, | News
Hal0_3_grossology

The anus doors in Prey. The beheading in God of War 3. The many grim deaths of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Every time you experience something gross in a videogame, people toiled hard to make that happen. An animator had to figure out how a person’s head would tear off. An artist had to research the textures for diseased skin. A sound designer had to mix the screams. Gamasutra has a piece about how these folks go about grossing gamers out and what kind of toll it takes on the people doing the work. It turns out that you can hate Halo 3’s Cortana levels for more than just throwing you into an impossible fight against the Flood.

“We wanted a lot of long stringy tunnels, and I’d gotten the idea of looking at colonoscopy videos for reference. So I was watching all these colonoscopy videos to get ideas on what I could do to mimic their style, that feeling of being inside something.”

As much as you detested running through those tunnels, you have nothing on Halo artist Vic DeLeon. He had to watch footage that came from inside someone’s butt to make those areas. A true gaming hero.

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, | Game reviews
Fran_Bow_1

Fran Bow has been committed to a mental hospital. It’s 1944. Her parents are dead. She misses her cat terribly. She suffering serious side effects from her medication. But at least she seems to be doing better than the other children in the hospital. Or is she? How reliable a narrator is Fran Bow?

I don’t want to say too much about Fran or her unfolding predicament, because the real value of this indie adventure game is its darkening mystery. But Fran stands out for being an Alice in Wonderland without the self-aware “oh, I’m so dark and edgy” of many latter-day Alices in their wonderlands (you’ll find an amusing Alice in Wonderland easter egg late in the game).

Although the main character is a ten-year-old girl, this is an adult game. If Fran Bow was a movie, it would be rated R for gratuitous gore and extreme images. It’s more Silent Hill than, say, Double Fine. The story doesn’t shy away from Fran being a girl either. One of the adult characters you meet will give you the inventory item you need if you “sit on his knee” or “give him a kiss”. These aren’t options, of course. Fran knows it’s skeevy and she’s having none of it. But it serves as a creepy reminder that a story about a ten-year-old girl can have different kinds of peril than a story about a ten-year-old boy. Let’s move on. The game certainly does.

After the jump, child’s play Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Elysium_review

Part of Trajan is a pretty cool “points salad”. You pick some bit of the board and take tiles or move pieces. Your Roman legions are conquering the Germanic barbarians or your workers are building a Roman something-or-other or you’re vying with other players in the Roman Senate or collecting gladiators for the Roman bread and circuses. Each of these things gets you points. It’s very stately and boardgamey and Roman. You feel like you’re wearing a toga.

But there’s a price to pay in Trajan, a classic — I would say “infamous” — boardgame by Stefan Feld. Before you sample from the points salad, you have to scooch some colored doo-dads around a series of bowls. It’s called a mancala. Mancalas are an ancient African tribal thing that uses dried beans and gourds. It’s not very Roman. Why is this the price of entry for taking my turn as a Roman dude doing Roman stuff? Why did Stefan Feld put this between me and the rest of Trajan?

The mancala all but consumes Trajan. It’s not my turn yet, but like everyone else playing the game, I have my head down studying the bowls. Let’s see, if I move the pink bean two bowls over, then next turn I can move four beans three bowls over which will let me, no, no, that’s not quite right because then I’ll jump the bowl with the two beans I need to later on do the thing I need to do. I mean, really, fuck these beans. Sorry for saying that. But it has to be said. Fuck these beans.

Elysium, which is twice the game Trajan will ever be, is much less complicated but every bit as bad.

After the jump, damnable columny Continue reading →

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, | News
youtube-gaming-stream

YouTube Gaming has launched. Google’s streaming video service competes directly with established services like Twitch by concentrating on gaming. It offers most of the features that Twitch does, but adds the financial clout and technical knowhow of Google. YouTube Gaming does some things Twitch doesn’t, like automatically archiving videos and a DVR mode that allows viewers to rewind a current stream. Tech-heads applaud the service’s use of HTML5 instead of Flash, which Twitch currently still uses to power their videos.

Some of the biggest YouTube gaming channels like jackfrags and Machinima have seamlessly become YouTube Gaming channels, which means Google’s infant service already has a sizeable audience. Google has also smartly bundled up existing YouTube videos on games and placed them into the channels for whatever game the video covers into the new service.

Will Google’s foray into gaming dethrone the current king? YouTube Gaming is off to a good start, but the key will be swiping the big official tournaments from Twitch. If Google can woo the heavy-hitters like Valve, Blizzard, Riot, and others away from Twitch, and if they can overcome the reservations some established star streamers have, YouTube Gaming may become as ubiquitous as VEVO is for music videos.

If you’re interested in becoming a YouTube streamer you can start the process here.

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Hegemony_III_splash

Canadian developer Longbow Games made quite a splash with Hegemony I, set in ancient Greece, and Hegemony II, set in ancient Rome. The schtick in their strategy games was a unified real-time world where you didn’t have to sit through a long loading screen every time you fought a battle. The battle just happened, right there on the strategic map, the same way actual battles happened in history. That’s realism.

Unfortunately, Longbow’s attempt to Kickstarter Hegemony III didn’t take. Was it because it was set in pre-ancient Greek times, before Alexander came along and made everything cool? Was it because Hegemony II was already plenty good and full of open-ended content? Was it because strategy game fans are too stingy to pony up a mere $30,000? Canadian dollars, sure. But, still, only thirty thousand of them. Whatever the case, Longbow was all, like, screw Kickstarter, we’re going to do it anyway and hope people just buy it when it comes out. That time is now. Hegemony III is out today on Steam for less than thirty bucks.

The thing about a Hegemony game is that the gameplay trumps the setting. I have no idea who these people are when I select one of the four factions in the basic campaign. The Veii, the Valathri, the Velch, and the Clevsin? I think I’ve fought all those guys in Star Control, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them. Hegemony III’s objective-based campaign will walk you through the ins-and-outs of being, say, a Veii in the olden days. But for everyone else, there’s the grand campaign, where you aren’t limited to just four factions. Let’s take a look.

After the jump, I came, I saw, I froze up because I didn’t know which one to take. Continue reading →

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diablo-iii-console

Just in case you were planning on playing any new games, Blizzard has released the 2.3.0 patch for Diablo III on the PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. It adds a new snow biome called the ruins of Sescheron. It is physically impossible to say the name of this new place without sounding like you’re drunk. The ruins of Sescheron (hic!) is where you’ll find the Horadric Cube, except now it’s called Kanai’s Cube because the name Horadric Cube was taken. Throw legendary items into this doo-dad to collect and catalog their powers for use in crafting recipes. Gotta catch ’em all! You can also more easily assemble sets of gear that were previously the domain of the random numbers generator’s cruel tyranny. Basically, your newfound Cube leads you down a whole new rabbit hole of crafting, guaranteed to keep you from playing other games for weeks to come.

Among the other changes, the Torment level now goes up to X. Adventure Mode, a.k.a. the Only Way To Play, has been adjusted to feed into the new crafting sink. Among the usual adjustments to the different classes, the largest chunk of text is devoted to Witch Doctor changes. Remember, kids, time spent in Diablo III not playing a Witch Doctor is time wasted!

Here’s the complete list of features.

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, | Movie reviews
Big_Sky_review

Someone needs to attack a van carrying mental patients to a treatment facility. Don’t ask. So he brings along his mentally disabled younger brother, who hasn’t taken his meds that day. The younger brother freaks out and shoots everyone. Later, the younger brother will dry hump a kidnapped girl while she’s passed out and tied up. He’s in the running for the worst possible guy you could bring along on a heist.

The twist in Big Sky, a movie where the big reveal is that kids were allowed to play unattended near a swimming pool, is that one of the patients being transported is an agoraphobe. The only way she can travel is closed up in a big metal box, which means the heisters didn’t see her. Now she has to set out under the big sky because her mother, who was riding in the van, is slowly bleeding to death from a gunshot. So the agoraphobe wraps herself up in cloth, puts on some gloves, and sets out across the desert, taking tiny baby steps, one at a time, very slowly. Meanwhile, her mother bleeds out. Big Sky is not about people doing effective things.

The character who takes the biggest slice of Big Sky’s dumb character cake is an addled druggie who attacks the agoraphobe heroine out in the desert. She has pepper spray to defend herself. She brandishes it. He takes it from her. Then he pepper sprays himself in the face. This actually happens. He pepper sprays himself in the face. He holds down the nozzle and waves it around his face as if he were applying spray-on sunblock. This allows the heroine to escape. Imagine a bad guy disarming someone by taking her handgun and then just going ahead and shooting himself. There’s a term for this in drama: deus ex moron.

These are the sort of characters who inhabit Big Sky, a thriller that goes to such ridiculous lengths to generate its supposed thrills that you’re still going “wait, what?” while it’s carrying on as if it just made sense.

Big Sky is currently available for video on demand. Support Qt3 by watching a guy pepper spray himself on Amazon.com.

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migingo-island-56

Someone at Square Enix is going to need to brush up on ultra-exclusive real estate. They’re offering an island as part of the Just Cause 3 Win an Island contest. Just pre-order the Just Cause Day 1 Edition, then rack up chaos points by blowing things up for 90 days while playing the game. The person with the highest score at the end of the contest period gets the island. According to the rules, the publisher doesn’t have an island picked out yet, they won’t guarantee that it will habitable or that you’ll be able to reach it by anything other than a private boat, and it’s only going to be worth $50,000. Checking some island real estate sites, that will get you a tiny slip of offshore rock covered in garbage, or a sandy low-tide atoll in the middle of shark-infested waters. Obviously, Square Enix is banking on the winner opting for the cash equivalent prize. Hold out for the island, lucky winner! You’ll be king of your very own paradise nation! King!

Just Cause 3 is launching on December 1st for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.

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Rockstar_Editor-_Effects

One of the big features of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V is the built-in movie maker. The Rockstar Editor allows players to record and fiddle with gameplay clips. You just snapped off the perfect kill shot on a police helicopter while flipping through the air on a fiery motorcycle. Thank goodness you have the ability to record that footage with a couple of button presses, then edit it into a masterpiece worthy of YouTube or Reddit! Soon, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will have this feature as well. The two console versions are getting the editor next month.

When the update to Grand Theft Auto V hits in September, all three platforms will also get enhancements to the Rockstar Editor like ambient audio and sound effects tracks, improved Director Mode, and better camera controls. You’ll surely get the angle you need for that Trevor pooping clip now.

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, | Game reviews
Conflicks_review

There are three stages of Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles. The first is before you’ve even played, when you see the game’s intro, which you can watch here. The wacky combination of European history, but in space; the Industrial Revolution, but with chickens; and that awesome artwork means I want to play whatever this game is. The second stage is finding out what this game is. A real-time strategy game with…an Angry Birds interface? If there’s one thing crazier than that intro, it’s space combat based on flicking your ships around the screen without even the benefit of an iPad.

After the jump, you’re on your way to the third stage of Conflicks. Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Cosmonautica_1

Better games than Cosmonautica have struggled with how to make commutes interesting. Flying across the reaches of empty space, which is pretty much what spaceships do, isn’t really a good thing to make a game about. Because what are you going to do when you’re not having a space battle? The same thing you do on a car trip? Listen to podcasts or books on tape? Chat with your buddy? Play “I Spy” with your kids? Zone out? Zone out is the answer provided by most games about flying through space.

Unfortunately, Cosmonautica doesn’t have a good answer, so zone out it is. Hit the fast forward button and wait. It didn’t seem like it was going to be that way when you first started Cosmonautica. You thought you would have a role to play when you first watched your crew scurry about in that precious cutaway view of your ship. Maybe you’d have to coordinate your crew the way your coordinate sims. But no such luck. They take care of themselves entirely. You’re just a spectator in a game where there’s nothing interesting to see. Just zone out until you get to the next space station.

After the jump, we’re still not there yet. Continue reading →

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, | Features
Qt3_CGC_TRON_20

The latest pick for the Quarter to Three Classic Game Club, chosen by WarpRattler, is Monolith’s cult classic TRON 2.0. Developer Monolith was at the top of their game when they released it in 2003. This was the Monolith that gave us No One Lives Forever, putting that same level of world-building, charm, and personality into the TRON universe.

WarpRattler explains why he picked it:

my dad found a copy at TJ Max (???) on clearance and bought it for me, but it wouldn’t work on my computer. I would’ve been…fourteen or fifteen at the time, I think? The game had been out for at least a couple of years. I later ended up giving it away to a friend without ever getting to play it, and my current copy came from a thrift store earlier this year.

Oddly enough, I did play the Gameboy Advance spinoff when I was younger. From what I’ve heard, it turns out some of the promo materials I got for TRON 2.0 from Comic-Con waaaaaaaay back when I went in, I think, 2003 ended up involving concepts that weren’t in the final Monolith game, but did end up in the GBA game.

TRON 2.0 is available for $9.99 on Steam. You’ll want to download the Killer App mod, which requires the unofficial 1.042 patch, and works on either the Steam or retail versions. The mod combines a couple of popular visual mods, adds in content (all for multiplayer, I think), and visual upgrades from the Xbox port, and offers widescreen support and a few other tweaks.

If you want to play TRON 2.0 and participate in the conversation, join the discussion thread here. Click here to see the earlier picks for the Qt3 Classic Game Club.

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l4d-03

Zombie Army Trilogy, the re-mastered and bundled package of Rebellion’s Sniper Elite zombie games, is getting an update today that adds the protagonists from Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. The free update puts Francis, Bill, Zoey, Louis, Coach, Nick, Rochelle and Ellis into 1945 zombie Germany. How did they get there? There’s a comic that explains it all, but who really cares? It’s zombie shooting!

Zombie Army Trilogy is on sale on Steam.

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