Games

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oblivion_killed_games

Ten years ago, Bethesda Softworks looked at the growing market in gamerpics (remember those?) and background themes in the Xbox Marketplace for the Xbox 360 console, and wondered if people would purchase something similar in a videogame. If people were willing to buy a virtual drawing of a funny face for their profile, why wouldn’t they buy a pony dress in their game? Thus, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s Horse Armor Pack DLC pack was born. A cosmetic bit of fluff for your in-game Oblivion steed, the content was originally sold for 200 Microsoft Points (remember those?) or $2.50. Although it became the poster-child of bad downloadable content, Bethesda pointed out that quite a lot of people bought it, even two years later.

To say the Horse Armor Pack was divisive would be an understatement. Some people felt very strongly that it was the death knell of gaming. They said it was a nickel-and-dime scam that piecemeal sold what should’ve been bundled in an expansion, or even given away for free as a mod. Others thought that it was no big deal. People would vote with their wallets and sanity would win out, tossing the “microtransaction” into the dustbin of history.

Horse Armor was neither as it turned out. It was the start of a revolution in the gaming industry. Far from killing gaming or going away quietly, it instead pointed the way forward. Whole companies and genres are built around this model of selling game content now. In fact, the argument over this experiment looks sort of quaint today. DLC is commonplace. One could even argue that the majority of gamers prefer to pay for their gaming experiences through DLC or microtransaction offers. After all, where would mobile gaming be without in-game purchases?

Hooray for Horse Armor! It changed gaming forever and gave us all a Godwin’s Law equivalent for DLC.

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aghast

That’s an in-game shot from RollerCoaster Tycoon World. My park guests could either be yawning at the game’s klunky performance on a decent PC, or they’re aghast that I’m playing this instead of a better game. It’s a mess. The game is in early access, so things could get better, but there’s a long way to go. As it stands now, it’s little more than a sparse sandbox park editor with a barely adequate tutorial mode coupled to art design that only barely looks as good as the full-featured RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 from 2004. The fact that the game is sorely unfinished didn’t stop the publisher, Atari, from boxing up a Steam code and tossing it up on retail shelves in some territories anyway.

Nvizzio Creations is the third studio that publisher Atari hired to take on the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise after Pipeworks Software and Area 52 Games were both removed from the project. Nvizzio at least seems to be excited to work on the project and they’ve acknowledged that they have some work to do. Hopefully, Atari recognizes that there is an audience willing to support these modestly budgeted, but well-made, sandbox sims.

Frontier Developments, the studio that made the previous RollerCoaster Tycoon games for Atari, is busy developing their own theme park sim, Coaster Planet.

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If you’d like to check out Battlefield Gothic Armada in motion, join me as I explore issues like whether space torpedoes are any good, the real value of ships being able to turn quickly, and how many points are worth putting into your navigator’s skill. For maximum space porn, I recommend watching in HD.

If you like that video and would like more like it, please subscribe to the Quarter to Three Youtube channel, which is currently a work in progress, so pardon our dust.

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grim_pants

This is the best item in Grim Dawn, the action roleplaying game from Crate Entertainment. Oh, you may find an item of armor with better protection, or a weapon with a more damaging effect on the enemy, but this is going to be the standard by which all other items are judged. Why bother with thorns or some kind of flame aura when you can throw the ultimate insult? Veni vidi merda.

Grim Dawn is finally out of early access and is available for Windows PC on Steam.

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jc_3v2

Kaboom! Within minutes of starting Just Cause 3, you’ll be blowing up stuff with Rico Rodriguez’ explosive box of toys. You get sticky bombs, grenades, and an RPG to start with, then more fun later as you complete challenges and unlock more gear. Blammo! Speaking of challenges, what’s that text scrolling on the right of the display? Oh, no. This won’t do at all. SexyPanther121 has blown up more of the island nation of Medici. GottaBMe has snapped off more headshots on government troops. Blow4Deth has collected more sports cars. Can you para-glide higher than OmniButt? Yes! Now Jackalacka has blown up more news helicopters. Just Cause 3 doesn’t have cooperative multiplayer, but what it does have are live leaderboards that push you towards more acts of destruction. As if the explosions weren’t enough carrot on a stick to make you do things, they add leaderboards!

Just Cause 3 is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.

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Fallout-4-dogmeat

The post-apocalyptic wasteland of Fallout 4 can be an unforgiving place. If you’re just popping out of a pre-war Vault, the radioactive territory can be quite a detriment to living. Here are some simple tips for making your way in the Boston area immediately after hitting the great outdoors.

After the jump, Radroaches are not delicious. Continue reading →

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blops_gender

In Call of Duty: Black Ops III, you can choose to play either a male character portrayed by Ben Browder, or a female operative voiced and mo-capped by Abby Brammell. Hey, that’s neat, right? For the first time in Activision’s blockbuster shooter franchise, you can choose the gender of your main character in the campaign. If you decide to take a female through the weird and linear Black Ops III story, all the cinematics will show Abby Brammell being tough and badass because in 2065, cyber-enhanced super soldiers are all pretty much equally deadly.

How weak is it then that Call of Duty: Black Ops III goes through the trouble of offering a female main character, and then opts to refer to the player character as “Player” in the game? Throughout the tale of inter-connected consciousness and paranoid fantasy that Treyarch weaves, you are only ever Player. You don’t even get a call-sign like “Soap” or “Noob.” Christopher Meloni chews virtual scenery as John Talyor, and as bland as that name is, at least his character gets a name. They couldn’t even jazz it up by going with the more street-savvy “Playa” giving you some identity. Player please!

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Game_of_Life_Spin_to_Win

The only things I remember about Life, the Hasbro boardgame that’s nearly as awful as Monopoly, is 1) the spinner in the middle of the board means never having to roll dice, and 2) you put blue and pink pegs in your car to represent family members. Blue represented dudes, pink represented chicks. Based on my recollections, the recently released Game of Life: Spin to Win videogame is a faithful recreation of the boardgame. It’s got a big spinner in the middle of the board and you accumulate pegs as you play. You start out as one peg on a scooter, you graduate to two spouse pegs in a sedan, and then you end up in a minivan with child pegs in the back seat.

But what I didn’t realize is that when it comes time for your peg to take a spouse, you can pick whether your spouse is a blue peg or a pink peg, regardless of your own peg color. So there’s my gay wedding up there, which happened because when I was picking a spouse, I thought I was telling the game the color of my own peg. Oops. There’s no divorce in the Game of Life, and I’m a pretty progressive guy, so I just rolled with it. Later, my husband and I flipped a city penthouse for a $100,000 profit, then we lost the money in a pool of lava, and we adopted a son who was delivered by helicopter. Somewhere along the way, I switched careers from farmer to brain surgeon. C’est la Life!

What Game of Life: Spin to Win, which carries the “family friendly” tag on Steam, absolutely won’t tolerate is bachelors. Marriage is mandatory. Now that’s family friendly!

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nuk3town-returns

There’s a new Nuketown map in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 because of course there is. You can get access to it by pre-ordering the game. This time, Activision and Treyarch say they’ve tuned the map to account for all the wall-running, and double-jump boosting that Black Ops 3 offers. If the thought of running back and forth and respawning umpteen times a session in that cul-de-sac for a third Call of Duty doesn’t turn you off, consider the name “NUK3TOWN” and everything that implies.

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Last_Guardian

Sony gleefully thumbed their nose at Microsoft’s floundering Xbox One for much of the press conference, with a number of exclusives, including timed exclusives snatched directly from Microsoft. The latest Call of Duty beta and map packs will be on the Playstation first, ending their long cozy relationship with Microsoft. That’s not much of a surprise given Sony’s hardware lead. Disney Infinity’s Star Wars releases this holiday season will have a timed exclusive on the Playstation. Sony’s streaming TV boasts a la carte availability for viewers with selective taste.

As for actual permanent exclusives, Sony ran down a list of stuff, showing substantial gameplay in each case: The Last Guardian made an appearance after being AWOL last year, Guerilla Games’ robot dinosaur hunting game Horizon, Street Fighter V, Spore-a-like No Man’s Sky, whatever the heck Media Molecules’ Dreams sandbox is, and Uncharted. The Uncharted demo belched and called a do over, at which point it trundled frantically along an uninterrupted look at a canned car chase that you’ll have to restart from myriad checkpoints when you actually play it. There’s also some Final Fantasy hoo-ha that I’m sure some people care about. Sony also provided glimpses of indies alongside the usual multiplatform franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, and Star Wars: Battlefront 3.

Sony even let Shenmue 3 unveil its $2 million Kickstarter campaign, which seemed to be a nice way of saying, “Well, we’re not going to publish your niche forklift and toy collecting revenge drama, but since it’s a Playstation game, we will help you publicize it.” Before the presentation was over, the sequel had accumulated a half a million dollars in pledges.

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Star_Wars_Battlefront_3

Electronic Arts screened a bunch of cinematic trailers today, giving us glimpses of how various games won’t play. Mass Effect: Ascension proves it’s not over until EA pulls the plug on the servers. You might be surprised to learn Star Wars: The Old Republic hasn’t been shut down. You’ll be even more surprised to learn it’s getting an add-on called Knights of the Fallen Empire, a title ripped from the Star Wars random game name generator. Unravel is a platformer in which a creepy little yarn demon poops out yarn. Need for Speed: Need for Speed feels the need for speed in “police-infested urban districts”. Way to pander, EA.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 showed gameplay because it consists of the rest of the stuff that should have been in Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 1. Namely, bot support for split-screen games and the option to play cooperative games with the zombies.

Then sports sports sports with a brief “let’s talk about mobile” interruption. The highlight of the sports sports sports section was when Pele, one of the actors from the Sylvester Stallone sports movie Victory, came out to promote the FIFA International Corruption Simulator 2016. Finally, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will be open-world. Think Assassin’s Creed, but with a female protagonist, but in first-person so you can’t really tell. Star Wars: Battlefront 3 will be carefully staged, with the X-wings and TIE Fighters flying super low to make sure they’re in the shot and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader recreating their iconic battle in front of the AT-AT on Hoth.

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clicky_clicky_dead

Click. Click. Click. Clicker Heroes is a game about clicking. You click the screen to kill monsters, gain gold, and level up heroes to gain more abilities, to click bigger monsters, etc. It starts harmlessly enough with one click of your mouse doing one hit point of damage on a cartoon RPG beast. Click-click-click and the monster dies with a satisfying sound accompanied by a gold piece dropping out of its body. There’s no strategy. There’s no way to fail. Hoover up the gold and wait for the next monster to appear. How did four hours pass? Why am I trying to maximize click damage and calculate grind times to get to 100,000 damage per click? It’s dumb and simple and insulting, but you’ll sit there clicking away because stuff is happening and the lizard part of your brain feels good.

Clicker Heroes isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s likely the first in the genre to make the transition to Steam, complete with in-game app purchases. ($99.00 for a bunch of gems to help you click faster!) Cow Clicker by Ian Bogost is probably the genesis of this type of thing. If you haven’t checked out Mr. Bogost’s analysis of his own creation, you should. He goes into a lot of the reasons why it works and why you may want to look out for these tactics in “real” games. That’s if you get time between clicks.

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