vs. Origin vs. GOG

Rumour has it that the decrepit Arkham Knight port beat a retreat on account of Steam refunds. After all, what better way to get a dastardly developer to blush and shuffle its hooves than to reverse its cash flow? Until June, when no-questions-asked refunds came into force, such a feat was impossible. Perhaps, after years of pro-consumer jabs at Microsoft and other corporates, Valve sought to make a material gesture that player interests are truly the heart of the Steam empire. Or perhaps they dislike being sued. Hint: they are currently being sued.

By now, you’ve likely encountered a shop and have a reasonable feeling about how refunds should work: if it doesn’t do what it’s meant to, you take it back. Nothing could be simpler. Refunds for digital products – or, as is often the case, licenses for digital products – are a legal hellscape of false assertions and misinformation, in large part a product of outdated legislation that no one is keen to test in court. To sift through the muck, I got in touch with Ryan Morrison, founder of the New York law firm by the same name (and no relation of mine this side of the 17th century). Whether you’re European, Stateside or in the wrong hemisphere altogether, here’s the plain English version of where and through which service your purchases are best protected and why some retailers still risk refusing refunds.

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Crafting Mechanics Are Unfit For Purpose

Bethesda have a spectacular talent for making moth-eaten ideas feel like revolutionary concepts: Fallout 4 [official site] will let you play a property baron who constructs not just houses but connected settlements from bits of duct tape and broken globe. I was beside myself with excitement at this news – giddy, even – but not because of any particular flair on display in the five-minute crafting reveal at E3. As my New Vegas mod list and cack-handed fumbling with the Creation Kit will attest, I’m a sucker for anything that lets me inhabit the Wasteland. The idea of reshaping it by my own hand (benevolent, naturally) is intoxicating, even if the mechanics are crap.

And crafting mechanics are almost always crap.

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Suck It Up, Cupcake: It’s Good That WildStar Is Going F2P

Every few months I revive my World of Warcraft subscription, go poking about the old haunts and decide that yes, things were better back in my day. Then I order the local kids off my lawn and wish I had my £9.99 back. This is WildStar’s target audience: people like me who yearn for the hardcore days of yore, too jacked up on happy memories to recall that a lot of what Warcraft had going on 10 years ago was a massive arse-ache. WildStar offered 40-man raids, a lengthy pre-raid attunement process and hour-long dungeon runs to a fickle, flighty bunch on a nostalgia trip, and so, after an opening surge in rose-tinted interest, wrestling with obstacles WoW patched out years back was judged not to warrant £12 a month. Servers withered, and NCSOFT’s earnings reports took on an unhealthy pallor.

Free-to-play, Wildstar’s long-anticipated move to which was announced today, is smashing down the financial barrier to an old school reunion where the nostalgic can come and go as they please.
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Hands On With Evolve: Where The FPS Meets The MOBA

I was sold on Evolve, convinced by a weekend spent game hunting in October’s Big Alpha. The player numbers seemed to suggest others felt similarly. This is it then, I thought: a high profile title has found approval in alpha and it’s a straight road to release.

However, there was dissent among pundits, forcing me to ponder why some players had rebounded from Evolve, confused by what they found. Turtle Rock have a long history with the Counter-Strike series and created Left 4 Dead. With those credentials, a similar first-person set-up of four friends chasing a fifth controlling a hairy monster should make for an instant connection with players. But there was a contingent who didn’t expect what Evolve was offering. And it turns out, after being dispatched to a Turtle Rock’s studios to play it, neither did I.

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How To Make Minecraft A Survival Game

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

“Survival mode”. Pah. Vanilla Minecraft’s survival mode is for the flimsy and infirm. Do you find yourself settling down to quiet retirement once you’ve got four walls – hell, a fence – around you? Too much time spent managing your diamond portfolio when you should be living the escapist dream? Well read on, Ray Mears; I’ve crafted a collection of Minecraft’s most savage survival mods and volunteered as guinea pig.

I’ve steered clear of total conversions like Better Than Wolves. They do things with style, and if you’re after an authentic Middle Ages farmhand simulator then you’re set, but overhauls don’t play well with other mods. What I want is flexibility – modular components which can be tweaked to reinforce my place as nature’s downtrodden underdog.

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Minecraft Survival Diary: Longing For Home Comforts

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i)write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

Loading my pack with the most brutal of mods, I set out into Minecraft with pure intentions: to establish a simple steading. The farmhouse shall be made of rustic sandstone. A small flower garden would be nice. And then the fields; a solid smallholding to support me and mine with fresh, free-range produce. Perhaps I’ll organise outhouses for the peasantry. The other peasantry, I mean.

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MISERY Diary: Playing Stalker’s Hardest Mod

Get to the chopper!

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

Honour is for better folk than I. Honour is for the short-lived. Honour is for the people not playing MISERY. Accordingly, I choose to play as a Sniper. I’ll pick off monsters from the safety of a nice, cosy bush, although odds-on that’ll eat me too.

MISERY is a mod for STALKER: Call of Pripyat, two all-caps games which combine to form an experience which shouts death and despair at anyone who tries to play it.

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How To Make STALKER: Call of Pripyat A Survival Game

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

Evil is nothing if not thorough. Usually I prefer to hone my experience with a series of small mods – other entries in this week-long series will do just that – but no combo comes close to the scope of the most twisted survival retool yet hatched: MISERY.

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Life is Feudal Alpha: Is It Worth Playing Yet?

They don’t teach Terraforming like they used to.

Life is Feudal wants to be a “realistic-fictional Medieval hardcore sandbox MMORPG”, give or take an adjective.

A warning before we fish for the meaning in that sea of descriptors: Life is Feudal is Early Access, a point the devs take pains to communicate, but this isn’t ARMA III Early Access. It’s not even DayZ Early Access, which was held together by duct tape and rags on release. Life is Feudal is sketch-on-the-back-of-a-napkin Early Access, and you’ll have to squint to see what the picture is.

Swear fealty at this stage and you’re buying a vertiginous £25 worth of idea. But there it is, staking a claim on the Steam bestseller list. I struck out to found my fiefdom and see how its promises are being put into play.

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