Nick Diamon

Let freedom rule as The Division adds real-money cosmetic purchases

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Today seems like a good day to talk about Ubisoft’s The Division. The dystopian shooter MMO set in a future New York City, broken by plague and economic hardship, streets made into a war zones thanks to roving gangs and totalitarian police, somehow seems fitting now. The good news is that there is a plan to make The Division great again. Premium Credits, a new in-game currency, will be implemented in the upcoming patch 1.6 for purchase with real-world money. Those Premium Credits will be used in a new in-game vanity store. Cosmetic items only, so if you want to get anything more than snazzy new paint schemes, emotes, or clothing textures, you’ll have to grind for it the old fashioned way.

According to Ubisoft, they will not be selling anything for Premium Credits that gives anyone an advantage over other players. Additionally, players will still be able to earn vanity items as normal mission rewards and loot drops. It should be noted that almost exactly a year ago, Ubisoft’s Magnus Jansen told VG247 that they would not have microtransactions for The Division that gave any players a competitive edge.

Wondering what the director of Die Hard has been doing? It’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands!

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John McTiernan, the celebrated director of Die Hard, Predator, and other smart action films, directed a Ghost Recon: Wildlands commercial. The Red Dot live action trailer above was quietly released last week by Ubisoft in the European market, but it’s only now coming to light that it was helmed by John McTiernan. According to Vulture, it’s the director’s first gig in 14 years.

What happened to McTiernan is a convoluted tale involving a corrupt private investigator, federal wiretapping, and literal plastic explosives. The short of it is that John McTiernan wound up spending about a year in prison, making him persona non grata in many Hollywood negotiations because he was uninsurable as a director. Apparently, that’s changed or he’s found a back door to return to directing. Either way, yippee-ki-yay!

Injustice 2 will boost your power, if you purchase it the right way

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Injustice 2, the sequel to Injustice: The Gods Among Us, will continue the story of a Superman gone insane. In this universe, a grief-stricken Superman decides to up-end over 80 years of comic history by becoming a murderous tyrant. True to its dystopian premise, the game will have pre-order bonuses and alternate editions that offer a larger roster of fighters to savvy or richer buyers.

NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have revealed that Darkseid, the DC Comics uber-baddie, will be available as a preorder bonus, and Reverse-Flash, Power Girl and John Stewart Green Lantern will be “premier” skins for The Flash, Supergirl, and Green Lantern if you pick up the more expensive Deluxe or Ultimate editions of the game. Comic nerds need not get upset by the flip from Supergirl to Power Girl. According to the developers, these premier skins include new voices, costumes, and dialogue, making them a bit more substantial than the normal fighting game color swap. The Deluxe edition of Injustice 2 will also give owners three planned DLC characters, and the Ultimate edition will grant access to nine future DLC characters. Excelsior!

Injustice 2 launches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on May 16th.

Marvel Heroes is getting the equivalent of a comics universe reboot

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Civil War, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars, Flashpoint, The Infinity Gauntlet, and That One Time Peter Parker Sold His Marriage to the Devil. These are all milestone events in superhero comics that forever changed the makeup of their respective universes. Powers changed, origins were rebooted, and new readers were given an easy way to jump in to the fandom. Like these crossover events, Marvel Heroes’ big update will refresh and redesign almost every aspect of the game.

While the free-to-play superhero Diablo-like from Gazillion will remain an action slugfest, the developers intend the “biggest systems update ever” to update every single hero in one massive patch. The item system gets a thorough shuffle. The way characters move was reviewed. Even the endgame gets an overhaul with the new Infinity System. It’s like when Uncle Ben turned out to have been killed by Sandman all along. Everything you thought was wrong!

Marvel Heroes’ Biggest Update Ever will launch on Thursday, January 19th.

Nintendo presents gun-fingers, cow-milking, and eating as the Switch’s killer launch game

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What unique games will the Nintendo Switch have available on its March 3rd launch? There’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s still a cross-platform game that will also be available for the Wii U. The same goes with Just Dance 2017. Arms, the spring-fisted fighting game is slated for “Spring 2017” so it will likely miss launch day. Super Mario Odyssey isn’t coming out until the holiday season. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is slated for April 28th, and it’s a remake of the last Mario Kart anyway. No, the two completely Switch-only games confirmed to be available on March 3rd are Super Bomberman R and 1-2-Switch. Bomberman is Bomberman, but 1-2-Switch is something else entirely.

Remember Wii Sports and how everyone immediately grasped the concept of waggling a controller for bowling or boxing? Nintendo sure hopes you do, because they want you to have the same thought process for 1-2-Switch. Using the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers as pretend cow teats, pistol grips, tennis racket handles, and a bevy of similar phallic objects, players square off in minigame waggle contests the likes of which haven’t been seen since Lando Calrissian and Han Solo shimmied their hips in an epic dance battle. It’s Wii Sports again, but instead of being a pack-in to demonstrate the fun and versatility of the hardware, Nintendo wants $50 retail for the experience. Doubtless there will be buyers if only to have something other than the new Zelda game to play, but is this really the push for the Switch?

Another stage of responsibility has come to The Sims 4

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Ever since its launch in 2014, there’s been something missing from The Sims 4. While previous installments of The Sims featured toddlers, that precocious time between infancy and childhood, The Sims 4 didn’t. That absence has been a sore point in the community, but Maxis is finally correcting the issue. Toddlers are now in the game thanks to a free update. According to the developers, it’s been on their to-do list for a while.

I’m not exaggerating when I say we’ve been talking about this particular update for years.

Toddlers in The Sims 4 come with hundreds of new animations, objects and Sim interactions. Just like real toddlers, Sim parents can get them addicted to videogames on their tablets, deal (or not) with their tantrums, and raise them to be ungrateful monsters. The Toddler update is available now on PC.

The drums of war haven’t started beating in Elite Dangerous, but the drummers are here

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Is Elite Dangerous headed to war? Last week, players of Elite Dangerous were stunned when alien ships began showing up in the galaxy. Some pilots cruising in secluded sectors of space found their ships temporarily disabled while ominous alien ships scanned them before shooting into the void. It was a surprise to most fans because Frontier’s space sim MMO has featured only humans, with rare evidence of a long-gone alien presence. Longtime fans of the Elite games assumed the alien artifacts belonged to the Thargoids from previous games in the series, but up until last week’s encounters, the remnants were harmless Easter Eggs.

Aliens in a previously human-only galaxy would be scary enough by themselves, but the latest update for Elite Dangerous features a rather distressing (or exciting) increase in the galaxy’s military power. Some trading ships have had their hull strength doubled. Attack craft have been given additional component slots. The Viper, the ubiquitous fighting ship, now has increased maneuverability. Although aliens aren’t mentioned in the patch notes, it seems obvious that humanity is gearing up for something.

Here’s what happened to The Banner Saga 2

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The Banner Saga, Stoic’s Kickstarter success story, made a big splash when it launched in 2014. The stylish Viking journey game combined roleplaying with turn-based combat. As part of a planned trilogy, the tale of Rook’s caravan proved emotionally compelling and gamers eagerly awaited the continuation. But did you know there’s already a sequel? The Banner Saga 2 launched in April of 2016, but sales have been notoriously low compared to the first game. John Watson, co-founder of Stoic, partially blames their decision to not run a Kickstarter or engage the community for the sequel. Because sales from the first game were good enough to fill the coffers at the studio, Stoic decided to forego the crowd-funding and finance development themselves. Unfortunately, this disconnected them from the core fan supporters.

“I think we dropped the ball there,” Watson admits. “We thought that audience would still just be there. We really neglected our community during the development of Banner Saga 2, because we were focusing on our work. I think that was a mistake. We all agree that was a mistake.”

Stoic insists the tale will continue in The Banner Saga 3, and Watson says the lessons learned from the first two games will benefit its development. Whether or not the third game will be crowd-funded is something the studio is still considering.

This is the Halo Mega Bloks game you’ll never play

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At some point in 2013, n-Space, the journeyman game developers responsible for a ton of licensed Nintendo ports of third-party titles, was secretly hard at work on an Xbox 360 game based on the Halo Mega Bloks property. This video from Andrew Borman of PtoPOnline shows how far along the project was before it was cancelled. Codenamed “Haggar” while in development, the Halo Mega Bloks game would’ve been a knock-off of the popular Lego games from Traveller’s Tales, but with the addition of Halo’s campaign structure and a cooperative multiplayer horde mode. Unfortunately for fans of Master Chief and low-budget brick building, the game would never make it past the final hurdle. Development ended when Microsoft’s focus shifted from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One.

In March 2016, n-Space was shuttered after 21 years in the industry.

If it wasn’t tough enough for you, XCOM 2 is getting longer and better

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The Long War 2 mod is coming for XCOM 2. According to Firaxis, the popular mod, originally made by Long War Studios for XCOM: Enemy Unkown, is coming to the PC version of XCOM 2. Welcome news for fans of making the fight for humanity tougher. In related news, Long War Studios will henceforth be known as Pavonis Interactive. Check out their snazzy new site here.

When it was still Long War Studios, Pavonis partnered with Firaxis to make official mods for XCOM 2 like the Long War Alien Pack, and Long War Toolbox.

Your next Mass Effect multiple choice could happen as early as March

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Mass Effect Andromeda is launching on March 21st in North America, and March 23rd in Europe. BioWare’s announcement dropped the official release dates and pimped the ambitious nature of the science fiction dating sim. No need to worry about quality. BioWare’s own team says it’s great.

Over this holiday break, developers at BioWare took home a version of the game in what we call the “holiday build”. This is a longstanding studio tradition that goes back to the early days of the original Mass Effect. Many load up a PC or console and go home to play as much as possible at their leisure. Coming back from holiday, the feedback has been great. Getting the endorsement from members of our studio, many of whom played key roles on the original trilogy, was definitely a key factor in helping us lock in on the date.

You can read the Quarter to Three review of Mass Effect 3 here.

It’s Planet Coaster versus RollerCoaster Tycoon in more ways than one

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When Atari and Nvizzio Creations launched RollerCoaster Tycoon World on November 16th, one day before Planet Coaster’s release date, everyone knew it would be a lopsided battle. RollerCoaster Tycoon World’s development had multiple development studios and at least one full project reboot. Planet Coaster had Frontier Development’s pedigree and a solid early access record. Once both games launched, it was clear that the critical winner was Planet Coaster. Now that the dust has settled, Frontier is on the attack again. This time, it’s going for a legal win. TMZ reports that Frontier Developments is suing Atari for $2.2 million in unpaid royalties from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. Eurogamer confirmed the report with Frontier’s David Walsh.

“We can confirm Frontier is currently pursuing a complaint against Atari. We have attempted to resolve this issue without legal action since April 2016. We have so far been denied our contractual right to audit by Atari, and we are unfortunately left with no other way to resolve our concerns. We are unable to offer any further comment while the matter is subject to due legal process.”

Chris Sawyer, the owner of the RollerCoaster Tycoon property, sued Atari in 2005 for a similar monetary grievance. The suit was settled out of court in 2008.

As if you didn’t have enough reason to stay away from Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius

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The free-to-play Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius for mobile platforms will guest star real world singer Ariana Grande. The pop star revealed her rabbit-eared videogame incarnation to her fans, even including some work-in-progress animation. For those unfamiliar with Ariana Grande’s work, you can watch a video of her singing in her bunny outfit here.

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is available on Google Play and Apple iTunes. There’s no word on when Ariana Grande will invade the game.

Remember DOS boot disks? That’s how serious Microsoft is about PC gaming.

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Microsoft may be adding a feature to Windows that minimizes other application needs to improve game performance. As reported by Windows Central, the “Game Mode” seen in test builds of Windows 10 lets the operating system prioritize a videogame over other running software and diverts resources as needed. Analysis suggests the mode works similarly to how the Xbox One handles the protocols for games versus other applications. How much of an improvement users can expect is unknown, or if the Game Mode feature will be available to games outside of those from the Windows Store.

As for when the feature will be implemented, the suggestion is that users could see an announcement along with the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update.

Frog Fractions 2 is out now, but people have been playing part of it for years

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Frog Fractions is one of those weird internet in-the-know things. It’s like in the speakeasy days when you had to knock a certain way, then say a specific phrase to get to the good part of the bar with the bathtub gin and the smokey blues. You have to know about it to know about it. It’s the low-budget indie kickoff to the wave of introspective works that are as much about gaming as they are games themselves. (If you haven’t played it yet, it’s here and it’s free.) Players have been eagerly awaiting the sequel since the Kickstarter successfully closed in 2014. Their patience has finally been rewarded. Frog Fractions 2 is available on Steam hidden within something called Glittermitten Grove.

The funny thing is that some people have been playing Frog Fractions 2 since before the Kickstarter was even announced. There’s been an alternate reality game for Frog Fractions 2 in which fans have participated in, and in some cases contributed to, the development of the sequel. Did you know that there is a hidden Frog Fractions message in Campo Santo’s Firewatch? Over two dozen indie game studios cooperated with Jim Crawford, the developer of Frog Fraction 2, to hide clues for the ARG in their games. The ARG ran right up to the final reveal of Frog Fractions 2 and involved thousands of savvy clue-hunters scouring various sites, games, and even physical locations. Whatever Frog Fractions 2 may say about gaming, the journey has already been an instructive one for many.