, | Games podcasts
cthulhu_realms_ha_ha

What happens when one person on a podcast likes Cthulhu Realms and the other person on a podcast doesn’t like Cthulhu Realms? Which one of them will prevail? World traveler, bane of iPads everywhere, and kangaroo expert Skip Franklin tries to convince me Cthulhu Realms isn’t just a cheap reskinning of Star Realms. Whether he succeeds or not, I’d like to point out only one of us has been kicked out a bar in Grand Rapids.

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luke-skywalker-ocd

So, yeah, there’s a finally a space battle in Star Wars Battlefront. The Death Star DLC adds this:

A new three-phased mode in which Rebels attempt to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer in order to clear space for a GR-75 and its brave Rebel boarding party. Then, these Rebels participating in an assault on the Death Star in hopes of rescuing R2-D2 before, finally, attempting to destroy the Death Star itself with the help of Luke Skywalker.

Admit it, you had to look up GR-75. You know you did. And I bet you were all, like, “oh, that’s what that thing is called?”

But before you can blow up a Death Star, you have to shoot a lot of stormtroopers. And if you’re like me, it can be confusing distinguishing the stormtroopers from the rebels in the heat of an FPS. If I had a nickel every time I died because I thought some stormtrooper not wearing his helmet was actually a rebel, I would be able to buy the season’s pass for all the DLC.

But no more! In the update accompanying the DLC, stormtrooper helmets are mandatory. They can’t run around bare-headed trying to confuse guys like me. The rationale for this change? According to the patch notes:

With the arrival of the Imperial Officers, the certification for Stormtroopers to remove their helmets in combat has been withdrawn.

Of course, there are also safety concerns. If helmets were optional in Star Wars, this scene would have played out very differently.

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magic_cards

It’s been over twenty years since Richard Garfield and Wizards of the Coast unleashed Magic: The Gathering, and despite the game’s reputation as a money-sink, the veteran game designer thinks gaming is out of control. In a lengthy Game Player’s Manifesto, Garfield details the ways in which “skinnerware” – games designed to exploit addiction – are a detriment to the industry in the long run. The two key elements of skinnerware, according to him, are when a game’s transactions target a tiny portion of the player population (whales) and that purchases are open-ended. He likens these kinds of games to bars serving free alcohol, then charging increasingly higher prices for drinks to the most alcoholic patrons. In Garfield’s assessment, these games are harming the industry because they put pressure on designers to create systems that maximize the whales’ buy-in over actual engaging and interesting gameplay.

I believe it is time to send a message to game designers and publishers. As a game player I will not play or promote games that I believe are subsidizing free or inexpensive play with exploitation of addictive players. As a game designer I will no longer work with publishers that are trying to make my designs into skinnerware.

It’s not the first such declaration from a game designer, but it’s an interesting statement from someone that many would accuse of creating one of the most well-known skinnerware systems in the world.

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gjallarhorn

It’s been a little more than six months since Tom Clancy’s The Division launched and big changes are afoot. Ubisoft has heard the complaints, collected data, and analyzed the information. They agree that The Division needs some attention. The upcoming 1.4 update leans hard into what the developers term “the importance of gunplay” and making progression more intuitive. Character boosting stats like Firearms, Stamina and Electronics, for example, will be on every piece of loot you equip in the endgame tiers, so gear management more closely resembles the journey in the early part of the game. The Division’s all-important firearms are being walloped with the balance stick so oddities like sub-machine guns outperforming assault rifles won’t be as common. There’s a long and detailed set of data the developers have to back up these decisions, including a few charts. Who doesn’t love charts?

Want to build for the highest possible damage? That’s perfectly fine, but you’ll end up with a gun that might have a big recoil or a small magazine. Or if you prefer, you can build a weapon that is incredibly stable and precise, but you’ll have to sacrifice raw damage. It means that there will be more skill involved in using the weapons, just like in a regular shooter and during the level 1-30 experience, and our hope is that it will lead to much more variety and less cookie cutter weapon setups.

The Division’s 1.4 update is supposed to come out in October, and Ubisoft is taking feedback on the announced changes. Players on the PC version will be able to check out the planned changes on the public test server beginning on September 26th.

Meanwhile, Destiny just released Rise of Iron, their latest major expansion since The Taken King. It brings back Gjallarhorn.

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, | Movie reviews
31_review

For about five minutes, 31 might have you believing it won’t be awful. Richard Brake, an actor with a great face, walks up to the camera. He looks straight at you and delivers a “hey, I’m totally a psycho killer!” monologue. He’s wearing ragged clown make-up. It’s shot as if director Rob Zombie has been watching Fellini. It’s even black-and-white. But then the rest of the movie happens.

Some travelling people get kidnapped and forced to play a game called 31. The game consists of them wandering around in a poorly lit basement. They’re supposed to survive for 12 hours while killers in clown make-up supposedly hunt them. It’s like The Purge, but without the budget to shoot outdoors. The killers have names like Sickhead, Psychohead, Doomhead, and Sexhead. I didn’t make any of those up. Rob Zombie did. One of them is a midget with a knife. Do you know how risible it is to have full-sized people armed with baseball bats fleeing in terror from a midget with a knife? Because Rob Zombie doesn’t.

The cast includes no one with the necessary sense of humor or appreciation for absurdity to deliver Rob Zombie dialogue (i.e. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, and Ken Forree, all of whom elevated Devil’s Rejects from trash to camp). However, it’s really cool to see Meg Foster perfectly willing to wear her years in an industry that all but forces women of a certain age into plastic surgery, botox, and soft lighting. She deserves far better than this artless attempt at horror.

Of course, this being a Rob Zombie movie, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie is given a prominent role that she handles as unconvincingly as ever. When she emerges from the movie’s chintzy hell, she screams. It’s pretty half-hearted. It’s got slightly more feeling than opening your mouth and saying “aah” for the doctor. Slightly. In fact, it might have been a yawn. Then the movie loses interest in itself and just ends. That’s the point when I realized that the definition of insanity is someone who keeps watching Rob Zombie movies and thinking they won’t be awful.

31 is available for VOD at Amazon.com. But so is Devil’s Rejects. Only one of them is worth watching to support Qt3.

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NBA 2K17 can’t boast of an insane campaign written by Spike Lee like the previous installment, but it does have comedian and actor Matt Walsh. Everyone’s favorite fictional White House communications director plays a college basketball coach in the early portion of the MyCareer mode. He’s not in the trailer which instead focuses on Michael B. Jordan, Hannibal Buress, and Justice Young, but that seems appropriate for the hapless McLintock. If you’ve been watched the last season of Veep on HBO, you’ll recall that Matt Walsh’s character desperately tried to get hired for a communications position in the National Hockey League, making this role amusing on a meta level. Congratulations, Mike! You kind of made it into a sports league of sorts!

Aaron Covington, the co-writer of Creed, penned the script for this year’s game. NBA 2K17 is available today for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.

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roguelike_celebration

Erstwhile Quarter to Three contributor Tony Carnevale attended the Roguelike Celebration this past weekend, which is an actual thing that happened in San Francisco. He recounts the experience here.

I paid $37.92 to attend and filled out my nametag as Tony, Alignment: Chaotic Neutral. For the price of admission, I got a t-shirt, a pair of socks festooned with the @ sign, two similarly themed lapel pins, and the opportunity to see [Michael] Toy, [Glenn] Wichman, and [Ken] Arnold reunite onstage for the first time in 30 years.

Toy, Wichman, and Arnold are Michael Toy, Glen Wichman, and Ken Arnold, the folks who created Rogue back in 1980. Which, for all intents and purposes, was still part of the 70s. But unlike that other game made in the 70s, Pong, their game is still relevant. How many games on Steam have the “ponglike” tag? Carnevale also reports on the advantage of being on UNIX, the problem with talking about permadeath, pudding farming abuses, and why ADOM fans can be really scary.

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elite_dang

If you’re playing Frontier Developments’ Elite: Dangerous on a PC that’s behind the power curve, you’re going to be passed by soon. David Braben, CEO and founder of Frontier, warned players that the studio will likely be dropping support for 32-bit systems and graphic cards still using DirectX 10. According to Braben, their data shows that very few players of Elite: Dangerous would be negatively impacted by the shift to higher-end systems.

“As you know, we support leading edge technology like 4K, 8K, VR, and with things like compute shaders in Horizons we really push the boundaries overall, but there are restrictions with Win32 – particularly the amount of memory we can address at one time – and with DX10 in terms of requiring an alternative rendering solution in our code.”

The Steam Hardware Survey supports the idea that the majority of gamers use 64-bit systems with DirectX 10 (or better) video cards, but it’s not a direct measurement of the full Elite: Dangerous audience. David Braben went on to say that the support change would likely not take place for at least six months and that the studio is open to feedback regarding the decision. Time to go shopping for new PC parts, space cowboy!

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the_crew_free

Ubisoft’s driving MMO The Crew (aka, Tom Chick’s 2014 GOTY) is available for free. There’s just one catch, and it’s the same catch for any game by Ubisoft: you have to install UPlay. As part of some sort of insane “here, have a bunch of free games that don’t suck!” initiative at Ubisoft, they’re giving away a different game every month for seven months. And not giving away as in making them free for that month only. These are yours even past that month. And you don’t have to keep paying for a subscription service to keep your game. It’s yours for free and forever. So long as you have Uplay installed.

I suspect part of the thinking behind giving away The Crew is that Ubisoft hopes to sell you a copy of the Wild Run DLC, which isn’t included in the free giveaway. And I hate to tell you this, but it’s good DLC. It adds a few new types of gameplay and a whole new track of advancement and competition.

However, this free deal only applies to the PC version. Which looks great, especially when you’re accustomed to the console version. I had played — even recently since it’s a game with those kinds of long legs — the Playstation 4 version. But I made the mistake of installing the PC version to “have a real quick look”. And, oops, here I am playing an MMO, realizing all over again that it’s not a grind when it’s a game this good.

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, | Games
fifa_ult

Two men have been arrested and charged with promoting unlawful gambling in the United Kingdom. Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas of Essex, England are being prosecuted by the UK Gambling Commission for violating the Gambling Act and for inviting underaged participation in betting activity. Both men individually owned and operated numerous sites related to FIFA Ultimate Team gambling and trading. They co-owned and promoted the FutGalaxy and Ultimate Coin Exchange sites. Rigby and Douglas are the first people being prosecuted by their government for illegal videogame gambling.

The recent CS:GO Lotto scandal involving Counter-Strike: Global Offensive cosmetic gun skin betting prompted Valve to issue cease and desist letters to gambling sites and has resulted in some civil suits, but no criminal charges have been filed yet. While the Attorneys General in the United States are aware of some of the videogame gambling complaints, they have thus far declined to prosecute.

That’s how you know an illicit activity is maturing, by the way. It’s when the law finally takes notice of it. Now that the scope of videogame gambling has grown sizable enough to attract the attention of the government, you can expect further legal action in the future.

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winwinwinwin

Quantric Foundry, an analytics outfit focused on gaming, has published a report breaking down some metrics about competitive videogaming. While it seems intuitive, the results of their report confirms that the older you get, the less competitive multiplayer will appeal to you. While there is a difference between when genders fall out of love with pwning noobs, the most significant factor was age. At about 35 years of age, most players cease being concerned with their kill/death ratio and winning matches and shift their gaming to single-player or cooperative fare.

If you no longer care about smack-talk and jacking wins from scrubs, congratulations! You made it past your twenties. You probably curse less in public and have responsibilities.

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beaming_down

In August, Microsoft made a low-key blog post to announce that the company had acquired Beam. Haven’t heard of Beam? That’s okay. You’re going to hear a lot more about it since the service is coming to Xbox and Windows 10 later this year. Beam is a streaming service for social video game broadcasting like Twitch or YouTube Gaming. Beam’s twist is that it allows viewers to interact with the game being streamed.

Using Minecraft as one example, with Beam you don’t just watch your favorite streamer play, you play along with them. You can give them new challenges and make real-time choices that affect their gameplay, from tool selection to quests to movement; all through simple visual controls.

While certain games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Choice Chamber had Twitch interactivity, these early efforts relied on the viewers’ chat to vote on actions. Beam allows players to use on-screen controls to mess with a streamer’s game, and those buttons and widgets can be customized for different games. If that’s not impressive enough, Matthew Salsamendi, the CEO and founder of Beam is just 19 years old!

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, | Game reviews
star_wars_rebellion_review

I hate hidden movement games. Me and a friend stranded on a desert island with nothing but a copy of Scotland Yard? My worst nightmare. Plaid Hat’s Specter Ops sprinkles a bit more gameplay and a splash of theme into its Scotland Yardness, but hidden movement is hidden movement. You’re still playing a fluid (i.e. drawn-out) version of Battleship. B4? Miss. C4? Miss. B3? Hit! You caught my specter op! Not even Fury of Dracula, spattered with its ropey entrails of viscous gameplay substitute — it’s offal, really — can obscure the fact that it’s just Scotland Yard stretched into an insufferable too-many-hour guessing game, pencil and paper not included.

So it came as a bit of shock when I realized Star Wars: Rebellion, a game I really like, is also a hidden movement game.

After the jump, movement: hidden and loving it Continue reading →

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