Latest Articles (Page 1995)
When press types were given our logins for the Tabula Rasa closed beta, it came with a rather peculiar clause. Normally there'd be a line saying, "Say a single thing about this game and we'll tie you by your balls to a lamppost". Tabula Rasa leaves things slightly more vague.
By accepting our online NDA, you are also agreeing to the following rules for press:
* The Non-Disclosure Agreement is in effect; while you may talk about your experiences in the game, please do not publish your own screen shots or talk about specific aspects of the game. Since we’re in beta, we are continually fine-tuning the game so something specific you report on may actually be changed before launch...
The ESPN-style presentation of EA's new Command & Conquer 3 Battlecast Primetime web TV shows is inherently hilarious. EA's trying, in that not-quite-getting-it corporate way it so often does, to create the kind of pop culture frenzy that surrounds Starcraft in South Korea [sidenote - if I ever go to Korea, I'd love to find out just what the older population think about their offspring's game mania]. That means making a TV show about just one videogame, and taking it very, very seriously, laying the macho on thick. I know C&C fans love their C&C, but I can't see this working in the long term.
Today though, it turned out that the show's not so much about watching C&C3 matches as EA having their own personal news show. It's enough to send a chill down even the most jaded hack's hunched spine - EA doesn't need the media anymore. EA makes its own media. This was demonstrated by Battlecast Primetime exclusively announcing details on the first C&C3 expansion pack. So that's the way it's gonna be now, huh?
At any rate, Kane's Wrath (for that is its name) sounds like it's had a fair amount of thought put into it, much more so than the average EA dead-horse-flogger expansion. Clearly, cliffhangers will be resolved, Kane will make plenty more high-definition ego-waffle, and there'll be various new units and abilities. Much more importantly, C&C3's getting a strategy map, and even producer Jim Vessella's teeth-aching description of it as "a game like Risk, but on steroids" doesn't stop this being a little bit exciting.
While Meer's been battering his way through it, I haven't had a chance to actually play the new Beyond the Sword pack yet (Though the hype around it has caused me to have a vanilla-Civ4 relapse). However, it looks like I'm never actually going to get a chance to play it as the developers intended, as - by all accounts - I should immediately patch it with the latest Unofficial patch from Solver over at Apolyton.
Where this becomes officially unofficial is that the patch includes a load of fixes that Blake - responsible for the improved AI in Beyond the Sword, among other things - has developed. There's a long list of general improvements, but let's go for some of the Blake specific ones.
* Fixed AI airstrike bug * AI now only capitulates to the team which has done them a majority of the damage. * On non-aggressive AI, the AI's are more aggressive early in the game. * AI trains more units early in the game. * AI SHOULD do a better job of bribing other AI's (this may or may not work) * The cost to Bribe AI's into war now uses a new algorithm, it better reflects the impact of the bribe (ie a large AI charges a lot more to be ordered around). Generally bribing will be more expensive, especially cases where it used to be excessively cheap. * AI's tell you to sod off if you try to bribe them onto a victim with an intact nuclear arsenal. * AI brags about it's nukes more.
...which is a complete and total lie, but I'll be reaaaally quick, honest.
Free, official, high-resolution, beee-yooo-tiful Bioshock artbook to download!
It's designed to be high-quality enough for professional printing and binding, and includes an exclusive Ken Levine foreword. Both words and pictures contain spoilers, so download this somewhere safe now, but don't feast your eyes upon it until after you've played the game.
Papier-mache animal breeding game Viva Piñata is set to be released on the PC. If you missed this one in console land, it's a sandbox creature-caring scenario, where you breed living piñatas, giving them names and building a garden for them to live in – that sort of thing.
Hideously, my instinctual prejudices came out when I read about this: “hardly a PC game”, I thought. “PC games are about guns and terrain!” Oh, the shame. The PC is, after all, the home of the best-selling creature-coddling game in existence: The Sims. We do nothing better than making pets of computerised lifeforms, and with Spore on the way we can expect plenty more such emotive angles.
Anyway, there are no real details yet on the hitting-stick paper lifeform game – the PC version will feature the same Piñata world, complete with the same customisable vegetation, colourful animal genetics, and rogue miscreant piñatas, as the 360 game. This should be another major Games For Windows title – being Microsoft 'n' all. I wonder if it will sell...
Not as chilling as the initial pre-rendered film we saw last year, but gains major bonus points for use of Bobby Darin's Under The Sea.
Yes, we're going to rename the blog Rock Paper Bioshock.
Hurrah! There's a Bioshock demo released.
Boo! It's only the XBox one.
The 2K forum take it philosophically, in their PC demo thread.
After spending the weekend leafing through my musty, dusty, collection of ZX Spectrum mags (woodlice prefer Your Sinclair) I've come to the depressing conclusion that the games industry has forgotten how to design great print ads.
Open any recent PC periodical and - assuming you can find a games ad amongst the dull hardware hawking - you'll see what I'm on about. Stilted renders, soulless computer-aided illustrations, car advert gloss... there's just no quirkiness or character anymore, no human touch.
The situation is so dire I think a brief tutorial is in order. For the benefit of publisher publicity departments everywhere, here's Tim's Top Five Tips For Designing Eye-catching Ads.
Okay. We've had enough corporate evilness puncturing our happy-happy joy-joy over-excitement over the forthcoming Bioshock. Let's have something to warm our hearts as we prepare ourselves for entering an art-deco hell.
(Don't worry - the second we play it, we'll start a too-cool-for-school It's-not-all-that Backlash, because that's the way we roll at Rock Paper Shotgun. We're absolute cunts.)
Destructoid have been running a dress like Big Daddy compo. It's over now, and the results have yet to be announced, but their members have been posting about their efforts.
Stupid - releasing a version of DirectX (number 10, if you're counting) that doesn't work with Windowses other than Vista, and failing to provide any real reason why this should be so. Stupider - Not having any games that show what DirectX10 is capable of over half a year on from Vista's launch, compounding the many reasons not to invest in the troubled new operating system. Pricelessly stupid - Announcing there's to be another new version of DirectX already, which the expensive 3D cards people excited about DX10 already splashed out on won't support.
Yes, if you want DirectX 10.1, coming in Vista Service Pack 1, you'll need yet another 3D card. It beggars belief, it really does. Lost Planet's the only DX10 game to speak of so far, and it both looked no better and ran worse under DX10 than it did in DX9. Meanwhile, artificially making DX10 Vista-only just pissed gamers off.
Regardless of its performance potential, so far DX10 has been a bit of a PR disaster. And yet Microsoft is to release a new version that requires new hardware, and thus can only confuse and annoy gamers further. While there's nothing in it that's going to make game developers convinced they must have it (salt in the wound in fact, as the update sounds entirely futile), the worst case scenario is that a big game like Crysis or Alan Wake goes DX10.1, ripping out 10 support entirely and forcing our pricy new GeForce 8s and Radeon HD cards down into hoary old DX9.
It's certainly an interesting way to reward a development team for completing what's looking like a shoe-in for Game of the Year: annihilating their identity. Irrational Games, with their Gold announcement of Bioshock still fresh in the air, are being rubbed out of existence, with their two studios being renamed as 2K Boston and 2K Australia.
Let's quote a little of the press release.
“Irrational Games is widely recognized as one of the most innovative development studios in the world,” said Christoph Hartmann, President of 2K. “Following their incredible efforts in bringing BioShock to life, we are proud to make the newly renamed Irrational Games studios a cornerstone of our game development family.”
Especially when they're lists of the best fifty indie games out there, as compiled by TiGSource.
As ever I'm awed by the diversity of the stuff the PC indie scene generates, and I impressed myself with the number of games on that list I've actually played. It also reminded me to pick up a copy of Penumbra. I know, I know - your mum has played more games than me.
Actually, the best game on that list might just be Death Worm. (The Vista convert app is here.)
You may be aware of ancient Kafka-esque freak-adventure Bad Mojo. It's one of Jim's favourite games to rant about, so I suspect we'll have him talking about it eventually, but it basically involves "be"ing a cockroach.
They released a remastered edition, which is available on Digital Download, including some interview material with the developers about how they actually managed to get the startlingly realistic footage of assorted insects and cats.
At first we collected animals on our own. I remember a very early experiment we did with spiders on the blue screen. We found some spiders, brought them to the studio, put them on the blue screen... I remember the first spider vaporised instantly under the light. It was just gone in a puff of smoke. We had to adjust the lights and figure that out... we had a little bit of glass the spider was crawling on. That wasn't going to work. Filming spiders isn't going to work.
(Thanks to Bluesnews.)
Today's top online gaming story is beautifully unpredictable:
Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), a global leader in the online gaming industry, is teaming up with Sir Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra’s Virgin Comics to bring the popular, India-based Ramayan 3392 A.D. comic book universe to life as an MMO video game initially for the PC.
Blimey. They go on to say:
One of my quiet gaming obsessions is the concept of missing links. We all know the mainstream history of gaming (You know - the first RTS being Dune 2). Many of us will know the critical consensus-history of gaming (You know - the first RTS being the Megadrive's Herzog Zwei). What interests me is the stuff both of those history leaves out - you know, what they're forgetting about in order to make a simplified neater history. In that case, I dare say you can trace the RTS further back than Herzog Zwei if you like. At the least, you need to bring - say - Populous into the consideration. Sure, it doesn't play in a way akin to how the genre gentrified... but neither, really, does Herzog Zwei.
Not in a trainspottery High-Fidelity-records-collector way. Well... at least not MOSTLY like that. But in a interest in how gloriously tangled the rainforest floor of gaming is.
Anyway - enough set up. On with 1991's proto-First-person shooter Robocop 3's awesome ED-209s!
Or was it? I just spent... too long playing The Apocalyptic Game About Penguins. It's a side-scrolling shooter where penguins are the main characters. The tragic hero-protagonist is a penguin with guns. It's complete garbage, and yet oddly compulsive. And it's a free download.
Something else that happened when I was away which I think's worth mentioning: City of Heroes hit double-figures in its updates, with Issue 10 going live. This time the Rikti, the perennial Big Bads of the series are back. And this time, they're shinier. Shiny-shiney-shine.
It kicked off with a world-wide invasion event, with the aliens in question causing trouble, as well as setting up new Rikti-centred zones and task forces - which, cutely, allow high-level (35+) heroes and villains to team up and fight the greater foe. Which is about as superhero comic-book perfect as wearing spandex, gleeful homoeroticism having your arch-enemy cut up your girlfriend and store them in the fridge. In other words, compared to Issue 9 which introduced the new invention system, it's a lot more about Biffing people in the face.
But that's not what particularly has got me thinking about it. While a Civ4 relapse has been eating into my gaming time, I haven't played it yet, but apparently in the world event stuff - that is, the Rikti appearing all over the place to fuck shit up - the Rikti are "levelless". Only their class (whether they're a lieutenant, elite or boss or whatever) determines how difficult they are to hit and kill. In other words, without sidekicking (City of Heroes' feature where a player is artificially raised to a higher hero's level so they can play together) a Level 5 and a level 50 character could stand side-by-side against the same foe and FIGHT.
I've been making snooty comments (usually involving charming phrases like "not a scrap of ingenuity" and "egomaniacs" and "cat-murdering, passionless money-men*") about id for a good few years now, but this week I've been feeling an great wave of affection for the somewhat atrophied father of the modern FPS.
It's not because of Rage, which though it sounds very interesting currently doesn't really look it. It's because id's slapped their back catalogue onto Steam. It was a shock at first - id asking Valve if they can flog their wares in their great rival's online store is a little like The Rolling Stones asking if they can sleep in David Bowie's garage. But it makes total sense - soon enough, Valve and Google will be the only places we ever need for any information or entertainment. It's also the final seal of approval Steam really needed to become the one true home of the modern PC game. With this done, Steam is unstoppable.
More importantly (and I realise that having a Steam press account that grants me everything on it for free does rob me of a certain chunk of objectivity here, but hey - it's £30 for every id game ever. I'd happily pay that myself.), it's an utter delight to have what's in many ways the entire history of FPS laid out before me in one place.
This thread over on the Quarter To Three games forum discusses whether the PC was the “real winner” of the latest generation console wars. The thread author suggests that the PC will 'win' by virtue of having lots of console games converted to it at a later date, but I think the reality is a little more subtle. If there is something to be learned from the current spread of games then it's not necessarily the brute number of conversions to PC that matters – it's the money going into the really significant games. Publishers need to figure out how much they can spend on a game, and they'll spend more if it's likely to do well on a console as well as a PC.
Quake Wars has undoubtedly benefited from being converted to 360. The console format meant that the team had to factor bots into the game – a fact that gave them extra months to polish the game as a whole, and also means that instead of a pure multiplayer game we also now get bots to play with.
Bioshock is another example. There's little doubt that it would have been a masterpiece whatever the format – but more money would have been coughed up for the overall development costs because it's going to be on 360, and not just 'conversion costs' either, since these tend to disappear into the overall equation of running a studio anyway.
Okay, I was thinking I may actually have an exclusive for the half-dozen readers that Rock Paper Scissors has at the moment, involving a little thing by the name of Beowulf that was announced the week before last.
While I went to see the game of the film of the poem almost two months back, the Non-disclosure agreement only lifted on July 26th to tie in with the film of the poem's proper unveiling, meaning my interview/preview for Eurogamer was only published then. It's basically one of the post-God-of-War combat games which are increasingly coming to light after Sony's game's enormous and justified success (For a pure-PC example, cast your eyes at Loki, which Jim will have words to say about later, I suspect). Well - it's God of War meets Ghost Recon, in that you've got some mates you can order around, but it's basically God of War.
Chatting to assorted folks about the freshly-announced next World of Warcraft expansion, I'm hearing a lot of apathy. Clearly, each and every one of those people will buy it and play it obsessively anyway, but I'm definitely getting the sense the rot may have finally set in. What happened to Everquest and Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot and etc and etc and etc is now affecting the game that was supposed to have broken the known rules of MMO success.
What I mean is that WoW seems to have now passed the point where anything it can do will realistically attract many new players. All it can do now is keep its existing ones there - and its existing ones are the stat-obsssessed hardcore, even if, terrifyingly, that group does number in the millions. Look at the list of stuff in Wrath of the Lich King and there's nothing there to lure back a lapsed player, let alone attract a brand new one. Haircuts? A new skill? A new class? Fun if Azeroth's magic still enchants you. But entirely incidental. It's all about the raised level cap - but not, crucially, about the experience of reaching level 80. It's about what happens once you are 80, and the instance and reputation and PvP grinding to then be done on repeat every night.
Though I kept playing for a while afterwards, where WoW and especially The Burning Crusade broke for me was the point that I understood almost everything. The game was incredibly entertaining when I was confused and shambolic, making stuff up as I went along, nervously eyeballing the art of a new location or enemy, rather than the level number on it, exactly what spell it was casting and what its likelihood of dropping a green item was, according to my raft of UI plugins. The mystery, the sense of exploration and discovery, was gone. I'm now so utterly familiar with the mechanics behind the game that no expansion can possibly recapture the sense of wonder of WoW's first 30-odd levels. I can't believe I'm alone in this. It's now a game for people who understand the maths, and them alone.
Here's a link to the high-def version of the Rage trailer, as seen at QuakeCon '07. Looks to me like we've hit some kind of graphical ceiling, eh readers? Perhaps game design will be more important than bump-cleverness? I do hope Id can deliver an entertaining rascal of a game, I really do. Something at the back of the mind however (perhaps one of them brain-rats), is gnawing away at me. Sceptical thoughts are stirring.
They shouldn't be though: a free-roaming Mad Max FPS, with co-op play. That's exactly what I've been wanting over the last couple of years. Could this be Id's return to excellence? I think if they can balance exploration and fun road-physics with a solid sense of violence then they could be on to something. It'll be interesting to see just how big and beautiful Id's tech can make the landscapes. Quake Wars, which is getting on a bit now graphics tech-wise, is looking stunning, and gives a superb impression of unlimited space (despite being Battlefield-like in its scale). I'm sort of hoping that Rage can capture the minimalism and solidity of Quake 2 & 3 with vehicles. If they manage that then it could be a potent formula.
Nice fly too.
[First of our SPECIAL GUEST posts by friends of Rock, Paper, Shotgun. This time it's world-traveler and local-bemuser Quintin Smith, who I once spurred into hitting on girls in the manner of an Oblivion conversation. No, really.]
There's a degree of masochism involved in playing roguelikes. As well as choosing to suffer through hideous tile-based graphics and razor-sharp difficulty spikes you have to deal with the total loss of progress with each death. But you know what? It's just so hard to find the freedom and unpredictibility they offer anywhere else.
So that's my excuse as to why, after swearing them off as a genre following a long hot summer where I was having my heart broken by Zangband on a nightly basis, I've started again. I'm playing Iter Vehemens ad Necem this time, which is a little less polished and forgoes races and classes but manages to squeeze in a plot and gets nice and specific with regards to body parts. Limbs can be lost (and replaced with poor-quality substitutes), heads can be struck (causing blackouts and brain damage) and groins can be melted away.
Jim and I were just sitting in the Garden, ignoring spiders and bats fluttering by, and talking about the world's biggest videogame news. We realised that while it was good to have blogged a story involving Blizzard in the last 24-hours, if we're actually trying to be a serious mainstream PC-videogame site, we perhaps chose the wrong one.
LOOK AT THE FUCKING TREES.
The creativity of the crafting gamers knows no bounds. Behold: the Starcraft Origami.
Via the effervescent Wonderland.
Mentisworks has posted an excellent review of the 'best' 27 indie art games ever. The author explains:
When I think of art that has influenced me most, it is generally work done by individuals. I can't recall the last time a corporation created a brilliant painting. I find that this also tends to be true in the emerging area of art games. Individuals are not generally driven to create purely for profit, and have more leeway to experiment and create according to their own artistic vision.
I thought it was time to compile a "best of" list for art games, because there has only been one other such list that I recall online. I'm sure someone will correct me on that point if there has been in fact another well drafted list somewhere out there.
Eureka! I think I've just discovered the perfect game review format for Today's busy, confident, man-about-town.
Reviews Constructed Entirely From Official Forum Thread Titles (RCEFOFTTs for short) mean reviewers get to spend more time loafing, and readers get to spend less time wading through tedious personal anecdotes. It's a win-win situation.
Here, as proof of concept, is a RCEFOFTT for Battlefront's new 3D wargame Combat Mission: Shock Force.
And it's a vehicular shooter. The game will be based on Carmack's new graphics engine, which makes use of the innovations that made Quake Wars' large maps possible. There's even going to be some co-op multiplayer. Gadzooks.
This is the tech demo from some computer expo thing:
A quick anecdote from Stalker, which I've been replaying on and off, just to see what I can change/break.
I was playing through one of the early sections where an NPC character arranges to set up an ambush with you to rescue his captured colleague. The ambush was set, but things went batshit – completely different from the smoothly executed sequence of events I'd seen the first time I'd played through this section. For some reason the game spawned a hostile bandit patrol just within aggression range of my NPC partner. They shot at him at the exact moment the scripted ambush was supposed to occur. To deal with this random occurrence the game made the chap we were supposed to rescue vanish entirely, and then filled the other NPC with a murderous rage. He moved into the nearby building complex, with me still in tow, and systematically hunting down and killing every single bandit in the area.
Only when we reached the roof and the last bandit lay dead did the NPC stop and complete his designated plot device. He turned to his now non-existent companion and said “No problem, but you have this Stalker to thank.” Then he just stood there, frozen and unable to continue his existence thanks to the earlier interruption. When I returned an hour later he was dead.