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  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    It's worth taking a few minutes to watch this art-design trailer for Team Fortress 2. It references influences such as the phenomenon of increased recognition through caricatured silhouettes, as pioneered by early 20th century commercial illustration, and the background plates from Hayao Miyazaki animations. It gets a bit technical towards them end, but it gives you some idea about the layers of technology that are being artistically smoothed on to games like this. In videogames like TF2 art and science really do meet to give us the best of both worlds.

    Team Fortress 2, like World Of Warcraft, isn't going to age particularly quickly. Unlike games that reach for realistic visuals, these more abstract, stylised graphical themes do not lose much to the ongoing race for visual fidelity. The understand their visual systems, and are just fine with them, thankyouverymuch. Perhaps TF2 could even be a turning point for art design in PC gaming - proving that the tech developed in the last few years does not have to be put to use creating increasingly realistic people and worlds - because what really matters is character, personality, and easily comprehensible environments, and not a really life-like space-soldier.

  • Gearbox's Borderlands To Be Published By 2K

    Gearbox being the blokes who made Brothers In Arms, and 2K being Bioshock's publisher, of course. Borderlands is a post-apocalyptic shooter with vehicles (yes, a bit like Id Software's recent announcement, Rage) delivered in a sci-fi Mad Max style. The game will feature randomly generated missions and even some RPG-style character development, with customisable characters, weapons and vehicles. Best of all, however, is that it's going to be focusing on co-op multi-player. (Also a bit like Rage).

    It's slightly spooky how much some RPS folk have been talking about vehicular combat games in the last few months, and then two come along at once. It's almost as if we're in tune with the zeitgeist, or something.

    Also: the press release was filled with some of the most derivative garbage I've ever read. How many keywords can you fit in once sentence? I mean really.

  • Saturday Night's alright for Nuking. Also, Sunday.

    Defcon was one of RPS' favourite games of last year, if only because it gave me another opportunity to stomp Walker, but this time with Nuclear Warheads for a bit of variety. Which makes us happy that Introversion have just announced a free-play weekend to tie in with the Penny Arcade Expo. From 6pm GMT Friday August 24th 18:00 GMT until Monday August 27th 6am, you can lob strategic nuclear weapons around as if they're going out of fashion. Which, hopefully, they are.

    While clearly a good thing, it's worth noting that the basic demo which is constantly available does allow you to play online in a multiplayer capacity with the limitations of there being a maximum of two players per game (Which is accurate for world-superpower simulator, but a little limited compared to the full game's six) and only being able to play on Standard mode (And not any of the natty variants, like the everyone-dies-REALLY-QUICKLY Speed Defcon). You can also join any Standard games online, as long as there isn't a demo player already in there.

    Which strikes me as a lot of rules to remember, especially for someone hungering to lob nuclear devices towards the horizon, so it may be more sensible to wait until the 24th and have all-gloves-off play of all-gloves-off nuclear war.

  • Bioshock Opens Airlock On Steam Fnarrr

    Good Lord, I'm sorry for adding yet another Bioshock post, but I guess this is kind of inevitable at the moment. (I do want to say that a year ago I started getting very excited about this game, announcing it was the only interesting thing on the horizon, and people thought I was stupid. Ha ha idiots - look at me now!)

    Anyway, news is, Bioshock's on Steam.

    Which is quite a big deal, really.

  • Horrible, horrible game still clings to life

    Playing Archlord was one of the most miserable experiences of my life, including that time I didn't put the lotion on my skin and got the hose again.

    Still, I retain a fascination for this hastily-exported Korean MMORPG's desperate attempts to avoid the axe. It went free to subscribe a while back, and now the client can be had for nowt, too. I can't help but wonder what publisher Codemasters' plan is for it, apart from slowly pissing off the few people who do like the game by making them the only ones who ever had to pay for it.

    True, there's a micropayments system for rare items in there that presumably gleans a few pennies from the dedicated/desperate/mad, but can it really be enough to pay for the servers and tech support? Not to mention the extensive counselling that the GMs who have to spend all day, every day in this staggeringly hideous grind-nightmare must surely require.

  • FarOutHaloKabuto

    Single-player FPS mods, especially ones that aren't brain-agony to play, are pretty few and far between. Adding plot, dialogue, setpieces and incentive to continue takes a lot more effort than making something that's a lot like Counter-Strike but with brown uniforms, after all. Never entirely comfortable with being shot at by strangers who are far better than me at placing bullets inside skulls though, I'm always on the lookout for a good soloplay homebrew effort.

    The intruiging Minerva for Half-Life 2, for instance, is trying hard to tell a good story, and is doing far more efficient things with level design than Valve themselves. When covering it elsewhere, I did find that it had an unfortunate over-reliance on those Find The Door puzzles I despise so much. Happily, the developer popped up in the comments thread, not furious but cheerfully willing to take the constructive criticism onboard. (I really should have replied to him, but I'm forgetful, and a churl).

    So, while waiting impatiently for the next installment, which, wonderfully, apparently has had Valve's own input on the puzzles, I stumbled across this. First Contact: Planetfall is a total conversion for Far Cry, created by the splendidly-named Sharkinacube, a team of students tasked to make a game for their final year coursework.

  • In with a bullet at number 57: Outcast

    PC Gamer have lobbed their annual Top 100 Games EVER online and... no, don't groan, at least too much. PC Gamer have been doing this Top 100 every year for over a decade, before the actual list-malaise took over our whole society (Personally, I want to do an article which lists the Top 100 Top 100s ever). Since it's actually a yearly event, it tends to stress different things than most one-offs Top 100s - basically, the ebbing affections of the writers staff. If you want a picture of where PC Gamer's head are at circa 2006, it's a fascinating picture.

    Avuncular editor Ross Atherton explains it so...

    "At this meeting we will devise a list of the Top 100 Games 2007, and its order. This list is to reflect the games we love, games which we would gladly play today. Argue for the inclusion of your babies - not at the expense of other games, but in support of your favourites, telling us why. Whether released in 2007 or 1987, if you love it and honestly want to play it right now, its inclusion is valid."

    100-51 is here while you'll find 50-1 here. All four of RPS were involved in the process, which involved a delightful afternoon sitting around, talking games and shouting "PEGGLE!" far too often. I won't spoil the results for you, but suffice to say you'll disagree with most of it, which is how it should be. A good list is meant to be the start of a debate, not the end of one.

    Which brings me to Edge's Top 100 which, by those criteria, is a pretty good list. More under the cut, including gleeful bitchery.

  • The Joy Of Bugs

    Inspired by Professional Circumstances, I've been playing Just Cause for the last couple of days, and it's got me thinking about the play-off between freedom and bugs. And, to a large extent, how much I enjoy a good broken bit of game.

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    Scan of a 1960s bomb shelter brochure - more excellent images at this fine fellow's Flickr account.

    Against all odds, ever-struggling games publisher Interplay still functions - despite being nearly $3m in debt. Still, that's better than the nearly $60m in the red it was back in 2001, eh? Now it's a hobo that can afford a wash once in a while.

    Given that actual game sales only contributed $62,000 to the $5.4m Interplay's earned in the last quarter, almost all of the rosy finanical tint it claims to be back in its cheeks was put there by flogging the rights to the Fallout series to Bethesda earlier this year. This seems no cause for celebration to me, rather like saying "I've got this oil well underneath my house, but I can't afford to dig down to it. So I sold it to my incredibly rich neighbour for £20 and a ride in his Ferrari. Now he's even richer, but hey, it's £20 I can put towards my rent!"

  • Synaesthete

    Synaesthete is one of the numerous games to have emerged from the DigiPen game design courses, and like a few other titles from the prestigious games “real-time interactive simulation” design course, it's rather fun.

    The concept is a sort of rhythm-action Robotron, with your tiny laser-pumping manbot running through arenas full of throbbing polygonal baddies and fighting them off by firing energy blasts derived from the beat-sequence timer thing (what is that called?) you get in games like Guitar Hero, or on the PC, Frets On Fire. The fighting therefore pulses to the beat of the music, which is a constant, flowing mix of dance music. And my screenshots really can't capture that, can they? No.

    Anyway, if I had a major problem with this neon-drenched arena-shooter it'd be that it's all a bit spammy and easy – you don't really have to hit the notes (and would struggle to in many cases) since you can pretty much piss out enough shooty stuff with keybashing to defeat the baddies. I'd like to have been forced to hold a bit more of a tune in my destruction. Nevertheless the choice of smartbomb and the tiny energy of your man-block protagonist make me very happen indeed. Good work, students.

  • Future Shock

    Okay, in a vague warm-up for Bioshock - and I figure that anything's a better use of my time than sitting on every single Bioshock thread on the internet and pressing "refresh" all day - I download System Shock from Underdogs and get it working on DOSBox, with full sound (P-P-PATHETIC CREATURE OF MEAT AND BONE!) and everything. It'll be easier if I still had XP installed, as I'd be able to turn to System Shock Portable, which will even run from a USB drive.

    Now, System Shock is a game I've played, but not played, as it were. Before my time by a good four years in terms of PC ownership and by the time I had one, I only went back for historic reasons. They're always memorable. This means that every time I start playing it, I quickly get a sense of archaeological excitement, as if I'm excavating a Roman Ruin and I've just found a diesel engine or something. They did this back then?

    This time, it's a simple one. I'm nosing around at some high shelves, and notice that there's a handful of boxes around. So, in proper modeled-physics, I start to kick them around to form a ladder and... waitasecond.

  • If I Had A Hammer-Copter

    I've just picked up on Hammerfall via the ever-excellent physics-game site Fun Motion, who in turn discovered it on the Russian-language game development forums at GameDev.ru. The game's hour-long demo was posted as an example of work-in-progress - and it's looking fairly polished.

    Hammerfall's concept is simple: it's a 2D weapon-swinging game. However, the weapon swinging is a little offbeat, since you're the pilot of a steam-powered clockpunk helicopter-thing, which has a weapon dangling from it on a chain. You start out with a rock, and end up with hammers and big shiny switchblades. Using these whirling weapons you have to fight off a series of enemies, swarm shoot 'em up style. Evil night maggots and airship-eating wasps, as well as other heli-weapon pilots, all mean that mastery of your martial pendulum-device is essential. It made me feel a bit weird, perhaps dizzy in two dimensions, or something.

    Hmm, I don't think my screenshot quite captures the action... Anyway Hammerfall's tiny skybound fantasy universe is just beautiful and I recommend it to all. As long as you don't mind being referred to as "The Gaiar" by your weapon-whirling tutors.

  • Tabula Rasa: An Experience

    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...

  • Kane: Total War

    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.

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    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.

  • Nothing whatsoever to do with Bioshock...

    ...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.

  • You Hit Them With A Stick And Candy Falls Out

    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...

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    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.

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    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.

  • Ad Nauseum

    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.

  • Less Big Daddy, More Shirley Crabtree

    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.

  • 10.1 ways to leave your lover

    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.

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    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.”

  • Lists Are Useful And Fun

    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.)

  • Cockroaches And Spiders And Rats - Oh My!

    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.

  • SOE To Make Indian-Superhero MMO

    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:

  • 20 Seconds to Comply

    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!

  • If I Blog About It, Then The Time Wasn't Wasted

    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.

    Mmm.

  • Uprecident-o-news: Invaders... from Space.

    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.

  • The Rock Paper Shotgun logo repeated multiple times on a purple background

    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.