Putting forts back into Fortnite

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Despite being someone who takes a whole day just to put up a shelf, I’m more of a builder than a fighter. That’s a problem in Fortnite Battle Royale, where forts don’t get much of a look in. The fleeting 50 vs. 50 mode scratched my itch for building citadels but has since left a conspicuous gap. It’s one I’ve spent the last few days attempting to fill.

In squads, duos and solo, building is reactive. If you’re out in the open and someone starts shooting, you can throw down some walls and a ramp so you can peek out. Maybe you want to scale a cliff, so you plonk down some platforms and stairs. The pace and shrinking play area suggests that there isn’t room for more, but I wanted to see for myself.

It’s been going poorly.

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Soren Johnson on challenging the norms of 4X games

“Sid [Meier] didn’t know he was inventing a genre back in ’91 – if he had he might have been a lot more careful. He was just making it up as he went along.”

That’s how genres begin. By mistake. Somebody creates a set of rules and systems for the needs of a particular game, and then either people adopt and adapt those rules. Soren Johnson, creator of Offworld Trading Company and lead designer of Civilization IV, is working on a new game called Ten Crowns and after spending almost an hour talking with him at GDC, I get the impression he’s going to be very careful indeed. Not cautious, because I expect some bold reinvention of 4X strategy fundamentals, but careful in his treatment of a genre that we both agree needs to escape its own past.

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Let’s analyse David Lynch Teaches Typing as if it’s a David Lynch movie

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“I don’t do a perfect Lynch impression off-hand, it took hours of practice,” Luke Palmer says, his words trailed by a humble chuckle. He’s the man spearheading Rhino Stew Productions, an experimental studio behind David Lynch Teaches Typing, a mid-90’s inspired tutorial game where the Americana all-star himself (or at least an impressive impersonation of him) runs you through the basics of typing on your shiny, brand new MacLaclantosh 900. But does the game portray the seedy underbelly of the American dream, or would I be better off smashing my head against a bathroom mirror? Let’s rock. Read the rest of this entry »

Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC review: An AMD-powered 1080p machine

Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC

Most gaming laptops are Intel this and Nvidia that these days, making the fully AMD-powered Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC something of a rarity. Indeed, while AMD’s Ryzen CPUs may be a familiar sight on desktop PCs, this is the first time their top-end Ryzen 7 1700 chip has been taken out for a spin in laptop form, making it an admirable adversary for its Intel Core i7-7700HQ-equipped competition.

Backed up with one of AMD’s 4GB Radeon RX 580 graphics chips and a massive 17.3in 1920×1080 IPS display, the Asus ROG GL702ZC could be just the ticket for those after smooth 1080p gaming you can (sort of) take on the go. Let’s see whether it’s any good. Read the rest of this entry »

Unknown Pleasures: A doughty dozen new Steam games

If you don't immediately try to kill all the friendly NPCs, you're doing it wrong.

We’re back!

Unknown Pleasures has been on unplanned hiatus as I have been grotesquely ill. The lack of communication or cover was entirely my fault, and I apologise for that unreservedly (and extend further thanks to the Hivemind for their extraordinary patience). I’m sorry.

Wait, hang on, Adam’s leaving. I can blame him! It was Adam, everyone! Shake your indignant fists.

There’s a bumper of 12 games this week, and then we’ll be back to normal. So, assaulting our ailing bodies this week: third party candidates, pugilistic ducks, and a JRPG that wait where are you going no come on, be fair.

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The Flare Path: Tank Clashes and Manx Dashes

How annoying. As Wikipedia is adamant Field Marshal Wavell didn’t dote on a Manx cat called Matilda during his time in North Africa, and the 1947 sidecar TT wasn’t won by Rommel’s twin sons riding a stripped-down, souped-up BMW R75, it looks like I’m going to have to introduce this week’s pieces on TT Isle of Man and Desert War 1940-42 with an admission that this week’s pieces on TT Isle of Man and Desert War 1940-42 have flip-all in common. Read the rest of this entry »

Best PC gaming deals of the week

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We look in shame upon the mound of empty chocolate packaging that suggests a break well-spent. We see the rows of eggs on store shelves practically being given away to clear space for whatever seasonal tat comes next. Yes, Easter for us may have been and gone but in the world of retail any holiday lasts thrice as long for the chance to squeeze out an extra purchase or two.

So, just before the sales come to a close, here are some of the week’s best deals in the world of gaming, tech and more. Read the rest of this entry »

PC Building Simulator is a good intro to PC building

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PC Building Simulator should really be called IT Support Simulator. You spend a fair amount of time doing the former, but your main role in the game’s career mode is to deal with varying degrees of customer complaints as soon as they plop into your company inbox – which I’m surprised still exists considering you start your new enterprise with -$15 in the bank thanks to your conniving uncle having scrounged it all before he handed it over to you , presumably so he could make his quick getaway before the authorities did him in for fraud.

As a result, it’s up to you to get your shop back in order, making enough money from client orders, virus removals and repair jobs to keep the lights on, pay your bills and gradually upgrade your workshop into the PC building dream palace you’ve envisioned since you first got a whiff of some that sweet, sweet CPU thermal paste.

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Far Cry 5 blossoms into something wonderful once you kill the plot-baddies

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The way I see it, there are only two significant failings in Far Cry 5. These are its story and the way it creates action in its open world. “But Alec,” asks the imagined reader who hangs on my every word and doesn’t just skip to the end in the hope I actually have something worthwhile to say, “doesn’t that mean basically the whole game?”

“Ho-ho,” I reply in this farcical imagined conversation in which I have already been infinitely more erudite than I am in any real conversation, “you have fallen for my clever introductory ruse designed to either make you nod in furious agreement or raise your fists heavenward in furious disagreement, and in either case you are now unable to resist the siren call to read on. And if, somehow, you are not, how about this: Far Cry 5 blossoms from infuriatingly stupid caterpillar into beautifully madcap butterfly once you have summarily murdered its terrible bosses.”
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Noct out with a fish: my quest to K.O. someone in Tekken with a tuna

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Noctis Lucis Caelum is the young monarch of Final Fantasy XV. He has a double-barrelled surname and a lot of invisible swords. He has also made a guest appearance in Tekken 7. These are two ridiculous worlds I like to inhabit in the evenings, so it makes sense to write about this crossover event. But there needs to be an angle. I need a hook. A hook… Of course! A fishing hook. Noctis loves to go angling, it’s his hobby. I’ll fight a bunch of people as Noctis and try to get a K.O. using a large fish. That’s an article. Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: Good game, bad story

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“I love to shoot the men!” you shout, as you pump 100 bullets into the prostrate torso of a dead soldier in Far Cry 5. “I’m so glad there are no cutscenes to–

THWOCK.

“Oh no.”

And lo, the lord delivered unto ye a sermon of the highest tedium, and the Four Ubisoft Writers of the Apocalypse rode over the earth and reaped the souls of all humanity with pointless exposition and dull characterisation. It was a bad time. But it’s not the only strong game let down by a bad tale. The latest episode of the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show, is unable to discuss all the offenders, but we can take a punt.

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Has Overwatch been improved by its updates?

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Update Night is a fortnightly column in which Rich McCormick revisits games to find out whether they’ve been changed for better or worse.

You’d not think that a dude who calls himself “Doomfist” would be a particularly complex personality, but returning to Overwatch for the first time since Blizzard started adding new heroes to its team shooter, I found him the hardest to understand. That’s no bad thing. It’s a pleasure to return to a game and find new characters who aren’t simply the Ken to an existing Ryu. Overwatch’s new characters add a variety of playstyles, and have made the game more interesting and challenging. Despite the challenge of all this new variety, it might even have become a friendlier place to spend time since I last played.

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Wot I Think: A Way Out

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At its very best, two player co-op game A Way Out explores a counterintuitive truth: that conflict is a necessary step towards good teamwork. It’s a prison break game about two men, Vincent and Leo, incarcerated in an American prison. Vincent is a cool-headed strategist who solves problems using his words rather than his fists, while Leo is a young hothead who would rather strike first and ask questions later.

The most remarkable thing about this second game from Josef Fares, writer/director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, is how it encourages both participants to roleplay as those strong personalities. Vincent and Leo are set in stone; unlike in games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead, you cannot affect their character through in-game choices. You and another player surrender to the narrative, while the game aims to involve you through action rather than intent. It’s a game that sacrifices freedom for character work. Here’s wot I think.

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Wot I Think: Minit

Minit is that most rare of joyful things: A really good idea, done really well.

In Minit you play a little bird-like pixel character who lives in a black and white pixel world, and is cursed with only ever living for a single minute. And yet despite this limitation, it presents a little RPG. HOW?! you ask, in your belligerent way. Hush, I shall tell you. Read the rest of this entry »

The games of the year, according to GDC’s award winners

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The awards ceremony at this year’s GDC was fun. At least, that’s what John told me from his seat in the crowd, where he saw the winners mount a stage some would consider too colourful for this planet. The Independent Games Festival Awards and subsequent Game Developer’s Choice Awards saw a range of trophy-grabbers, from indie students to adventure game veterans. Unfortunately for them, I was hiding backstage, skulking behind a black curtain and holding a voice recorder like a cudgel. I had one question to ask them all: If they had to give their award away, who would get it?

It’s like re-gifting, except you worked really hard for the gift and now you have to hand it over three minutes after your acceptance speech. Life is pain.

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What Works And Why: Unfair intel in stealth games

What Works And Why is a monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game or mechanic and analyses what makes it good.

Games about one player character against hundreds of enemies generally have to give you some kind of unfair advantage. In action games, it’s usually resilience: getting shot in Call of Duty covers you in jam for 3 seconds but leaves you otherwise unharmed, gunshots in Wolfenstein can be fixed with chicken dinners, and in Doom 2016 punching a demon feels so good it physically mends you.

Stealth games need a different solution, because the fun part is generally over by the time you get shot. That’s good – they don’t need jam vision or dinner magic. Instead they need a crutch that helps you before things get that bad. And in games about hiding from everyone, that’s usually intelligence. Information is power. To evade improbable odds, you need to know more than you reasonably should.

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Premature Evaluation: PixArk

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Premature Evaluation is the weekly column in which we explore the wilds of early access. This week, Fraser’s lost in PixArk, the Minecraft-inspired Ark: Survival Evolved spin-off. It’s colourful, whimsical and it’s made him extremely grumpy.

PixArk feels like the result of an algorithm designed to pick bits from popular games and Frankenstein them into something new. This is nothing new – trying to capture the zeitgeist can lead to fun places, and great successes. PixArk, however, is not a game that captures the zeitgeist, but rather something hollow, stitched together out of disparate parts seemingly without proper consideration for how they fit together or what made them work originally.

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Far Cry 5’s interrupting story ruins everything

I have very much enjoyed the Far Cry series, most often despite itself. Far Cries 3, 4 and Primal (why is everyone forgetting poor old Primal?) have all occupied me for countless hours, provided enormous amounts of entertainment in their kleptomania-inducing maps, and always done so despite everything it thinks is so compelling about itself. Far Cry’s self-belief in its own abysmal stories is always so grossly apparent, like a strutting buffoon bursting into the bar and looking around, confused, when every man, woman and animal doesn’t immediately throw themselves at his feet. So then he starts loudly demanding people throw themselves at his feet. And when they don’t, runs around putting his feet as near to people as he can and declares to the room that this counts. Oh Far Cry.

Unfortunately, this time out things have gotten a lot worse. Far Cry 5 – to run with the previous analogy – barges up to you, grabs you by the collar, and throws you down onto the ground by its shoes, screaming “MY FEET! WORSHIP MY BLOODY FEET!” Which is to say, engaging with its godawful cutscenes has become less optional. Far Cry 5 has the most egregiously bad imposition of its story. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Celeste’s dash feels great

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, mountain-climbing platformer Celeste and the importance of timing in its movements and kindness in its code.

Early last month, the makers of Celeste released the source code behind the game’s star, Madeline. Across 5472 lines and in variables like JumpGraceTime, DashHJumpThruNudge and DuckFriction, the code precisely defines her ability to run, climb, jump and dash, bringing her to life in your hands.

If you’re not a programmer, it’s difficult to figure out what the code really means, so I asked Noel Berry to explain how it coalesces into a character who feels so good to control. Focusing on her dash, the mechanic around which Celeste revolves, it turns out that a lot of it’s down to the game making her do what you expected her to do, and not necessarily what you actually did. Read the rest of this entry »