Industrial Era: Civ III Switches To Steam From GameSpy

The price of progress.

I thought we’d long since seen the last of the GameSpy refugees fleeing the multiplayer service’s shutdown towards the welcoming embrace of Steamworks. If a developer hadn’t switched their game’s tech by now, I’d assumed, they’d left its multiplayer to die in the digital dust. Oh what a terrible cynic I am! There is still love and hope in the world, Alice! Have faith.

Firaxis yesterday released a patch for Civilization III that switched from GameSpy tech to Steamworks, bringing official online multiplayer support back to the 14-year-old strategy game.

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Job Seeking: An Elite Dangerous Career Guide

A career! Everybody has one. Mine is looking at a keyboard until I black out and coming back to consciousness with 4000 words on my screen about how to get started in Elite: Dangerous [official site]. This guide will give you some pointers about the main careers you can undertake in the game, from vigilante to explorer, from trader to (ugh) miner. We’re basically an interstellar jobcentre. One thing: you’re probably going to want some cash saved for these callings, as outfitting each ship is going to cost a pretty penny, and some of those pennies will be prettier than others. Okay then, let’s get on with it.

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Premature Evaluation: StarCrawlers

I’m writing these alt-texts on what is often now called Mother’s Day here in the UK, but can be helpfully distinguished from the American day of the same name by its more accurate title, Mothering Sunday. The origins of each are different, though intertwined, and certainly the popularity of both celebrations share a common factor: the pain many mothers felt at losing their sons to war - which is definitely entirely relevant to SpaceCrawlers and not at all a wild digression born of my waning attention span.

Each week Marsh Davies plunders the ravaged hulk of Early Access and smuggles out any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the terrors of the interdimensional void. This week he murders robotic wait staff and asset-strips sci-fi dungeons in space salvage RPG StarCrawlers. It goes on sale tomorrow.

Is it any wonder that some members of the gaming community nurse a persecution complex when, in the games themselves, so few people, animals, robots, or multifanged amorphous spacethings are ever pleased to see us? In StarCrawlers, even the cleaning droids and busboys want to have a pop, lobbing chinaware and squirting me with detergent. Admittedly, I am usually there to plunder their derelict spacestation, or sabotage their data centres, or “deliver a severance package” to a megacorp employee who has, in a literal and shortly rectified sense, outlived his usefulness. But still, it is a bit of a hit to the self-esteem that you can’t walk from one room to another without some haywire robot or grotesque alien hatchling flinging itself at you. “Where’s the beef?”, I mutter to the hatchlings, as I ruefully sunder them with psychic horror channelled from the abyssal nightmare of the void.

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Going Underground With Coffin Game Taphobos

James Brown setting up Taphobos for Rezzed

“Immersive coffin experience” Taphobos [official site] puts one player inside a real coffin and has them direct a partner at a computer, who’s trying to locate the coffin in a virtual environment.

It was created as part of a two-day hackathon involving the universities of Nottingham and Lincoln where the brief was to come up with an uncomfortable experience. Instead of jump scares the team (James Brown, Ida Marie Toft, Mike Kalyn, Andreas Taske and Linda McConnon) wanted a physically uncomfortable experience.

“We got a big cardboard box and an Oculus Rift and just put someone in it. They’d see a coffin and a few spiders and things and that would be that,” says Brown. “But because it was such an interesting idea about uncomfortable experiences I developed it into [Taphobos].”

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Wot I Think: Parallax

As first-person puzzle games get more complicated, we have two choices as a species. To develop mightier, more powerful brains than ever before, or to just try not to think too hard and hope it works out. After the Digipen team that brought us Narbacular Drop opened up very apposite portals in our minds, the genre has run with it, leading to the brain-straining likes of Infinifactory, Void, Antichamber, Standpoint, The Talos Principle and Mind: Path To Thalamus. And as the concepts get more complex, the contortions our brains need to achieve get bendier.

I think Parallax [official site] might have given my brain a nasty sprain.

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Drive Me Through The Night: A Free Surreal Ride In Prowl

Hit it.

Prowl [official page] drives endlessly into a sinister night, the radio warbling jazz as the car drives itself through an empty city into swirling fog and driving rain. We’re just the passenger, looking from side to side, rolling the windows up and down, fiddling with bits of the car, watching the city go by, and perhaps wondering why our briefcase contains what appears to be the same city streets.

It’s a surreal, dark, and delightful free journey, and you can nab it now for free from Itch.

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Hands On: Aer

I can only imagine the sighs that must have emanated from all working on Aer [official site] when Ubisoft’s Grow Home was released last month. Not because the two games play alike – the similarities are only slight. But wow, do they look the same. The polygonal design of both renders gorgeous green foliage against cerulean skies, growing on floating islands. Aer, of course, has been around since late 2013, while Grow Home was announced then released within the same few weeks. Were Aer due to release soon, its thunder could have been considerably stolen. So it’s perhaps oddly fortunate that the flying/exploring adventure isn’t out until 2016.

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