Wot I Think: Hackmud

Multiplayer hacking sim Hackmud [official site] launched on Friday, catching us by surprise. We tasked our most elite hacker with entering its digital realms to crack the mainframe and report back. Sadly, Alice couldn’t make it. So we sent Brendan instead, who quickly found himself in over his head, lost in a world of player-made malware, intrigue, deception and guilt.

I played Hackmud all weekend. Almost all my free time time for the past two days that wasn’t spent eating, peeing, or sleeping my way through the necessities of meatspace, has been spent exploring the murky chat channels and malicious scripts of this game, which appeared, seemingly out of the ether, on Friday. To give you some background: it is an “MMO” hacking sim in which you must earn GC – a digital currency – by breaching NPCs or other players and stealing their money. The more money you have, the more upgrades you can buy, the better you can hack, and the more money you can get next time. Levelling up through ‘tiers’ like this is the standard of MMOs. But I want to tell you that, despite some issues, this game is far from standard.

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Review: Too Good To Be True? A 4K VR Headset That Supports SteamVR For $300

Oh, virtual reality. So much promise, so many drawbacks. Stick your hand into the Tombola Of VR Woes and see what you grab. Headaches and nauseau? High system requirements? Too many cables? Screen door effect? Apparent low resolutions? Gimmicky games? Problematic prices? Your face in a box? I could go on, but I won’t because, er, that is most of them. Both Oculus Rift and the Vive offer a real jolly good time for initial forays into lifesize 3D wonderlands, but come up short when it comes to longer term usage, for reasons we’ve opined about at length here and here. But those constitute just the first consumer generation of hardware.

The tech will be refined over time (unless the market totally loses faith in the concept), but whether that is achieved by Oculus, Valve/HTC or someone else entirely is very much up for grabs still. In the interim, here’s Chinese outfit Pimax, who are selling what they label as the first 4K VR headset for PC, which works with SteamVR. It’s also $350 (or $300 without headphones), compared to the Rift’s $599 and Vive’s $799. Two questions, then. 1) Can it really solve the image quality problem? 2) Can it really do what it needs to at half the price of the big boys of VR? I’ve been testing the Pimax for the last few days, and here’s what I think.

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Have You Played… Mortal Online?

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

When I first played Mortal Online [official site] in the dim February of 2013, I described it as “a free-to-play MMO about living in a fantasy world and not being very good at anything”. I stick by that assessment, not because I have gone back to that online otherworld and found it just the same, but because I am afraid to.

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Premature Evaluation: Oriental Empires

Every Monday we haul Brendan to the court of the biggest dynasty in the land and demand that he explains an early access game. This week, he stutters about Oriental Empires [official site].

As the kingdom of Zhou burned to ashes around me on the map, I took a moment to reflect on what had been a bad year. A peasants revolt, a devastating war, cities lost to disease and fire, and an incurable case of bandits. Oriental Empires seems to have everything I want in a game – disaster, bad decisions and angry serfs. So why did I only get as far as the second X in this 4X strategy before I turned away, frustrated and fed up? Perhaps it’s because – as terrible as my year has been – I’ve lived it all before.

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Friendless Space: Why Master Of Orion 3 Is Important

Games are either good or the worst thing to ever happen. That’s just how it works. Oh, sure, there are divisive games, but once the consensus has been reached that a game is bad, that’s it. Cast it away into the pit of 1 star reviews, the lair of the Thumbdown, to be spoken of only with frothing hatred and contempt. Never to be touched. Never to be examined.

Master of Orion 3 is one of the most important 4X games ever made. There, I said it. It’s all over for me now. Follow not where I dare to tread.

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League Of Legends: Riot Kades Talks Mechs Vs Minions

Earlier this week Riot announced its first foray into boardgames with Mechs vs Minions – a co-op tabletop experience set in the League of Legends [official site] universe. If you’re a boardgamer you’ll get the basic concept from “Robo Rally meets Descent” with a Legacy-esque campaign component. If you’re not, probably the easiest way to put this is that you’re working together to program little characters in mech suits so they can be victorious in their missions, although taking damage can make them go haywire (as can, for example, misreading cards and forgetting your mech will turn 90 degrees and thus you end up accidentally on the other side of the board throwing a ripsaw into thin air. FOR EXAMPLE.) It’s also heavier than most newborns, coming in at 12.8 lb on my bathroom scales.

I played snippets of the game during development (I guess kind of like videogame previews) so I was pleased to talk with Mechs Vs Minions lead Chris ‘Kades’ Cantrell to see how the idea had developed over time, how Riot had made the ridiculously huge game remotely affordable, and how RPS alumnus Quinns had managed to make more work for everyone (in a good way):

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