Nick Diamon

Rise of Nations will gain at least a dozen more players thanks to the Windows Store

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Rise of Nations, the seminal 2003 real-time strategy game from Big Huge Games, is coming to the Microsoft Windows Store. It’s the Extended Edition that’s already available on Steam, but built as a Universal Windows Platform app. If you’re hesitant about being locked-in to a limited multiplayer community, the upcoming UWP version will feature cross-play with Steam players! In fact, the beta branch of the Steam version is already cross-play enabled.

Rise of Nations: Extended Edition is coming to Windows Store on September 14th.

Planet Coaster’s newest ride isn’t virtual reality, but it’s close

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Planet Coaster has partnered with the real-life amusement park Cedar Point to release a free addition for the game. The 1.3.6 update includes in-game assets and blueprints to build the Steel Vengeance roller coaster, which will join Cedar Point’s collection of rides in May 2018. The wood and steel hybrid design will be the tallest and fastest coaster of its kind when it opens, and will feature the most airtime of any currently existing coaster. You can check out a first-person rendition of the ride here, or you could just build the darn thing in Planet Coaster and “ride” it there.

This partnership is notable for bringing an officially licensed coaster to players. The genre is chock full of generic amusements and fan interpretations of rides, but where are all the sponsored El Toro, Goliath, or Apollo’s Chariot DLC? Will we see the various Six Flags or Busch Gardens parks in video game form? There are a ton of independent amusement parks throughout the world that could use this platform to advertise their rides. Plus, we can have the guilt-free thrill of derailing licensed coasters into crowds of virtual people.

Yub nub! Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game strikes back!

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Fantasy Flight Games is publishing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition later this year. Before 1987, we didn’t know that Sienar Fleet Systems manufactured the ubiquitous TIE Fighter. We didn’t know where Boba Fett came from or who the Mandalorians were. We didn’t know that the little things that looked like pens on Imperial officers’ uniforms were code cylinders. Basically, our knowledge of the Star Wars universe was woefully incomplete until Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game from West End Games came out and codified the lore into something worthy of nerd nitpicking. It’s thanks to these early gaming books that Star Wars dorks could stand toe-to-toe with Trekkies in comparing minutia. West End eventually went bankrupt and the license passed to others, but the 1987 rules and sourcebook permanently influenced the franchise canon, much of it surviving through the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm.

The $60 bundle will include reproductions of the basic rule book and The Star Wars Sourcebook.

A lot more brave space marines died in StarCraft than we ever knew

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Thanks to the release of StarCraft: Remastered we can now zoom in and see all the fine detail we lost in the original game’s pixelated resolution. The game’s high-definition 2D graphics were made with the guidance of the original artists, who revealed the horrifying truth behind the 1998 designs. Look closely at the center of the anti-air missile turret. Every time you built a wall of missile turrets to protect your Terran outpost from a rampaging horde of Zerg Mutalisks, you were ordering brave men to their deaths. There was a little guy manning each tower, ready to give his life for your base.

Blizzard’s Battle.net service is now Blizzard Battle.net

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In September, Blizzard announced that they would stop referring to Battle.net in favor of generically branding each part of the system with the company name. We’d get Blizzard Voice or the Blizzard App to call out various components of the client. The studio cited “occasional confusion and inefficiencies” when it came to everyone writing or speaking about their products. At the time, people grumbled that it seemed like a change for change’s sake and they were disappointed that Blizzard was giving up the Battle.net name which they’d come to associate with titles like Diablo, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft.

Almost a year later, Blizzard is admitting defeat. Battle.net will stick around. The compromise is that the company will officially refer to their systems as “Blizzard Battle.net” which will hopefully cut down on any confusion and inefficiencies.

You can finally see each other in the latest version of No Man’s Sky

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Atlas Rises, the coming update for Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, finally adds a step towards real-time elbow-rubbing multiplayer. The joint exploration feature lets up to 16 players see and communicate with one another – as glowing orbs. Think of them as the ghostly shadows of players in parallel dimensions for now.

“While interaction with others is currently very limited, this is an important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man’s Sky.”

The Atlas Rising update adds a bunch of improvements that may satisfy the many detractors of the game. There’s thirty more hours of story to uncover, portals that can beam you around the galaxy, a new mission system, terrain editing tools, improved space combat, low altitude planetary flight, and new ships and items to purchase and trade. Will the game finally rise above Spore? Spore didn’t have the glowing player orbs from Fable 2, so score one for space orbs!

Glory to movie Papers, Please for having much success!

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Papers, Please the Eastern Bloc bureaucratic border control game from Lucas Pope, is getting its own official short film. First announced on Twitter in May, the teaser above shows off how well filmmakers Nikita and Liliya Ordynskiy have captured the depressing and grimy mundanity of manning a checkpoint booth in Arstotzka. Alas, the desk in the trailer looks a little too roomy to properly depict the tiny desktop the player had to use to shuffle paperwork while evaluating visitors.

The short film is due later this year.

The biggest threat to Friday the 13th’s campers are the other campers

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Remember that scene in the one Friday the 13th movie when the snarky counselor turned on her fellow campers, and killed them with her machete? You probably don’t because it never happened. Jason, or his mother, are the killers! (Okay, there was the one psychotic killer ambulance driver, but the less said about A New Beginning, the better.) The kids are supposed to run around in a panic, scream, hide, and end up spit-roasted on an improvised weapon. Alas, the players of Friday the 13th: The Game have no loyalty to the movies’ tropes. Team-killing is rampant, leaving the poor Jason player to wander a mostly empty map seeking out the lone enemy. Once again, players prove they can ruin any concept no matter how simple.

The developers are responding by nerfing the heck out of the weapons. In public matches, the majority of lethal hardware will no longer work on the other campers. You’ll still be able to harm other players with traps and the car, so expect a lot more vehicular homicide after the next patch.

Fair warning that Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is not fooling around

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There’s permadeath, and there’s no fooling, for reals, forever death. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice features a game over mechanic that will eventually delete your save file if you fail enough times in-game. Ninja Theory’s hardcore game may be mechanically easier than something like Dark Souls, but the failure punishment goes one further. The player character, Senua, is infected with a creeping darkness on her hands and arms which grows with every death. Die too many times and the darkness will consume Senua leading to the ultimate consequence. The game deletes your save file. There’s no cute gravestone to mark your character’s death. No silly epilogue. Your save file is gone and you get to start all the way from the beginning, fresh as the minute you started. Consider this your public service announcement.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

The creator of Spelunky is challenging himself and his buddies with UFO 50

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Derek Yu of Spelunky fame is working with the creators of Downwell, Time Barons, Skorpulac, and Madhouse to create a retro anthology of games sold in one bundle. UFO 50 will feature fifty little games that will add up to over 100 hours of content. Each title will be slightly smaller than the 8-bit inspirations from the 1980’s, but the goal is to pack each experience with the creator’s unique vision to give the player a variety pack of gaming. All the games will have a single-player mode, with about a third additionally offering cooperative or competitive multiplayer.

UFO 50 will launch on PC in 2018 first. Pricing has not been announced.

Tomb raiding returns in Assassin’s Creed Origins

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One of the side activities people remember with fondness in Assassin’s Creed 2 was the tomb puzzles that could be unlocked under the game’s towns. These six puzzle areas consisted of platform timing, switch pulling, and navigation gauntlets that tested Ezio’s abilities. A little bit of Lara Croft spelunking in between the assassinating. Unfortunately, the series never really returned to that style of gameplay. Later Assassin’s Creed games would substitute the tombs with straightforward map icon collectathons or maddeningly obtuse hidden riddles that lead right back to map icons. Ubisoft is returning to the tomb idea in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Unlike the strangely out of place trap-filled tombs in Ezio’s Italy, having tombs in ancient Egypt makes sense.

“So we put a lot of effort into recreating these tombs. Everything that is actually known we’ve mapped it out, we have images, we have research that’s been done on tombs, we actually try to replicate it as close as possible. So for example, the Greek pyramid, all the chambers, all the corridors are an authentic representation. Now, of course, we have a bit of fun and go a bit further, like, what are the secret chambers that have not been discovered yet?”

Assassin’s Creed Origins will launch on October 27th.

Unsung Story remains unfinished, undone, and unreleased

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Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians was supposed to be Playdek’s take on Final Fantasy Tactics with series helmer Yasumi Matsuno’s creative assistance. The Kickstarter ended successfully in February 2014 having raised over $660,000 in funding. It is now one of the most high-profile videogame Kickstarter failures. What started as a single player story-heavy strategy game became a player-vs-player boondoggle that consistently disappointed fans with each increasingly rare update. Now, two years past its initial release date, Playdek has sold the project off to Little Orbit.

Little Orbit CEO Matthew Scott says that they are starting from scratch on Unsung Story, and that they do not have the resources to refund dissatisfied backers. The good news is that Little Orbit is returning to the original single player direction of the game, and they are committed to delivering Kickstarter backer rewards at no additional cost. No schedule was announced, but at least someone seems to be working on something. Little Orbit does have a solid, if not unspectacular, record in the business. At this point, dependable may be more desirable than being too ambitious.

It’s easy to forget that Diablo III used to kind of suck

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Despite fairly positive reviews, when Blizzard’s Diablo III launched in 2012, there were problems. Between server login issues, pacing hiccups, and the dreaded auction house, a lot of fans were underwhelmed. This is what Blizzard gave us after Diablo II? It had been almost nine years since the last Diablo game, and the genre had matured. Why were we slogging through three difficulties to get to the actual game? What happened to the Stones of Jordan? Why was this damn auction house even here? Jason Schreier of Kotaku has a fascinating look at how Josh Mosqueira was brought on to the development team and how his early work on the console version of Diablo III formed the basis for the way the company would eventually revamp the game into the juggernaut we know now.

“And in some ways, looking back at it… there’s a level of being very naive. We’ve been mucking around with this game for about six months, not knowing all the history behind all the decisions leading up to this moment, just walking in like kids and pushing buttons.”

The article is an excerpt from Jason Schreier’s upcoming book “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” and it’s a great reminder that what started as a bit of a disappointment to many, is now considered the genre leader.

How many slow-motion gunfights will the The Long Dark movie have?

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That is Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer in “Elegy – A Visual Poem of The Long Dark.” Hinterland Studio’s frostbitten survival game The Long Dark is finally launching out of early access and the developer wanted to let everyone know that they’ve signed a development deal to turn the game into a movie. The short is a proof-of-concept vehicle to show what Hinterland thinks the movie could be like. It’s a nice idea, but there’s very little chance of a Long Dark film (if one ever gets made) being so melancholy and quiet. The script is being written by Raphael van Lierop, the writer and director of the game, but the movie is being made with the Resident Evil movie producers. The game is death by exposure, starvation, and isolation. The movie will be acrobatic knife fights with rabid wolves and cannibal mutants.

The Long Dark officially launches on August 1st.