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dawn_of_new_day

Grim Dawn now has official mod tools. Beat that Diablo III! The latest update for Crate Entertainment’s slick action-roleplaying game comes with a few important fixes and adds the tools the developer used to create content for the game. Want more loot? Go for it! Want new levels? Make them! Want tweaked mechanics? Get tweaking! Despite the fixed nature of the world map, Grim Dawn wasn’t lacking content, but should you feel you have something to add, you now have what you need to do exactly that.

“The potential here is tremendous and we here at Crate are excited to see what the community comes up with.”

Owners of Grim Dawn can find the development tools in their installation folder after updating the game. Crate even posted a helpful guide for adventurous gamers that want to get started on their own creations.

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, | Game reviews
Offworld_Trading_Company_review

M.U.L.E. was Dani Bunten’s ingenious commodities-driven deathmatch bidding arena. I didn’t play it when it came out in 1983, because it wasn’t on the Apple II. I didn’t even know what it was back then. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally tried it with some friends. In the same room, of course. That’s how all games worked back then. I figured we’d try it, although I thought we were in for the strategy game equivalent of Pong. No one wants to play Pong ever again, just like no one wants to gin his own cotton, read Beowulf on a long flight, or hang up a poster of the Bayeux Tapestry in his living room. Pong is a musty relic with no modern relevance beyond its role in videogame history. That’s what I figured was going on with M.U.L.E.

But it turned out M.U.L.E. was (and still is) an amazing game. Sure, it’s ugly. Good graphics hadn’t been invented back in 1983. But Bunten managed a simple — not simplistic! — player-driven cutthroat economy based on real estate, commodities, and auctions. God, I’m making it sound boring, I know. But it’s really not. It’s really, really not. M.U.L.E. is freakishly before-its-time game design, as if someone had made the movie Casablanca at the moment the daguerreotype had been invented. The only reason you’re not playing M.U.L.E. today, in some form or another, is because the videogame industry — really, it was more of a scene at that point — was about to explode based on Doom’s appeal to adolescent male power fantasies learned from action movies. It would take a while before the rest of the world discovered what we were up to, and by that time, Sid Meier and Will Wright had carved out their own niche where Dani Bunten’s work would have been.

But M.U.L.E. is a nearly unrivaled work of game design genius that will hold up if you gather four friends around a single screen. Sure, some of it is dated. You play it with joysticks, for Pete’s sake. We don’t even have those anymore! But the design is timeless.

After the jump, if it kicks like a M.U.L.E… Continue reading →

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The_Next_World_review

I don’t mind that The Next World bills itself as a strategy visual novel, but has precious little strategy, or even that it makes what little strategy it has surprisingly opaque. I don’t mind that it uses the sort of simple artwork you’d find in an indie comic book or a JRPG with a meager budget. Frankly, I don’t even mind that the writing is mediocre, on par with your garden-variety young adult fiction. “Nice wheels,” exclaims one of the survivors when she sees a salvaged scout rover roll up. Just that morning, she lived through a crash that killed hundreds of her spaceship’s crew and stranded the survivors on a barren planet without a breathable atmosphere with nothing but the air in their EVA suits. Odds are she’ll be dead before the night is over. So, nice wheels. Not “sweet ride”, or “bitchin’ buggy”, or “let’s live our lives a quarter mile at a time”? Nice wheels. Like I said, no worse than your usual young adult fiction or Mass Effect game. You can romance her later if you want. Just pick the “flirt” option.

I don’t mind these things because The Next World tells a story that makes me wonder what’s going to happen next. It opens with the desperate survivors of a crash milling about on the sand of a strange land, struggling with who to put in charge, how to survive, what this place is, and how they got there. To The Next World’s credit, the answers aren’t Jack, by finding a bunker, limbo, and something something Dharma Initiative something EMP blast something. For all its similarities to a certain TV show, this story has a sense of focus, and a plot that methodically unfolds, one beat at a time, with a clear sense of direction. These are no randomly spun out episodes. This isn’t an emergent narrative. This is a game that’s far too brittle for the King of Dragon Pass comparisons I’ve seen. What happens next is something the writers have wanted to tell me all along. This is, after all, a visual novel.

After the jump, then why haven’t I found out what happens next? Continue reading →

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link_legend

You’re not supposed to know that Nintendo’s next home console is the NX. You’re definitely not supposed to know that it will launch worldwide in March 2017. Nintendo’s not exactly keeping the NX a secret, but unless you’re a fan of digging through a company’s quarterly financial results, you wouldn’t know that the launch date was ignominiously plopped onto page 3 of this public filing.

For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed “NX” with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.

And that’s all there is to it. We have a name and a month. When asked about it directly, Nintendo declined to give more detail saying only that everything was still provisional. When Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima spoke to Time last year, he assured them that the company was “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” but that leaves a lot to the imagination. Last month, some enterprising hoaxers made some convincing fakes of the supposed NX development controller that got some notice among fans, but no one outside of Nintendo really knows what the system will be. Oddly, it doesn’t seem like Nintendo cares whether or not you care. They’re not even planning on talking about the NX much at this year’s upcoming E3. They are instead focusing on the next The Legend of Zelda which will be playable at the convention.

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Interstellar_soundtrack

You might not know Christopher Tin’s name. But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you know Baba Yetu, an original piece of music he wrote for Civilization IV. The Lord’s Prayer translated into Swahili and set to a joyous African tribal beat says everything you need to know about civilization. The game and the actual thing.

But Tin was just getting warmed up. Take a moment to listen to Red Planet Nocturne, which he wrote for Offworld Trading Company. It begins with a raindrop patter that reminds me of the soundtrack by David Wingo for a movie called Take Shelter. But it then goes to its own places. What an evocative and poignant piece of music. Although I don’t quite feel how it connects to the game yet — I’ve been playing a music-less Offworld Trading Company for so long now — it assures I won’t be moving down the slider for music on the audio tab. On the contrary, I’m running the game in the background right now to hear the rest of Tin’s music. Would it be too hasty to put it alongside other iconic and haunting sci-fi soundtracks? Clint Mansell for Moon, John Murphy for Sunshine, Vangelis for Blade Runner, Hans Zimmer for Interstellar, Steven Price for Gravity, and Christopher Tin for Offworld Trading Company. Yeah, that list looks about right.

You can read Tin’s comments about the soundtrack here. Offworld Trading Company will be released on Thursday.

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PvZ_Garden_Warfare_2_minions

You don’t have to take my word for it that Garden Warfare 2 is the best thing to happen to shooters since Epic let us play Unreal with bots instead of other people. Now you can find out for yourself for the price of whatever bandwidth is takes to download a 20GB install. From EA’s announcement:

To get started for free now, download the game from Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store, or Origin.com. Players who wish to continue the epic battle after their trial can purchase the full game and keep all of their progress, unlocks, and achievements.

It’s a pretty insidious trick. They’re confident — and I’m inclined to agree — that once you invest ten hours in this thing and see what it has to offer, you’ll be willing to pay the $60 (!) for hours eleven plus.

This is something Electronic Arts obviously won’t do when a game is brand new. I suspect they’re watching the data closely for a carefully calculated point where the sales taper off. That’s when they swoop in with the ol’ “first taste is free” trick. Could this be a reaction to Steam’s refund policy, which many folks interpret as a tacit try-before-you-buy offer? Whatever the case, it’s encouraging to see consumer-friendly trends like this taking hold.

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That’s the new “America Has Fallen” trailer for Homefront: the Revolution. It’s not just an opportunity to remind people that this game is coming out in the middle of a crowded May release schedule. It’s clarification that Dambuster Studios’ open-world game isn’t just a sequel. It’s a reframing of the property. Like finding out that Peter Parker’s uncle was actually killed by Sandman, we’re getting new insight into the origin story. It turns out that North Korea was able to conquer the United States thanks to some good old capitalist warmongering.

Homefront: The Revolution is a complete reboot of the franchise, and features a brand new backstory based on an alternate history in which Korea won the technological arms race thanks to the rise of the sinister APEX corporation.

Homefront: The Revolution will launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 17th.

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butler_gamer

If you live in the North American part of the world, then lucky you! Steam just got a whole bunch of new movies for your area. Valve’s gaming service has had movies since March 2015, but unless you wanted to watch a lot of ultra indie films like Coffee, Kill Boss or Steve Chong Finds Out That Suicide is a Bad Idea, then there wasn’t much to recommend. (The Mad Max movies were added a little later, but that was a promotional deal that coincided with the release of the game from Avalanche.) Steam just took a big step into the space carved out by other media streaming services by signing a deal with Lionsgate. Check it out! These are legitimate movies that you’ve probably heard of and may have paid to see in a theater. Leprechaun 4: Lost in Space. Return of the Living Dead 3. Cyborg 2. Even Gamer, starring Gerard Butler, is available. Synergy! Variety notes that Lionsgate will push more titles to Steam as the deal expands to other territories.

“With over 125 million users, Steam represents a unique, exciting and disruptive opportunity to expand our global distribution business.”

The movies from Lionsgate are only available as 48-hour rentals for now. It is unknown if the deal will later make “permanent” digital ownership possible.

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champs_settlers

Ubisoft has announced Champions of Anteria, a story-heavy real-time strategy game using small hero squads. If you’re wondering where The Settlers reference comes from, this game apparently started out as The Settlers: Kingdoms of Anteria, but based on player feedback from a closed beta period, Ubisoft Blue Byte decided to drop the association with the city-builder series and branch off into a new direction. The economic gameplay is separated into a “homebase management” area, while the tactical action depends on players using three out of five champions with elemental powers.

The core of the combat is based on magical elements. We have five magical elements in the game fire, metal, nature, lightning, and water and they work in an extended rock-paper-scissors system.

That’s certainly one way to drill the core RTS concept down to its basics. Champions of Anteria will launch on August 30th for Windows PC.

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xbox_first

Three hardware revisions. A complete overhaul of the user interface – twice. The Red Ring of Death. Custom faceplates. Xbox Live Marketplace. Kinect. After over ten years of ups and downs, Microsoft is ceasing production of the Xbox 360 console. Remaining stock will continue to be sold, but once those units are gone, that’s it. Time to move on to something else.

Thanks to the Xbox 360, we evolved Xbox Live from the original Xbox into the thriving online gaming community it is today. And the console became a beloved gaming and entertainment hub with over 78 billion gaming hours played, nearly 486 billion Gamerscore on 27 billion achievements and over 25 billion hours spent in apps over its lifetime.

Although no new Xbox 360 machines will be manufactured, Microsoft assures gamers that their legacy hardware will still be useful. Live services will continue allowing new purchases of Xbox 360 games, multiplayer servers will stay up, and technical support will be honored during the valid warranty period.

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Booty_review

Someone has gotten up to make a phone call real quick. Someone else is looking up a rule. Do you need to roll equal to or greater than? He could have sworn it was on this page, but he’s not seeing it. The two guys across the table are talking about the Star Wars movie again. I can’t believe they don’t know what a luggabeast is called, so I get into the conversation. When the guy making the phone call comes back to take his turn, he just sits there and stares at his cards. Why isn’t he taking his turn? I eventually realize that they’re looking at me expectantly.

“Oh, is it my turn?”

A cardinal sin in a boardgame is wasting my time. A $200 game that isn’t very good is one thing. But a game that recreates what I do in line at the supermarket, in my dentist’s office, and when the 405 is jammed up? Indefensible. Games should not be about waiting. Ideally, a game will always keep everyone involved. One of my favorite solutions to the “oh is it my turn?” problem is Booty.

After the jump, Booty call, y’all Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
Creative_Control_review

Written, directed, and starring the same person? Rarely a good sign. Sure, there are exceptions. But this is almost always a red flag. At least Creative Control’s stoatfur sleek black-and-white aesthetic and mostly unridiculous futuristic computer interfaces are eye candy for director/writer/leading man Benjamin Dickonson’s vanity project.

But a funny thing happens while you’re enjoying the tastefully restrained effects work. Dickinson might be admiring himself in the mirror, but he doesn’t expect us to join him. He’s not patting himself on the back. On the contrary, he’s spearheading a cast of flawed unlikable characters. In addition to his own weaselly ad executive, there are his wife, his best friend, and his mistress. They’re played by Nora Zehetner, the femme fatale from Brick shedding any sign of her shrewdness from that movie; a delightfully miscast Dan Gill wallowing in his role; and the flickering almond-eyed faux flawlessness of Alexia Rasmussen.

Although it’s a character drama, Creative Control is squarely sci-fi. It shares similarities with Spike Jonze’s Her, which was beautiful and heartfelt, but entirely hypothetical. We can only relate elliptically to someone falling in love with his operating system. Her is a parable about being in love with an ideal or a fantasy, and Creative Control wants to tell that same story. But whereas Her was perhaps a celebration of that love and its very real power, Creative Control has a more cynical take. Dickinson is no dreamer like Jonze. To him, technology makes it easier for us to be weak.

The more direct comparison for Creative Control is Jesse Armstrong’s brilliant The Entire History of You from the BBC anthology, Black Mirror. Creative Control doesn’t hit as hard as The Entire History of You. It’s not a punch to the gut. It doesn’t damn us quite so strongly as Armstrong’s vision of the future where we’re all doomed by our foibles, our insecurities, our weaknesses. Creative Control is a playful sock on the arm. But they’re both stories about about how the more things change, the more people are still assholes.

Creative Control is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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obsolete

Up until now, there have been rumblings in the development community that Sony was planning to revise the hardware in their PlayStation 4. What made the rumors intriguing was that according to the sources, Sony wasn’t just reducing the footprint and heat of the console with a “slim” version like they had in previous console generations. The information leaking out suggested that Sony was actually going to bump the specs to account for the additional power requirements that VR and 4K gaming needs. This incremental hardware upgrade would be unique in the console space, with the closest analogue being the revision of the handheld Nintendo 3DS with the New Nintendo 3DS in 2014.

Sony is now openly outlining this hardware upgrade plan with some developers. Both Giant Bomb and Eurogamer confirm that they have seen the documentation. The new Sony hardware is codenamed Neo, while the original PlayStation 4 is referred to as the Base model. The Neo version of the PlayStation offers faster memory, a better processor, and a more powerful graphics unit. Developers are being told that a Neo game’s performance must meet or exceed the Base version, and Neo-only features or gameplay is forbidden. Additionally, studios will not be allowed to produce Neo-only titles. They must continue to support the Base version. Starting in October, all PlayStation 4 games must support both specifications of the console.

The documents do not specify when the hardware is launching, but the software requirement starting in October is a good hint. It remains to be seen how gamers will react to this console hardware upgrade, and how Base model owners will feel when their Neo brethren are playing the same games at better framerates and bigger resolutions.

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