Posts Tagged ‘beta’

Star Wars Battlefront 2’s beta suggests a massively improved sequel

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 [official site] can make the same claim as its predecessor: you’ve never seen Star Wars looking this pretty outside of the movies. Birds flutter around the lush vegetation on Naboo and Takodana, and explosions scatter dust and dirt everywhere as laser fire lights up the battlefield.

I’ve been playing in the beta, and I’m happy to report that while Battlefront 2 surpasses the audio visual spectacle that was the only exceptional feature of the first entry in the series, it’s also a deeper and more interesting game. Read the rest of this entry »

Buffy The Vampire Beta: Slayer Shock

Slayer Shock [official site], the latest game from David Pittman, creator of procedural Lovecraftian stealth game Eldritch and cyber-sneaker Neon Struct, is now available in beta form. It’s a game about assembling a monster-killing squad, who operate out of a coffee-house, and it mirrors episodic television shows structurally as well as with its obvious nods to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Each mission you take part in is an episode and a full campaign makes up a season, with its own objectives and boss to overcome. All of this takes place in a procedurally generated town. The beta is available via itch.io and the full release (Steam included) is scheduled for September 29th.

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When Does The Overwatch Open Beta Start?

If you pre-ordered Overwatch [official site] before April 29th, it’s possible you’re already playing its latest multiplayer shooty beta. If you didn’t and you still want to play, you’ll instead be hanging on until the open beta begins on May 5th. In any case, the beta then runs until May 9th. Read on for more exact start and stop times.

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Hitmakers: Hitman Beta Feb 19th

Hitman [official site] is so close you can almost see the reflection of your face in his highly polished bonce. As you’ve probably gathered by now, the game itself will be released episodically, and the initial release will only include one sandbox location – Paris. The beta contains two different missions, however, set in a secret facility. The first of those missions is a set, recreating a party on board a yacht, and ol’ 47 has to sneak on board as part of his training. An origin story of sorts.

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Hitman Beta Coming In February

Give me the beta code and no one gets hurt.

Timed ‘beta tests’ have mostly replaced demos amongst big-budget games, which is an awful shame for folks, like myself, who might like to try a game before buying it but can’t be arsed with signing up for beta raffles and competitions and making time to play at during a short period and all that noise. So while I’d normally veer away from posting about semi-closed betas, ah, stuff it, here: Hitman [official site] is getting a beta in February. It’ll contain a mission showing how Ian Hitman joined his murdercompany. Observe:

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Impressions: Star Wars Battlefront Beta

I want to learn the ways of the multiplayer first-person shooter and become a headshot Jedi like I wasn’t a late-30s father. So I’ve been dabbling in Star Wars: Battlefront [official site]’s three-map beta, keen to see if’s really as spectacular as the marketing Death Star has implied.

Yeah, OK, that’s Star Wars.

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Street Fighter V Enters Beta October 24

Capcom have announced the first Street Fighter V [official site] beta test on PC, to run October 24-25. And if you’re sick of that PS4-owning mate who’s been bragging on about getting console access to the beta two days prior, you’ll be able to kick his virtual arse as the beta features cross-platform play.

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Premature Evaluation: Shoppe Keep

It’s a shame that Shoppe Keep reduces its encapsulation of fantasy commerce to frenetic makework - there’s loads and loads of interesting and eminently gamify-able elements to running a store. I’d like to see a game which used AI to explain/exploit customer psychology. In fairness to Shoppe Keep, there may be some AI-defined preference to what customers buy, but it is certainly hard to perceive and so impossible to manipulate in a meaningful way. There’s much more that could be done, for example, in charting the ways in which IKEA’s layout entraps and corrals its hapless consumer units. As anyone who has ever been swallowed by an IKEA hellmouth knows, it's a consumer experience so nightmarish as to constitute Sweden’s most significant act of international aggression since its war with Norway in 1814. It’s clearly also hugely successful in getting people to buy stuff they may or may not want - an effect that has been studied by academics at UCL.

Each week Marsh Davies peruses the scanty offerings of Early Access, stuffs anything halfway valuable down his trousers and legs it for the exit. This week, however, the tables have turned (or, at least, their percentage durability has decreased) as he plays Shoppe Keep [Steam page], a game about building up a retail enterprise in a medieval fantasy land.

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Premature Evaluation: Layers of Fear

Though you play an artist in Layers of Fear, most of the art hanging on your walls consists of a repeating number of famous paintings - perhaps the paintings that might pop up if you used the search terms “weirdest renaissance art”. But, eyerolls at the emo curation aside, some of the pieces are really very interesting indeed. Take Rembrandt’s Abduction of Ganymede, for instance (which, okay, in art terms is technically Baroque, but it comes at the very end of the larger social Renaissance that spanned the 14th and 17th centuries). It’s a peculiar piece about the politically charged myth in which Zeus falls in love with Ganymede, a dashing young shepherd and most beautiful of all mortals. As is Zeus’s rapey wont, he tansforms himself into an eagle, and carries Ganymede off to Olympus, where he makes him his cup-bearer. Other services may be inferred - indeed, it was commonly used as an emblem for ancient Greek pederasty and its social acceptance. The likes of Xenophon and Socrates may have asserted that Zeus loved Ganymede for his mind, but homoeroticism has nonetheless clung to the myth. And, for much of the Renaissance, this not-entirely-consenting relationship was presented with little apparent criticism: paintings presented Ganymede as unresisting, indeed, he is ascending to godliness. Zeus does make him immortal after all, so what’s to complain about?

Each week Marsh Davies lets fly at the blank canvas of Early Access and either returns with a masterpiece or ends up rocking back and forth in a corner eating Unity Asset Store crayons. This week he’s played Layers of Fear, a linear boo-scare walk-em-up set in the reassembling spooOOooky house of a maaAAaad painter.

I’m not sure a household needs more than one reproduction of The Abduction of Ganymede. It’s a fine work, sure, but I don’t want to be staring at a pissing toddler’s dangling bum while I’m having dinner, let alone every time I turn a corner in my home. But then, I’m not really sure of a lot of the other decorative choices that my character appears to have made here – the cupboard of black phlegm, the infinite library, the hell mirror, the Erik Satie levitation cellar, the room of bad chairs. Not even Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would go so far as to daub “ABANDON HOPE WHILE YOU STILL CAN” above a doorway. It doesn’t even make sense, Laurence!

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Hothtober: Star Wars Battlefront Beta Out Next Month

I’ve felt so little about Star Wars for so long now, and had so much distance from a fictional universe I threw myself into in my late teens that it no longer feels quite as over-exposed and cynical as it once did. This means I’m starting to find it vaguely appealing again. Nostalgia inexorably returns, God help me. Whether that will be aided or undermined by the looming marketingageddon of The Force Awakens I don’t know, but I do look at images of DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront [official site] and think ‘yes, those are science fictional battles I want to be a part of.’ It’s the industrial look of the ships and structures that does it, a sweet spot between functional and stylised that the prequel movies totally bungled.

I don’t care about the characters, though. Mostly I just want to drive an AT-AT. Oh God now I’ve opened an eBay tab and typed ‘AT-AT’ into it. This is bad. If I can just hang on until October, when the Battlefront Beta will be released, maybe I’ll be OK.

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Premature Evaluation: Universe Sandbox 2

Universe Sandbox 2 has some perfectly reasonable restrictions on what it is willing to simulate, but isn’t always clear about why it’s stopping you from doing something. I wanted to recreate the 0.1 fm wide black hole from Larry Niven’s 1973 story The Hole Man, for instance - and found the scale doesn’t descend that low. It’s not especially surprising that the game doesn’t model subatomic sizes, but getting the diameter below a couple of kilometres is also impossible and attempting to do so has this strange effect of deleting what you just typed and replacing it with the lowest number that the program will accept, and yet nonetheless changing a bunch of other stats that would be affected by a further reduction in diameter.

Each week Marsh Davies orbits the supermassive blackhole that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or gets shredded to subatomic spaghetti as he tumbles towards a point of infinite mass. This week he has become death, destroyer of worlds, and really quite a lot of moons as well, in Universe Sandbox 2. Otherwise known as Universe Sandbox², if you’re the kind of terrible prick who insists on using Character Map to enforce your brand. Anyway, the game’s great.

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Premature Evaluation: Duskers

Duskers’ premise has the player investigating the disappearance of human life from the known universe. Hulks float through the emptiness of space with only the garbled fragments of old log entries as evidence for the existence of their crew. The game puts forward a few different possibilities for you to look into and eliminate, and these suggest an action that humankind takes which inadvertently precipitates its destruction: a nanotechnological experiment gone wrong, creating a grey goo that atomically disassembles human matter, or simply the use of a super weapon so devastating that the resultant chaos causes the rapid decline and extinction of the entire species. But, assuming that humanity survives to become a space-faring people at all, perhaps the larger existential threat is inaction.

Each week Marsh Davies pulls apart the fritzing hulks he discovers drifting through the lifeless void of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or accidentally flushes himself out of an airlock. This week he’s been tentatively probing Duskers, a space-set roguelike in which you remotely operate a crew of drones as they strip derelicts of resources and attempt to uncover the reason for the dramatic depopulation of the galaxy.

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Superhot Is The FPS Made Cool Again

Superhot [official site] is the first-person shooter deconstructed. You don’t move and shoot, jump and dodge. You move then shoot, jump then dodge. The reason for your turn-based decision making is that time only moves when you do. I’ve been playing the beta for the past week, and it’s superb.

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Premature Evaluation: Crest

Crest seeks to explore the way religions evolve, say the devs - although “devolve” might be more accurate here, your various edicts warping with the strange whims of your followers. There is certainly precedent for that, in the long and bloody history of religious misinterpretation. One of the most famous instances of such semiotic slippage in Christianity occurs when St Jerome - the patron saint of translators, no less - attempts to produce a new Latin translation of the bible from the original Hebrew, rather than from the Greek which had been the basis for the Latin translation hitherto. And in so doing, he unwittingly creates a pervading racist slur that plagues an entire people to this day.

Each week Marsh Davies brings a rain of fire upon the Sodom ‘n’ Gomorrah that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the sordid pleasures therein. This week he fixes a puritanical eye upon the hapless hedonists of Crest, a god game in which your only interaction is to set a list of commandments and hope the humans heed your Word.

The god of Godus was less Jupiter than janitor, a god whose entire divine being was dedicated not to righteousness but to relentless menial labour. Crest’s god, by contrast, has a bit more responsibility, being required to describe an entire moral framework with a few judicious instructions. Though, that’s not to say your chosen people won’t find your religious writs open to some degree of interpretation. 180 degrees, in fact. Tell them to seek food and look after the elderly and, a few generations later, the tribe is waging a xenocide on gazelles and dancing until they drop dead.

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Premature Evaluation: Zombie Playground

With each new year I think zombies must be about to suffer some sort of cultural burnout - but as relentless and implacable as death itself, they just keep on coming. I suppose their cultural indelibility makes sense given the momentousness of death and the widespread inability to truly believe in its finality. Also the fact that, historically, we have been fucking terrible at actually determining whether someone was dead or not, even as we stuck them in the ground. And we still are.

Each week Marsh Davies tears into the unholy children of Early Access with a wiffle bat and comes back with any stories he can find and/or ends up as a brain-pan buffet. This week he’s played Zombie Playground, a thirdperson brawler set in a school.

Back in 2012, at least 3787 people looked at Jason Chan’s painting – a helter skelter, valiantly defended against hordes of undead tots by four equally pre-pubescent warriors wielding mops and bin-lids – and thought, “Wow! What if this was a game?” Of course, the question they should have been asking is, “Wow! What if this was an extremely rudimentary fulfilment of the Kickstarter promises?” But nonetheless, ask they did, and stump up cash they did, and for three years, these wide-eyed would-be zombie-botherers have continued to ask the same question, albeit with a decreasingly civil tone. Following long periods of silence, and tumult behind the scenes, development duties have shifted to a partnership of three other companies and now, finally, the backers have some sort of answer.

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Premature Evaluation: Dungeon Souls

According to the design documents on the game’s Tumblr site, Dungeon Souls dungeon is, in fact, a tower. But that’s actually not inappropriate given the tangled etymology of the word “dungeon”. Dungeon in the sense of a subterranean prison emerges only in the 14th century, and there seem to be conflicting theories as to how.

Each week Marsh Davies wriggles free of his shackles and flees, filthy and naked, from the dank imprisonment of Early Access, bringing you stories of the depravities he endured therein. This week he’s playing Dungeon Souls, a frenetic top-down roguelike in which the player battles through successive tiers of peril, nipping between abruptly spawning enemies and hails of magic bullets.

Titan Souls, Twin Souls, Crystal Souls, Crossing Souls… if Namco ever wanted to stake a claim to that “Souls” suffix, I suspect the horse has bolted, flown to Belize and can now be seen scooting round Tranquility Bay on a jetski, trying to clasp a piña colada between its hooves. But whereas the lack of opposable thumbs ultimately renders this a tragic scene, the existence of Dungeon Souls should be one of celebration, derivative though it is, both in its name and in its action – which borrows heavily from both Nuclear Throne and Spelunky.

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Premature Evaluation: Train Valley

Train Valley offers quite a focussed and fun optimisation challenge rather than a sprawling simulation of every aspect of rail management. Nonetheless, it makes some efforts at historical accuracy - at least in terms of the style of the engines you use - setting its challenges across two centuries of rail transport in Europe, America, Russia and (when it gets a later content patch) Japan. The Gold Rush gets a hat tip, as does World War 2 - so it was with a tiny amount of completely irrational sadness that the date of 1864 came and went while playing the game’s European levels, and there was no mention of the One Thing I Know About Railways: the first British railway murder.

Each week Marsh Davies boards the Steam locomotive as it chugs its way through Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or is cannibalised by rabid commuters while delayed in a siding. This week he’s played Train Valley, a chirpy but challenging rail construction sim.

My attempts to run a railway system make a good case for nationalisation: the absurd delays as I reverse trains back and forth over a switch in the track, somehow making the same signalling error each time; the piles of cargo that end up in the wrong town, or so late that its value has completely expired; the destruction to wildlife, farmland and neolithic monuments; the forced relocation of indigenous people. Oh, and the massive loss of life, too, I suppose. At the end of it all, I go bankrupt – and yet they keep giving me another chance.

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Premature Evaluation: The Magic Circle

One of the things I like most about The Magic Circle is its name. It captures the illusory nature of these conjured worlds, their potential for wonder and the artistry that informs them. Celebrated sentient beard and author Alan Moore has, in his mischievous way, declared himself a magician and all art a kind of magic. Defining art as the act of creating illusions to work an effect on the mind of the audience, he claims this is as close to a shamanistic understanding of magic as we have in this century.

Each week Marsh Davies plays unfinished and broken games on Early Access and usually tries to come up with an introductory sentence which says exactly this while using imagery appropriate to the idiom of the given week’s game. But the idiom of this week’s game is being an unfinished and broken game! So, job done. It’s The Magic Circle [Steam page], a game set within a game, in which the player edits the properties of the world around him while exploring the strata of the game’s many abandoned developmental stages, unravelling the story of its creators in the process.

I have tamed Jim Rossignol’s bumhole. I’ve also made Jim Rossignol’s bumhole fireproof, which is just as well, since Jim Rossignol’s bumhole spews gouts of flame when angered. Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has a lightning rod jammed in it, too, which deactivates forcefields. With my latest effort, Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has sprouted a little propeller, allowing Jim Rossignol’s bumhole to fly about. John Walker’s angry red Weeto has many of the same properties, and it should surprise no one that Alec Meer’s huge husky third leg is shaped like a ginormous mushroom.

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Premature Evaluation: Exanima

Exanima has an unusual relationship to the body. Its physical simulation of every limb creates a greater sense of your avatar as a real tangible object. And yet, at the same time, the fact that you can’t control it with the same instancy as you can your own body actually distances you from the avatar, perhaps to a greater degree than a less nuanced control-scheme might. I feel like comprehensive physics simulation could go through the same sticky patch as motion control did on consoles, where it proved a less efficient conduit between player intent and avatar expression than just pressing a button.

Each week Marsh Davies lurches drunkenly through the dank cloisters of Early Access and brings back any stories he can find and/or spasms like a misfiring physics object caught in a doorway. This week he wobbles and flails in the low-fantasy RPG Exanima, a smaller standalone “prelude” to the Kickstarted open world game Sui Generis.

Exanima isn’t like other RPGs, the Steam store page tells you with some insistence. It’s true for several reasons, but the most obvious is its fully physics-modelled combat which renders close quarters engagements as tense, tactical affairs conducted between two or more appallingly drunk people. Every collision has a physical effect, as subtle or extreme as the speed with which it occurs, and so combat is about caution and timing, dodging incoming swings and finding the time to wind up, directing your weapon in a sweep to connect with your opponent’s most vital areas with the most momentum possible. At least, it’s about these things inasmuch as these things are even possible while piloting someone with a near-lethal blood-alcohol level.

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