New Mexico is infamous for atom bomb tests, UFO sightings, and tales of the Atari 2600 E.T. videogame. The story goes that sometime in September 1983, nine semi-trailer loads of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game cartridges and other gaming junk was crushed and dumped in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill. The game was a critical and financial bomb for Atari and is often cited as a major factor in the industry’s woes for that decade. Despite its importance in videogame history, the E.T. game disposal passed into the lands of urban legend.
Local station KRQE reports that we may finally get the full story. Alamogordo’s city commissioners have struck a deal with a Canadian film company to excavate the supposed site of the burial. Fuel Industries will have access to the property for six months and will document the dig for an upcoming movie project.
“I hope more people find out about Alamogordo through this opportunity that we have to unearth the Atari games in the landfill,” said Susie Galea, Alamogordo’s mayor.
Good luck! I hope they find that copy of KC’s Crazy Chase I threw away when I was a kid.
Trade routes! Is there anything more exciting? Okay. I guess a lot of stuff is more exciting, but 2K and Firaxis want you to know that Civilization V’s upcoming Brave New World expansion will add international trade routes. Just enjoy the smooth narration of William Morgan Sheppard.
Brave New World will launch on July 9th in the US, and July 12th for the rest of the world.
Electronic Arts is making good on their promise to do away with the Online Pass system. EA has posted a new Online Pass FAQ that explains what’s happening.
For new EA titles, Online Pass will no longer be needed or included. Additionally, we are in the process of eliminating Online Pass requirements from existing EA games. This process will take several weeks. For some games, the prompt to enter an Online Pass code will no longer appear; for others, you will still need to download and install an Online Pass, but they will be available free of charge from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace or PlayStation Store.
The FAQ goes on to state that the newer EA Sports titles will reflect the policy going forward, while other games will be changed over the next few weeks. Some Online Pass DLC for EA games on Xbox Live (such as Bulletstorm) have already been changed to free downloads.
Does Sony’s new PS4 console have DRM to control games similar to the kind of plan we already know the Xbox One will have? Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida told Eurogamer in a February interview that a PS4 owner could “play offline” but “may want to keep it connected.” When Eurogamer asked if gamers could resell their PS4 games, the answer was a bit more vague.
Eurogamer: So if someone buys a PlayStation 4 game, you’re not going to stop them reselling it?
Shuhei Yoshida: Aaaah. [Asks PR adviser.] So what was our official answer to our internal question? [Consults adviser.] So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?
At the time, these answers were seen as a refutation of the rumors surrounding Sony’s next-gen console. In light of more recent revelations, namely the Xbox One’s plans and EA discontinuing their Online Pass program, these early Sony answers seem a little less convincing. In fact, there seems to be a lot of wiggle room in those answers. For example, Microsoft told reporters that the Xbox One “could play used games” but neglected to mention that they may have a fee or registration process that makes things more difficult.
Kotaku finally asked Sony for clear answers on the used game DRM and online connectivity issue and received the following response:
I looked into this, and at this point we’re not providing any additional clarification beyond what we stated around the PS4 announcement. If anything changes, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Crytek trolled fans of its Crysis series yesterday by teasing a “major announcement” for today. Crytek fulfilled that promise by announcing that Crysis 3 will return to the series’ tropical island roots!
Unfortunately, for fans looking forward to dynamic firefights under the palm trees like in Crysis, the return is multiplayer only. (Insert cruel laughter here.) The Lost Island DLC includes four new multiplayer maps and two new gameplay modes which I assume will be centered around shooting other anonymous super-soldiers while not giving a damn about the jungle scenery.
The Lost Island map pack will be $15 and will launch on June 4th.
I was several missions into Warhammer Quest before something dawned on me that must be obvious to a lot of you. Warhammer Quest is based on a boardgame. Which explains a lot. But what it doesn’t explain is why this is such a terrible boardgame port.
You may not realize this, since it’s not true, but today is HP Lovecraft Day! So we’ve invited Tabitha Chirrick of Machines in Motion to talk about Kingsport Cases, a game with a unique angle on the Lovecraft mythos. Go here for the Kickstarter page. We also talk about other games attempting Lovecraft, and how they succeed or fail. We’re sure we missed a few, so that’s where you come in. Post them below. For this week’s games of the week, we choose our favorite gods/giants, how Wonder Woman is uniquely suited to run Arkham Asylum, and how many human revolutions it takes to finally save the world. Finally, Tom confesses that he once condoned Lovecraft’s racism, but it was totally on accident.
Sometimes, your fellow players can be a real pain. The players chatting in all caps, using profanities and racial slurs, or just generally being unpleasant can kill a multiplayer community faster than actual gameplay errors. Valve noticed that one of the most cited reasons for leaving a Dota 2 game was due to the behavior of other humans. Since they had a vested interest in keeping players happy and playing the game, they instituted a ban policy that would block all communications from a player that received enough negative reports.
Valve released some statistics of their Dota 2 communication bans and the early results look quite positive.
Since the ban system has been implemented, there’s been a 35% drop in negative communication interactions.
Less than the 1% of the active player base (players who have played Dota 2 in the last month) are currently banned.
60% of players who receive bans go on to modify their behavior and don’t receive further bans.
Total reports are down more than 30%, even after accounting for the reduction in the number permitted per week.
Dota 2 is currently available and it can be purchased from Valve’s Early Access program.
The new Shadow Warrior game is coming later this year, but why not enjoy the 1997 classic Build Engine version for free while you wait? As a promotion for the new game, the pixelated madness of Shadow Warrior is free to play on Steam for a limited time. Throw explosive shurikens, fight demonic sumo wrestlers, shoot ninjas, and make clumsy puns.
By the way, I feel I should get extra points for resisting a Lo Wang joke in the story.
VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi reports that Blizzard’s next MMO project, codenamed Titan, has been reset and much of the team working on it has been moved to other projects. The revamped MMO product is now internally projected for a 2016 launch.
In 2011, Blizzard COO Paul Sams was optimistic about Titan.
“We have taken some of our most experienced developers and put them on this project. We believe we have a dream team. These are the people who made World of Warcraft a success. We are going to blow people’s minds.”
Earlier leaked information had set the projected launch date sometime in 2014.
You could do worse than The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (hyperbole theirs). Developer Neocore, fresh from a long stint homaging the Total War series with their King Arthur series, is now homaging Diablo. They mostly get the Diablo feel, even if they don’t get the Diablo polish, replayability, moment-to-moment gameplay, and variety. And does Diablo really need a tower defense game?
Independent developers Introversion Software, Carbon Games, and Dejobaan spoke to GamesIndustry International and told them why they like the Early Access program on Steam. Although the program is itself in the early stages of participation, the developers were keen to give it a try thanks to the funding and feedback opportunities it offered to them.
“With Darwinia, Multiwinia, and all of [our previous games], we ran out of money,” said Morris. “On every occasion, to varying degrees. With Darwinia, I think we didn’t have any money for about a year or something before it was released. With Defcon, the bank account was at zero on the day we launched. It puts this desperate pressure on you to get the game up to the barest minimum standard, shove it out of the door, get the cash from sales, and then fix bugs that you wanted to fix before.”
“What we tried to do with the Early Access stuff is get the revenue before we finished, so that we can be more relaxed about the development process. We’re working harder, we’re more motivated. We know that we don’t need to worry about cash, we know we can put in all the featuresets that we want to be in there. We feel an obligation to keep pushing it for those who’ve already bought it,” he added.
Participants interviewed preferred the Early Access program over Kickstarter because the administrative overhead was lower than running their own crowd-funding effort. They also liked the open-ended nature of Early Access which allowed them to capture revenue from gamers’ interest that they may not have even been aware of existing.
There are currently 20 titles offered on Steam Early Access, including Valve’s own DOTA 2.
Dean “Rocket” Hall, creator of the Arma 2 mod-turned-standalone zombie survival game DayZ confirmed to Gamasutra that the alpha version will be coming to Steam via the Early Access program. Alpha purchasers will get the game for a substantial discount.
“From here, once we’ve finished our server/client architecture – because we’re moving it an MMO model – we’re reviewing the situation of that in June, and then we do an alpha, just like Minecraft. People pay X amount of dollars and they get early, cheap access to it, and then once it’s beta, price goes up, maybe, say, $10, and once it goes retail, the price goes up $10.”
Thanks to Steam’s recent ability to issue delta patches, Hall hopes players will use the latest development builds to keep abreast of changes and report bugs.
Over the weekend, gamers disappointed by the Xbox One console’s DRM reached out to Sony representatives by sending messages to the #PS4NoDRM and #PS4USEDGAMES hastags on Twitter to urge them to not follow suit with the PS4. Their worries of the Sony console also incorporating similar DRM to block or monetize used game sales came to a head after a GameTrailers Bonus Round broadcast in which Geoff Keighley opined that the grass may not be greener on Sony’s side of the fence.
“Microsoft is getting beaten up a lot on it. Sony, I think, has been seen as this kind of white knight so far that’s not going to restrict used games. Based on some of the things I’m hearing, I don’t think that’s entirely true, because I can’t see publishers allowing one system to do one thing and one do another.”
Backing that up was the fact that EA recently dropped its own form of used game disincentive, the Online Pass. The theory being that EA wouldn’t discontinue the program unless they had some other plan in place. A DRM solution native to the consoles would solve that problem nicely.
In response, Sony bosses acknowledged the tweets, but the closest gamers got to an actual reply regarding the matter was from SCEA producer Nick Accordino.
“Humbled by the outpouring of passionate PlayStation fans and their willingness to talk to us directly. Please know that we hear you. <3"
Unfortunately for gamers concerned with ownership rights, “we hear you” is a far cry from a denial that used game DRM will exist on the PS4.
Grid 2 (not pictured, since there’s nothing duller than a screenshot of a latest-gen racing game) is out this week! The original Grid rivaled the best of Forza and Gran Turismo when it was released, and it even held up next to the upcoming Need for Speed: Shift. Since then, developer Codemasters has mostly been retooling their various Dirt games, which are easily the best arcade rally racers you can race. Now that the wheels are back on pavement, I look forward to seeing how they handle. Consider your wallet threatened.
I’m pretty sure Wargame: AirLand Battles is supposed to be out this week, but it’s already missed one release date. It’s fully playable now as a skirmish game (buy it now and you can bang on the beta to your heart’s content!), so all we’re really waiting for is the ambitious dynamic campaign. Consider your wallet threatened.
Finally, Electronic Arts releases Fuse, Insomniac’s disappointing attempt to fuse the serious shootery bits of Resistance with the wacky weapons bits of Ratchet & Clank with the godawful four-player co-op of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.