Best thing you’ll see all week: Edge of Seventeen

, | Movie reviews

I’ve been looking for Hailee Steinfeld for a while. I thought I caught a glimpse of her as an unlikely bridge between Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce in the morose romcom Hateship Loveship. If she was in that Romeo and Juliet that no one saw with a Romeo no one has heard of, I wouldn’t know. I didn’t see it. Could that have been her in Ender’s Game, playing fourth fiddle to Asa Butterfield, something no one should ever have to do? 3 Days to Kill was a showcase for the easy cool of Kevin Costner’s post-leading-man charm, but wasn’t that her giving it a little emotional gravity to offset McG’s McGness?

I seem to recall she might have been one of the lost faces in that dull swirl of girl slop called Pitch Perfect 2. Continue reading →

Microsoft will soon offer refunds on digital games, and not all developers are happy

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Currently, there’s not much you can do about getting a refund on a digital purchase of an Xbox or Windows 10 game. Microsoft’s policy as it stands now is a simple “no” on returns. But that may soon change. Selected Xbox and Windows 10 Insider members have access to a self-service refund pilot program, with parameters that are similar to the Steam return policy. Games eligible for a full refund must have been purchased within the last 14 days, and can only have less than two hours of play time recorded across all accounts. DLC and other digital add-ons are not allowed.

While the refund policy being tested seems like a great idea for customers, not everyone is pleased. The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, has been firing off on Twitter about the impending policy change, mostly taking issue with the two-hour play window.

It’s REALLY simple. Refunds should operate off a percentage of game completed. Simple, fair, representative.

A common complaint of Steam’s refund policy by some independent developers follows in the same vein. Critics say the two-hour refund turnaround is unfair to smaller, more “artsy” projects. Games that can be finished or have a majority of their content experienced within the time limit can then be returned for a full refund because there is no difference in the policy between a two-hour linear videogame story and a limitless open world sandbox. Essentially, Steam customers can consume the whole product, get their money back, then leave the developers in the lurch.

Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on their refund policy yet, but it’s possible we may get more news at E3 in June. Also, it will be interesting to see if Sony follows suit.

Gears of War 4 may finally end the mouse and keyboard versus controller debate

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Ranked Crossplay matches between Windows 10 and Xbox One players are coming to Gears of War 4 multiplayer. While Crossplay multiplayer has been available in Gears of War 4 since the beginning, it’s been stuck in the ghetto of social playlists, meaning it got about as much play as Marcus Fenix had with anyone not named Dom. With the upcoming change, mouse and keyboard warriors will face off against controller beasts in competitive ranked matches. It will be a welcome change for the PC players of the game for whom it’s been “increasingly difficult to find matches” likely due to a low population. According to The Coalition, the Ranked Crossplay feature will be largely controlled by console players, who will have access to a toggle to allow PC players into matches. Don’t be cowards, controller users! Let your system rivals in and settle the question once and for all!

In related news, the April Update for Gears of War 4 includes the pictured monstrosity.

Tom vs Bruce: Afghanistan ’11, turn zero

Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk have started a game of Afghanistan ’11 using the same seed (8B52H7SA1K1W, if you’d like to join us). Every week, they’ll post an update for ten turns of gameplay. Ideally, they’ll each get through all 60 turns of a game, at which point they’ll determine a winner by comparing hearts-and-minds score. The winner of a tie will be determined by alphabetical order. Using last names, of course. More likely, whoever lasts longer wins. Following is their pre-game briefing, otherwise known as “turn zero”.

After the jump, Operation Enduring Rivalry begins Continue reading →

Only half of the Bayonetta saga will ever be playable on the PC

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Sega was pretty coy for how they implied, but didn’t actually announce, that Platinum Games’ Bayonetta would be available on Steam today. So while it wasn’t exactly a surprise when it showed up, it was nevertheless a delight. It’s a great game and certainly my brawler of choice. I’ll take the Palin-esque Bayonetta over the emo Dante or brooding Kratos any day of the week.

However, don’t expect Bayonetta 2 to follow. The original game was published by Sega, who is more than happy to provide for venues other than the console systems in your living room. But Bayonetta 2 was published by Nintendo. Although they’ve flirted with other platforms (Pokemon Go, anyone?), they’re awfully parochial when it comes to non-Nintendo platforms. You’ll probably see Mario Kart on Steam before Bayonetta 2, which should happen sometime around the heat death of the universe.

How many games will you lose when your iPad updates to iOS 11?

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There’s almost nothing more terrible than seeing the notification for an iOS version update. What does this one do? Is it important? Will it break my stuff? Inevitably, some apps will work differently after the update. Others may just stop working entirely. It’s Darwinism by software. The next big Apple iOS update is a doozy that threatens to render hundreds of games inoperative. It’s the meteor coming to strike down the dinosaurs of legacy apps.

The iOS 11 update will reportedly push iPhones and iPads to a 64-bit system, leaving the 32-bit architecture behind. Good news for people that want more speed and stability in their Apple products. Bad news for people that want their old games to continue working. Despite warnings from Apple for years, many games are just not ready for the change. According to one estimate, over 187,000 apps are in danger of being made obsolete with iOS 11. Many of those on-the-edge apps are games, and unfortunately, some of them have been largely abandoned by the developers. Some are victims of neglect. Some are orphans whose developer went out of business. Apple mobile owners will have to make the painful decision to update their iOS to keep up with technology, while killing their outdated apps.

You can check this out yourself in the current version of iOS. Go to your General menu under Settings, then select About, and choose Applications. You should get a list of apps that will “slow down” your hardware and “will not work with future versions of iOS if they are not updated.” You’ll also see a helpful warning to “contact the app developer” for more information.

Minecraft finally creates its own money

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It was only a matter of time before Microsoft engaged the community and let them create the paid content for Minecraft. Mojang and Microsoft have announced the Minecraft Marketplace. It’s the paid mods model that everyone was so keen on when Valve and Bethesda tried it with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Your one stop shop for other people’s Minecraft work. There’s a new currency to go with the in-game shop, of course. Minecraft Coins ($9.99 for 1,720 Coins! Best Value!) are now available for all your shopping needs. Microsoft takes a 30% cut of the marketplace purchases, but the community creators get more, which the publisher hopes will encourage budding entrepreneurs.

The Minecraft Marketplace is available now in the mobile and Windows 10 versions of Minecraft.

Microsoft’s Project Scorpio brings new meaning to vaporware

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Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry has the exclusive tech analysis of Microsoft’s next iteration of the Xbox One. Buried in all the teraflops, gigawatts, numbers, (so many numbers) CPU and GPU talk, there is the intriguing revelation that Project Scorpio uses a vapor chamber heat sink to cool its chips. That’s a first for a console. Rather than being a millennial way to ingest tobacco products, advanced PC gamers will recognize the technique from higher-end graphics cards. Friction heats the 4K graphics, so Scorpio sprays a fine mist on them as they pass by to keep the textures cool. It’s like a Slip ‘N Slide for the graphics.

We still don’t know what the final product will look like, nor do we have any pricing information, but Microsoft will undoubtedly have more to share at E3. In the meanwhile, eager consumers should enjoy reading comparison charts and discussing ad nauseam which company is winning the console war.

Squirrel Girl coming to the Playstation 4! Also some other superheroes.

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Gazillion recently retooled the skill system in their very good free-to-play Marvel Heroes Online (for the record, the phrases “very good” and “free-to-play” rarely appear next to each other). It was quite the makeover. A whole bunch of bits and bobs were either cut out entirely, or streamlined, or clumped into larger bits and bobs. There were fewer skills with more distinct kinds of powers. Characters like Doctor Strange who required multiple hotkey bars got simpler. A crazy endgame thing called Omega Powers or something just vanished. Marvel Heroes suddenly worked well with a gamepad. I wonder why they did all that? Who can say?

Oh, speaking of Gazillion, guess what. Today they announced Marvel Heroes Online for the Playstation 4! Who could see that coming? It will be called Marvel Heroes Omega, so no wonder they had to cut the Omega thing from the PC game. That just would have been confusing.

The console version will retain the free-to-play model. No cross-platform play, of course. It will launch with 38 of the 61 superheroes currently in the PC version. Yep, there are 61 heroes in the PC version. I didn’t even know there were 61 Marvel heroes. I figured we’d run out after Ant-Man. But looking through the game’s roster, I see there’s one named Angela. Just Angela. Someone wasn’t even trying. The latest addition to Marvel Heroes was a guy named Black Bolt. He looks like Captain America trying to be edgy by wearing a black suit. He borrowed Hawkeye’s stubby little wings, which sort of takes the edge off. It makes him look like a little girl playing fairy princess. But, you know, in black.

Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind is whether Squirrel Girl will be among the 38 characters available at launch. We’ll find out soon enough, because Marvel Heroes Omega is due out this spring. As in, the season we’re currently in. Expect a beta announcement soon.

Get your creative curses ready. There is an exclusive version of Bulletstorm on G2A.

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Retailer exclusive versions of games is a tradition that all customers seem to vocally loathe. “If you want this unique tchotchke, you have to buy it from this store!” usually elicits a hearty “Dicktits!” in response. Despite, these deals remain popular with sellers and publishers for obvious reasons. For the first time, G2A, a reseller known for being more of an intermediary marketplace than an actual store with its own stock, has secured an exclusive version of a game with Gearbox.

The G2A Collector’s Edition of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, as its name implies, will only be available through If that’s not enough artificial scarcity for you, there will only be 48 total units of the G2A Collector’s Edition available at all. Each will come packed in a “bullet-ridden” steel box. Buyers will get a statue of an in-game character, dog tags, and the Steam key for the game. The Premium upgrade will come with a mouse pad and t-shirt, and the statue will be “expertly” hand-painted. Act fast! There are only six of the Premium packages for sale.

BioWare is fixing Mass Effect: Andromeda’s thousand-yard stare

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To say that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a bit sloppy is putting it mildly. Since its launch a couple of weeks ago, the latest installment of BioWare’s space roleplaying adventure has become a meme factory for anyone looking to poke fun at the glitches, tin ear writing, and clumsy animation. A particularly bad dialogue sequence between the player character and a Director Addison quickly became a social media joke. “My face is tired.” The grammar-Nazi correction. The garish rouge. Those dead doll eyes. Those eyes.

The 1.05 patch for Mass Effect: Andromeda may correct one of the more simple issues in the game. BioWare is “improving the appearance of eyes for humans and asari characters.” It may not completely end the “my face is tired” joke, but it could fix those uncanny valley eyes. Fixing all the animation in the game would be quite the undertaking, but revamping the eyes so they aren’t glassy stuffed animal orbs jammed into every character’s face could be a good start.

In Afghanistan ’11, history and game design go up to 11

, | Game reviews

My favorite strategy games are also historical essays. Paradox’s Victoria II considers how the rise of wealth corresponded with the demand for social reform in the industrial era. Joel Toppen’s boardgame, Comancheria, examines the cycle of brutalities European expansion and Native American culture inflicted on each other. Stardock’s Corporate/Political Machine explores how perception trumps reality. Afghanistan ’11 is about what we learned from Vietnam.

After the jump, the more things change, the more things change. Continue reading →

Freedom: Underground Railroad is the little engine that couldn’t quite

, | Game reviews

Compared to the 1970s, 1980s, or even 1990s, game designers today must feel like they have an incredible armamentarium for expressing theme. Whether it’s through worker placement, card mechanics, resource management, auctions, tableau-building, or even a mancala, there are now so many ways to make little meeples or whatnot go on cardboard adventures that it’s almost like having a whole new ludographic vocabulary. And designers are taking advantage of it, with tremendous new games being released it seems every month.

Then there’s Freedom: The Underground Railroad. Continue reading →