, | News
shocker

It’s another crowd-funding drive for a modern version of an old game. Wait! Don’t go yet! This is System Shock as done by Night Dive Studios. I know you’ve seen this all before. A beloved game redone in Unity. A Kickstarter with a lot of buzz. Pledge rewards. A studio staffed with industry vets. Even Chris Avellone is involved as a consultant. (Does this guy ever sleep?) A promise to stay true to the original vision, while using all the latest and greatest tech. What’s going to make this different from previous efforts like it? It may end in disappointment, but you have to give the developers credit for letting their work speak for itself.

There’s a free playable demo out now. This new version of System Shock is scheduled for a late 2017 release, and there’s already a demo to check out! It’s pre-alpha, so stuff might (and probably will) change, but what have you got to lose but a few minutes of your life? It’s got to be better than being attacked by rapid cyber-monkeys.

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, | Game diaries
Witcher_3_haircut

Now that I’m playing The Witcher 3 in earnest, I’ve decided I’m going to ignore Gwent, the ingame collectible card game that Geralt can play to fritter away time and orens. As a erstwhile Pazzak player, Caravan player, SkyStones player, and GamePig owner, I know firsthand how much you can fritter away in an ingame game. So my Geralt will decide he has better things to do than play some Hearthstone clone. Besides, isn’t a standalone version of Gwent in the works? Wouldn’t playing Gwent in The Witcher 3 be like playing early access Gwent? I want no part of it. Which means I’ll have that much more money for things that actually matter! Like finally getting a haircut (pictured).

After the jump, here’s me not faffing about with cards. Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
The_Shallows_review

Sony’s marketing for The Shallows calls it a taut thriller. Taut is a nice way of saying “low budget”. The production consisted almost entirely of filming someone waiting on a rock in the ocean. Before that, you get some heavy-handed character development. After that, you get about ten minutes of action with a CG shark. The most interesting character is a seagull. No lie. A seagull. Taut thriller. Pfft. The only thing taut is Blake Lively’s amazing body. You’d never guess from this movie, which uses her about as well as any calendar shoot uses its model, that Lively is so good in Age of Adeline. Why don’t you just watch that instead? If you want cheesecake in your shark movie, Saffron Burrows in Deep Blue Sea is plenty taut and the movie itself is a real hoot.

The Shallows has no appreciation for the eerieness of the sea, much less the terrible majesty of its shark. It must be difficult to make a 90-minute movie out of something that should be over in nine seconds (for another example, see (i.e. don’t see) Andrew Traucki’s The Reef). I don’t envy any filmmaker who has to make a thriller, taut or otherwise, about a woman not getting eaten by a shark for 90 minutes. But director Jaume Collet-Serra, so deft with Orphan and so confident with Run All Night, has nothing but the expected jump scares and some godawful found footage gimmicks. Thanks, GoPro. And what an utterly ludicrous finale. You know how in movies a bear or dragon or dog jumps at the hero, and the hero holds up a spear so the bear or dragon or dog impales itself? The Shallows is one of the most absurd variations on that theme I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Road Runner cartoon.

Hopefully, Sony will release an extended edition that has more scenes with the seagull.

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, | News
nuke_civ

Civilization V is coming to schools. Firaxis Games and Take Two Interactive is partnering with GlassLab Inc. to bring a version of Civilization V to classrooms. CivilizationEDU, an education-focused build of the popular strategy game, will feature analytics and a teacher dashboard that will allow educators to check student progress, give interactive help, and coordinate sessions. The software will also offer lesson plans to teachers based on the gameplay reflecting real historical situations.

“For the past 25 years, we’ve found that one of the fun secrets of Civilization is learning while you play.”

World War II was fought over wine near Tokyo in 1922 when France invaded the Aztec city of Chicago.

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Chaos_Reborn_law_mode

Add Julian Gollop’s once brilliant Chaos Reborn, a precious relic of another time, to the list of games that didn’t have confidence in their original design. Today’s update adds something called law mode. Which drastically overhauls the gameplay without bothering to explain the changes. It’s furthermore how the single-player campaign mode plays now. How does it work? Who knows. The developers can’t be bothered to include an explanation. All I know is that whereas units used to exist in a binary state of either fully alive or fully dead, now they have a hit point bar. Gone are the days of dramatic reversals of fortune at the hands of a ruthlessly random random number generator, which is exactly what random number generators should be. Instead of a dragon dying on a die roll as surely as a rat, now you have to whack away at it. Now I’m calculating attack power vs hit points. I think that’s what I’m doing. Until someone gets around to actually explaining how law mode works, I can’t be sure.

To be fair, this overhaul isn’t mandatory. You can play Chaos Reborn one of two ways. Either the way it was designed, or the way it was redesigned to pander to people who didn’t understand the design. There are advantages to game design being an ongoing process. There are also disadvantages. Chaos Reborn is an example of one of those things.

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golden_gate_6_lines

First they gave us Arizona, then they gave us trucker sex. Now, the very land itself is getting larger in American Truck Simulator. SCS Software says one of the most frequent complaints about their hard-truckin’ sim is that it’s just not big enough. You know how us folks like everything huge? Big Macs. Whoppers. Family size pizza with stuffed crusts. We like ’em big here in The States. The developers are re-scaling the current game from from 1:35 to 1:20, making road distances longer, adjusting time progression, and revamping problem areas. For example, the new version of Golden Gate Bridge in the above image features six lanes of traffic instead of four.

The benefits are clear – you’re going to get a free “take 2” on the West-coast states that you already have in the game, and roomier game world for future expansions. In addition, this expansion will come with new road segments to explore and updated technology for the old roads.

The developers say it will take several months to complete the project, but that they will grow their studio to deal with the additional load while working on the next set of DLC states.

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, | Game diaries
Witcher_3_noticeboard

I’ll get around to finding my lost baby in Fallout 4 when I get around to it. Right now, I’m helping Cate kick her drug habit. I couldn’t care less about rescuing some captured rebel leader in Homefront: The Revolution — what was his name again? — which frees up plenty of time to liberate patches of territory. In Dying Light, uh, something about secret files. Who can be bothered to care when there are safehouses to be cleared, parkour races to run, and skills to level up? Name a game by Ubisoft that isn’t called Far Cry 2. I probably can’t tell you the first thing about the main storyline. All the better for all the Ubistuff that needs doing. There’s hardly a game with as rich a setting for side quests as Watch Dogs. One of the best things you can do for the side quests in an open-world game is a lousy main quest.

After the jump, ciriously cidetracked Continue reading →

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zarya

No one likes losing, but sometimes you need to experience loss to learn. Overwatch players don’t like to learn. Or, if they do, they want to learn without loss.

Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan posted a long forum message explaining the ins and outs of Overwatch matchmaking. There’s a little math, some wizardry, and luck involved. The main concern for the developers was that matchmaking should result in the best experience possible for everyone. Buried in the post is an example of how Overwatch players abused the “Avoid This Player” system to make things easier for themselves at the expense of others.

One of the best Widowmaker players in the world complained to us about long queue times. We looked into it and found that hundreds of other players had avoided him (he’s a nice guy – they avoided him because they did not want to play against him, not because of misbehavior). The end result was that it took him an extremely long time to find a match. The worst part was, by the time he finally got a match, he had been waiting so long that the system had “opened up” to lower skill players. Now one of the best Widowmaker players was facing off against players at a lower skill level. As a result, we’ve disabled the Avoid system (the UI will go away in an upcoming patch). The system was designed with the best intent. But the results were pretty disastrous.

In another example of how Overwatch players are big crybabies, a teenage girl in Korea, using the handle Geguri, was completely destroying her opponents by using Zarya to dominate matches. Her performance was so good that she was widely accused of cheating. Blizzard determined she wasn’t a cheat, but Geguri was still being accused of using hacks that Blizzard wasn’t able to detect. It took a live demonstration of her skills at the Nexus Cup to shut her harassers up. Babies!

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, | Games
Mordheim_Witch_Hunters

One of the benefits of the Warhammer license being handed out like candy is that some of the games that use the Warhammer license will be good. Perhaps even very good. And some of those games will keep on giving. Today, the Space Marines arrive in Battlefleet: Gothic Armada, the Witch Hunters arrive in Mordheim: City of the Damned, and the Eldar arrive in Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. All on the same day! Space Marines cost $7, Witch Hunters cost $10, and the Eldar are part of the ongoing process of adding content to Eternal Crusade’s ongoing early access. Which I wouldn’t normally mention, but it’s worth mentioning any time space elfs show up.

You’re up, Creative Assembly. Not that Total War: Warhammer is hurting for content, but we’re all eager to hear who the new kids in class will be. Skaven? I bet it’s the skaven.

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, | Game diaries
Witcher_3_refills

In Dying Light, another game I’m catching up on these days, I can make five fire shurikens with a blade, some gauze, and a can of aerosol. So far, the blade and gauze are easy enough to find. But I also need the gauze for medkits, so tough choices must be made. The real bottleneck is the aerosol. I’m constantly on the lookout for aerosol. I’ll even buy it from merchants if they’re selling it. Every time I find an aerosol, I think, hey, now I’ve got five fire shurikens! Conversely, every time I throw a fire shuriken, I think, well, I’m going to need to find more aerosol. This fits well enough with a post-apocalypse. When the world ends, I expect to scavenge. I accept non-renewable resources as a facet of any apocalypse.

After the jump, you gotta spend to earn? Continue reading →

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crowscrowscrows

It’s obvious by now that Crows Crows Crows are playing with form. Rather than push out games in which you shoot or collect things, they create short (free!) experiences that ask players to engage with gaming in subversive ways. The studio, started by William Pugh of The Stanley Parable, has yet to do anything conventionally. Their first game, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist was about messing with player expectations and anticipation.

Their newest game, The Brave Explorer, The Jungle of Doubt, and The Temple of No is a simple text-based game written in Twine. Beyond being a twee little adventure, the game plays with the way text and formatting work. It’s only a few minutes long and free, so why not let Crows Crows Crows collect some data and run some tests on you?

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, | Game diaries
Modern_Family_Witcher

Since this game diary will progress alongside my playing time with The Witcher 3, I should warn you there will be spoilers. Never before the jump. I’d hate to ruin anything for the casual skimmer of Quarter to Three who hasn’t played The Witcher 3 yet. But anything after the jump is fair game. I wouldn’t recommend going there unless you’ve made progress in the game yourself.

After the jump, Ciri has two daddies Continue reading →

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