Eight-Minute Empire wants you to buy four-dollar maps

, | Game reviews

Given that there are so many good boardgame ports available, it’s a pretty lousy time to sell a lousy boardgame port. It doesn’t help when the boardgame being ported is nothing to write home about. It certainly doesn’t help when it wants you to buy pointlessly expensive maps, not to mention actual gameplay mechanics. This sure is demanding for such an inconsequential game. It barely even qualifies as beer n’ pretzels. How about suds n’ crumbs?

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Valve has a plan for review-bombing on Steam

, | News

There’s nothing like seeing pitchforks and torches held aloft while a mob clicks a thumbs down button. Review-bombing is an issue that has been plaguing Valve’s digital store since user reviews were enabled. A developer says something controversial, or a popular streamer goes all in on a game, and the result can be thousands of negative reviews that drop the average score. Valve acknowledged that users will sometimes score a game based on factors outside of the game content. In the case of review-bombing, this skewed average score can mislead potential buyers if the issues at hand aren’t pertinent to their buying decision. Valve now thinks it might have a solution. Starting today, Steam will display a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews for each game. Consumers will be able to easily see if reviews suddenly took a drastic downturn for a temporary condition, and then click to see a sample review of the time period.

All that Xbox gaming is going to come in handy during the hunt for Red October

, | News

Xbox 360 controllers are being used to control the periscopes on Virginia-class nuclear submarines. Originally, the “photonic mast” periscopes were controlled with a $38,000 specially-designed joystick, but based on cost-cutting directives and complaints from testers that the controls were not intuitive and clunky, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy conscripted the ubiquitous console game controller to meet their needs. It’s a choice that’s proven popular with the personnel tasked with using the systems, and with the procurement officers on the project.

“I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”

The Xbox 360 controller will be bundled as part of the Virginia-class submarine packages starting in November, just in time for the holidays! Hopefully, the Lockheed Martin warranties on submarines will be just as good as Microsoft’s red ring support.

The pasta rule from The Campaign for North Africa was not actually a thing

, | News

The macaroni rule is a lie. Richard Berg, the designer of the infamously detailed The Campaign For North Africa, admits that one of the much-beloved and odder rules of his World War II board game was not based on reality. In The Campaign for North Africa, the Italian forces have to account for extra water rations for their soldiers to boil pasta. If the pasta points aren’t properly managed, Italian troops may desert, reflecting the inability to feed hungry soldiers in the field. It’s a fiddly rule for a fiddly wargame. Unfortunately, in an epic board game brimming with technical detail, this one rule has nothing to do with history. In fact, it was a joke that Richard Berg included to lampoon the absurdity of his creation.

“The reality is that the Italians cooked their pasta with the tomato sauce that came with the cans,” he says. “But I didn’t want to do a rule on that.”

To add insult to injury, Berg has never completed a playthrough of his own game.

The best thing I’ll see all week: Let Me Make You a Martyr

, | Movie reviews

You can tell right away from the title that Let Me Make You a Martyr is trying something, well…different. Think of the title as the movie warning you beforehand. Hey, it says, this might not be for you. It’s probably right. It’s probably not for you. It’s alternatively pretentious, awkward, and indulgent. I mean, come on, who names their movie Let Me Make You a Martyr? But I loved it.
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The most videogame thing you’ll see all week: Open Grave

, | Movie reviews

It is a dark and stormy night. You wake up among a pile of bodies in the bottom of an open pit. You have no memory of who you are or how you got here.

CHECK INVENTORY

You have a ring of keys. You have a Zippo lighter.

SEARCH BODIES

You find a gun. It’s loaded. A woman throws a rope down to you.

CLIMB ROPE

The woman is gone. There is a house in the distance with the lights on. You hear people talking inside.

GO TO HOUSE

You are at the house. The front door is unlocked.

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All the online jerks are making it hard for Blizzard to work on Overwatch

, | News

The latest developer update from Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan is all about Overwatch’s toxic community. Despite adding a crucial feature to the console version of the game that gives players a way to report bad behavior, Blizzard is fighting a growing tide of cheaters, griefers, and generally terrible people in their game. The problem is bad enough that Kaplan admits that the team is spending a “tremendous” amount of resources chasing bad actors instead of working on adding content to the game. Blizzard is working on solutions, and warns that it will be an ongoing process that will require the community’s cooperation.

Online toxicity is a problem for any online game, especially if the game is competitive and popular. Overwatch easily qualifies as a magnet for unpleasantness and adds a few more wrinkles by leaning hard into its community’s fascination with the character lore. Take the normally aggressive and immature online multiplayer behavior and amp it up a few notches with a dose of social media politicizing, and the results can be breathtaking. But now you know why it takes Blizzard so long to release new heroes and maps.

You came this close to playing a ghoul or a super-mutant in Fallout: New Vegas

, | News

The early treatment for Fallout: New Vegas included race selections for the player character that offered ghouls and super-mutants as viable choices. Speaking to Eurogamer, Obsidian’s CEO Feargus Urquhart spoke about some of the decisions they made during the 2010 open-world role-playing game’s development. Originally intended as a large expansion for Fallout 3, Bethesda Game Studios and Obsidian expanded the scope of the project so it became essentially a sequel in size and complexity. “Fallout: Sin City” would eventually become the Fallout: New Vegas we all know and love. That three playable races idea? It was nixed due to technical issues.

“It really had to do with how all the weapons and armour worked. Trying to have them all work with ghouls and super-mutants was just going to be – [Bethesda] felt like it was going to be a nightmare. It wasn’t like they said no but it was a very strongly worded, ‘We would really suggest that you not try to do that.'”

Feargus Urquhart and Obsidian co-owner Chris Parker also addressed the now-infamous Metacritic contract clause that made the studio miss a bonus payment by one point.

“You can’t get mad at somebody for a contract you signed. We signed a contract, it had very clear terms in it. ‘Oh we were really close…’ We didn’t hit it.”

Fallout: New Vegas may not have allowed you to play a ghoul or mutant, but it did give us iron sights on guns.

Welcome to Lovecraft Country, where cosmic horror is a white people problem

, | Book reviews

In Lovecraft Country, being called a nigger, refused service at a restaurant, harassed by the police, or treated with contempt by an elite coven of warlocks is just another day. This cast of black characters living in Chicago in 1954 is accustomed to America. They have learned to navigate it. Literally. One of the main characters publishes a travel guide called The Safe Negro Travel Guide. It steers black people around — or, if necessary, through — the more virulent racism in America, especially where Jim Crow laws are still in effect. Which restaurants will serve black customers? Which highways should you not be on after dark? Which garages can you call if your car breaks down?

So the characters in Lovecraft Country don’t seem terribly surprised by the idea that maybe the universe is a vast and ancient expanse of indifference at best, outright hostility at worst. Why would someone go insane from learning what minorities know every day? If you look into the abyss long enough, you still have to ride in the back of the bus on your way to work. Continue reading →

Electronic Arts is really excited about not letting you own any games

, | News

Speaking to the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, Electronic Arts’ vice president of investor relations Chris Evenden, was bullish on the game-streaming concept. According to GamesIndustry‘s report, Evenden said cloud technology has been catching up to everyone’s ambition over the past few years with the infrastructure barrier shrinking rapidly. He cited a recent demonstration given to a major internet company for streaming Battlefield. The publisher has slowly been enticing customers to its services like Origin on PC and EA Access on consoles, and expects the transition to full-blown cloud gaming will happen someday.

“I think it’s inevitable that the gaming entertainment world will move in much the same way that the music and video entertainment worlds have already moved, in the sense that people have moved from an ownership model to an access model. And you’ll see that in gaming, just as you’ve seen it with Spotify and Netflix in other media businesses.”

Previous cloud gaming services like OnLive jumped the gun and got ahead of the technology curve, ending in failure. More recent services like NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and PlayStation’s Gaikai have found success with modest growth and investments in technology.

You shouldn’t pay more than $80 for the SNES Classic

, | News

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has some advice for fans preparing to pay outrageous amounts for the SNES Classic Edition. Relax and don’t pay more than the $79.99 list price. Speaking to the Financial Times, Reggie Fils-Aime said the company has “dramatically increased” production and that despite issues with pre-orders at retailers, there should be no shortage of stock.

“I would strongly urge you not to over-bid on an SNES Classic on any of the auction sites.”

Nintendo hasn’t actually said how many of the mini-consoles it will manufacture, but the company says it will be ship product from September 29th through the end of the year. Hopefully, we won’t see a repeat of the inflated prices the NES Classic saw during the holidays along with the abrupt stock sellout.

In WWII boardgame Triumph & Tragedy, WWII doesn’t even have to happen

, | Game reviews

Well designed games shine whether you are playing them or just watching. The consistency of theme, presentation, and mechanics that make playing a good game such a joy translates — in the best games — into an eloquent dance that you can appreciate as an observer. If you’re really familiar with the game, you can pick up patterns, see the swings, watch the crescendos and decrescendos, almost like listening to a symphony. A good design realizes that every piece of the game needs to fit together, like strings and brass and woodwinds, but each piece needs to bring something different, like strings and brass and woodwinds. It’s hard to design something that fits its pieces together so distinctly and neatly, which is why so many games just add as many pieces as they can, hoping some of them work together. Dice and cards and plastic pieces and a tableau and victory points here and there and oh look! — a mancala. Good luck getting the conductor to harmonize that.

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