Archive for May, 2012

Everything I need to know I learned from Rockstar’s Social Club

, | Games

If you’ve played Midnight Club: Los Angeles or Red Dead Redemption, you’ve probably got a Rockstar Social Club account. In Midnight Club: Los Angeles, the Social Club was a great way to admire your screenshots, and it also had some unlockables based on driving tests. Red Dead Redemption used a confusing but suitably atmospheric old-timey newspaper, The Blackwater Ledger, as a way to track achievements, challenges, unlockables, and events.

But with Max Payne 3, Rockstar is using the Social Club to lay groundwork for a persistent crew system that will carry over into Grand Theft Auto V. I’m sold.

After the jump, my clubhouse. Let me show you it. Continue reading →

The return of Tom vs. Bruce

, | Games

My entire career as a writer has been based on talking about games as a shared experience. We play games, singly or in groups, and then we talk with each other about them. In that way, they are no different than movies, music, or books. In that way, they are more than the self-contained experience of actually playing them. In that way, they are clearly art. Ugh, I just said that, didn’t I?

I was fortunate enough to get to write about games collaboratively with Bruce Geryk for many years in Computer Gaming World. The series was called Tom vs. Bruce. It started out as a way for me and a buddy to do strategy guides together, but it turned into something else entirely. You can find out a lot about a game from listening to one guy talk or write. But what about two guys, turning their experience with a game into a story?

Bruce and I would like to keep writing Tom vs. Bruce. And we’d like your help. If you’re not Kickstartered out — and who could blame you if you are? — go here to find out more. With your support, we expect to start monthly episodes of Tom vs. Bruce starting later this summer.

Also, T-shirts! We promise they won’t be black and they’ll be designed by someone who knows what she’s doing.

Tom Chick will not shut up about zombies

, | Games

You know when someone comes up with one of those really good ideas you wish you’d thought of? Brian Kent and Matt Clark are two such people. Their podcast, Late to the Party, considers games in pairs, comparing an older classic to a recent game. They invited me to join them to compare Dead Rising 2 and Resident Evil 5. But, you know, zombies. Zombies are way too big to confine a discussion to two games. For instance, this Qt3 Games Podcast, with freelancer writer and fellow zombie aficionado John Brownlee, hits the three hour mark. Like zombies themselves, zombie discussions just keep on going. Listen to the latest Late to the Party here.

Blizzard’s State of the Diablo address

, | Games

So how is everyone else playing Diablo III? Blizzard offers some stats:

* On average players have created 3 characters each
* 80% of characters are between levels 1 and 30
* 1.9% of characters have unlocked Inferno difficulty
* 54% of Hardcore players chose a female character
* The majority of Hardcore deaths (35%) occur in Act I Normal
* The most common level 60 build in the game is only used by 0.7% of level 60 characters of that class (not including Passive diversity)
* The most used runes for each class at level 60 are Barbarian: Best Served Cold, Demon Hunter: Lingering Fog, Wizard: Mirror Skin, Monk: Peaceful Repose, Witch Doctor: Numbing Dart

Blizzard’s design update explains what to expect in the next two patches. It also has some comments on tuning inferno difficulty, legendary items, and this tidbit on balancing skills:

If any single skill or rune feels absolutely required to progress, it means that skill is working against our goal of encouraging build diversity — and those “required” skills need to be corrected.

Of course, that’s how I feel about pretty much every skill I’m using, but that changes as soon as I experiment with another skill. I can’t begin to imagine what Diablo III’s balance looks like to Blizzard, from a high level looking down at the reams of data they’ve collected. But from where I’m sitting, down in the trenches of nightmare mode, only starting to scratch the surface of the game’s tougher choices, one of my favorite things about Diablo III is its sense of tuning. From my perspective, the most powerful class is whichever one I just got done playing.

Max Payne 3, the least dear of all my Max Paynes

, | Game reviews

Let’s pretend it’s the 90s, when shooters are all about and only about shooting, when storylines have to be inserted between action bits like commercial breaks, when bullet time is the new hotness, when 80s style jumpshooting isn’t replaced by wirework yet, and when finding the next medkit is the single most important factor in determining whether you’re going to have to play this part over again.

Your tour guide through this blast from the past is not the lovable squinting Max Payne you might remember. Instead, it’s a young James Caan, or at least an uncaany valley approximation of him that goes all Breaking Bad (i.e. shaves his head) half way through the game. Your shootporn will include the latest gen technology in entry wounds, exit wounds, and arterial spurt. It looks about as authentic as the ragdoll effects. Keep working on that stuff, guys. It should look good in two or three more games.

After the jump, it’s enough to make a guy long for a funhouse level or a dead baby Continue reading →

May 28: wallet threat level Goth pale

, | Games

You know that annoying thing your buddy does when he pulls up in his car to pick you up? As you reach for the door, he lurches the car forward so you have to run and catch up. Then he does it again. And again. And it’s not funny, but what are you going to do, stand there until he backs up? That’s the situation with Dirt Showdown, which was supposed to be out this week and has instead lurched forward to June 12. Actually, it’s already out on the PC, but who plays a game like Dirt Showdown on a PC?

Maybe Dirt Showdown didn’t want to compete with this week’s Mad Riders, an ATV racing game from Techland that has a totally different name than the last ATV racing game from Techland. The one they released last year was called Nail’d. This one is called Mad Riders. See? Mad Riders is available for download for the PS3 and 360.

Also out this week is the Harley Quinn DLC for Arkham City, which is more than just a new skin to use in the combat challenges. The press release promises “more than two hours” of gameplay as you alternate between Batman and Robin, which should delight Robin fans, assuming there is any such thing.

Weekly Little Big Planet: loosen up

, | Features

Target down, this week’s Trials Evolution community track, forces you to learn how to use the brakes. Be ready for that. You have to get to know this track before you can beat it. From time to time when talking about Little Big Planet levels I’ve been known to complain about compulsory deaths. I think I whine about surprise deaths being unfair. That they violate the rules. There are no such rules in Trials Evolution. Sometimes a ramp is going to drop on your head without warning. You’re going to faceplant into a stone pillar on your first time trying some tracks. That’s just life on a motorcycle. Deal with it.

Some tracks let you buzz through them on your first run. If you get how throttle and balance coexist in the game doing well on those tracks comes down to shaving seconds off your time. Target down isn’t about shaving seconds so much as it is about eliminating faults, and doing that requires trial and error. There’s no way around that. It’s a track that makes you learn it, but not one that relies upon impossible rock slabs to up its difficulty rating. After trying to beat one called Squirrel Island about a hundred times this week, and failing, I can appreciate that.

Target down was designed by CONPExZii. Difficulty: hard.

Play to pay in Defender Chronicles II

, | Game reviews

Defender Chronicles II is a bit like Diablo III, where the early going is so easy that it’s almost a formality. You only have a few units, so your choices are limited. But the levels are so easy that you’re mostly just a bystander, watching your warriors, archers, and mages hack, pierce, and fry hapless goblins, gnolls, orcs, bats, ninjas, and spiders as they wend their way towards your base.

So you burn through all ten maps on novice, and maybe a few on casual. You “beat” the game. Now what?

Now you’re actually playing Defender Chronicles II, after the jump Continue reading →

Qt3 Games Podcast: Day Z, Day Z, give me your answer do

, | Games podcasts

The mellifluous Jon Rowe joins us for a special 3D edition of the podcast: Day Z, Defender Chronicles 2, and, of course, Diablo III. As our official Day Z correspondent, Jon walks us through the various ethical and moral dilemmas you’ll face in this recent mod for Arma II. For instance, is it okay to shoot a guy in the face to take his beans? And what should you do when you see someone’s flare lying on the ground? And is it a good idea to hang around on the beach to try to make friends?


Jetpack Joyride goes to the dogs

, | Games

I’m mostly pretty good at marshaling the appropriate amount of fury for things like always-online DRM, in-app purchases, and free-to-play design compromises. But when games are as good as Lord of the Rings Online, Anno 2070, and Diablo III, I eventually just shrug and feel grateful that I’m playing a game this good (see also the extra box office take for The Avengers because it’s in 3D). At a certain point, you have to accept defeat, let go of your anger, and be glad when good things are successful, even if you don’t like aspects of their success.

In the case of Jetpack Joyride, that point involves cute dogs.

Diablo III’s remembered deeds of valor

, | Games

Having recently decided that hardcore is the way to go in Diablo III, I love this video. I think of it as a light-hearted primer to prepare myself for the inevitable moment of my character’s death. Because hardcore Diablo III is like real life in that it’s not a matter of if you will die, but when you will die.

NSFW, naturally.

(Thanks charmtrap!)