The first four of hopefully lots more Williams tables for Pinball FX3 just came out this week. Williams Pinball: Volume 1 is $10 DLC that adds Fish Tales, The Getaway, Junk Yard, and Medieval Madness, which all feel dated…in a good way. They’re among the physical tables from the days of yore, from actual stand-up pinball machines that exist in the real world, now ported into Pinball FX3 thanks to Zen Studios’ licensing deal with Williams. They introduce an odd dilemma for those of us who’ve been playing Zen’s tables all these years.
Pinball FX’s physics have been criticized as “floaty” or “soft”, and it’s not an unfair observation. Their tables are made to play by their own rules, with their own feel for where the ball should go and how. They never claimed to model actual steel balls rolling down actual inclines, bouncing off actual bumpers, and flipped by actual flippers. You could say their physics are stylized, which has freed Zen Studios to do some truly strange things with their tables. That’s just part of the identity of Pinball FX. There are other videogame pinball options for people who put a priority on real world physics. But with these four new tables, when you play a standalone round independent of the unlockable bonuses and wizard powers, you have the option to choose a “difficulty” setting. The choices are Arcade Mode or Tournament Mode. Arcade Mode is Zen Pinball as it’s always been. “Floaty” and “soft”, if you will. But Tournament Mode is their brand new physics model, presumably built to bring a sense of fidelity to these classic tables. And boy, does it feel different.
It feels so different that it doesn’t feel like Pinball FX anymore. It feels faster, and less forgiving, which is probably why Zen calls it a “difficulty” setting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s like playing a whole new game. Who could object to getting a whole new game? And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to play it. But if you do like it — which I really do — now you have four tables that play this cool new way, and 78 tables that don’t. Now you might find yourself wishing the 78 other tables would get their own Tournament Mode. Now you might find yourself understanding why people bitched all these years about “floaty” and “soft” physics. Really, it just means I have to make hard choices as I mess around with these new tables. Get used to the new physics? Or pretend they aren’t in there? There are separate leaderboards for each mode, and although part of me winces at leaderboards splitting off in so many different directions, it does give me more options to beat my pesky friends who play Pinball FX3.
But what’s most puzzling to me is that now I like these tables that I didn’t think I would like, and not necessarily because I actually, you know, like the tables themselves. I like how they play. I like Tournament Mode physics. I’m coming around to the actual tables. I’m sold on Getaway, which is fast and flashy and open and growls like a muscle car. It wants to move. The pinball whipping madly around the crazy racetrack at the top of the table will never get old. It also means I’ll never have to play V12 again. Have you tried that table lately? Ugh. Junk Yard and Fish Tales are kind of junky and weird, but it feels nice to play these old fashioned designs for a change. Medieval Madness, however, just feels superfluous, given that Zen already has a jokey generic fantasy table called Epic Quest. But you can’t play Epic Quest in Tournament Mode, so Medieval Madness has that going for it. This will all be a non-issue as soon as Zen releases more Williams tables, especially the real classics like Pin-bot or Bride of Pin-bot, which give that much more weight to the new physics. But please hurry, Zen! It’s a very confusing time for some of us fans.
Gunfingers! What better way for Peter Parker, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, to greet fellow New Yorkers on the street? A wave? A casual hello? Pow! It’s gunfingers! The universal salute everywhere of dorks trying too hard to look cool. It’s the perfect choice for the web slinger in Insomniac’s just-launched Marvel’s Spider-Man. Parker is a nerd suddenly granted superpowers and fame, so of course the kid uses gunfingers. The less said of the selfie button, the better.
I’m honestly about to barf. Like, sitting here with my head between my knees in a cold sweat. But I just couldn’t stop myself. I just couldn’t. I kept going even as I felt it balling up in the pit of my stomach and then rising up my gorge. I couldn’t stop.
The North American turkey. Staple of Thanksgiving dinner tables and renaissance fairs. In Far Cry 5, they are murderous foes capable of pecking and gobbling an adult human or mountain lion to death in seconds. They are the merciless ninjas of Montana. Beware! Beware the mighty turkey!
The indie game scene on Steam, once filled with rags to riches stories, has become a place for dreams to die. Mike Rose of No More Robots, told attendees at the 2018 Game Developers Conference that their wide-eyed optimism for success on Steam was an error. According to his data, the average game on Valve’s PC gaming service makes about $30,000 in sales in its first year. Sales decline from then on. For small studios with more than one person working a ton of hours to bring their indie vision to life, this is sobering news.
“A lot of people are coming to me saying things like ‘our game’s a bit like Limbo, and Limbo sold millions of copies.’ Oh god, that’s not how it works.”
The problem, of course, is an over-saturated platform. In 2017, over 6,000 games launched on Steam, and thus far 2018 is looking to double that figure. Rose’s advice for indie developers? Have a plan to sell on other platforms, and make your product stand out from the overcrowded space. Even then, Rose cautions indies to prepare for less-than-stellar sales.
This is the brig. It’s the jail in a naval vessel, used to hold prisoners like enemy combatants or disobedient sailors. In Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves, it’s an option that a ship’s crew can use to isolate troublemakers. It can also be used to troll players. If the ship votes to put you in the brig, you’ll pop behind bars and you’ll be stuck there until the crew decides to let you out or you log out and try a different group.
On a real ship, you’d appear before the captain and he’d snarl for his bosun to toss you in the brig. In Sea of Thieves, you just appear in the cell. Unlike just about every other activity in Sea of Thieves, there are no instructions on how to be a prisoner. There is no minigame. You are just trapped.
That’s how I wound up spending an hour in the brig during this past weekend’s beta. I fumbled around thinking there was some puzzle or activity I had to complete to break out, but that wasn’t the case at all. My sin was being a random swabbie instead of one of the cool kids.
Microsoft is bundling PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with the Xbox One X. The hot as fire battle royale multiplayer game just launched as an Xbox exclusive and racked up over 1 million players in 48 hours. That’s a million players without a demo version. To celebrate, Microsoft is offering the game as a free bonus to all Xbox One X buyers until the end of the year.
Despite some widely reported technical issues, it appears Battlegrounds will be as big of a hit on consoles as it is on the PC. That’s a lot of chicken dinners.
Christmas is coming! If you still have a gift to get for that special gamer gal or guy, Quarter to Three is here with ten holiday suggestions. These are all items for sale now, (no pre-order hooey) and they’re all affordable. We’ve done our best to pick items that are easy to get as well, so you won’t have to stand in line for hours or scour the hidden recesses of eBay for rarities. Any of these gifts are sure to please!
I’ve already invested a fair amount of time in Assassin’s Creed: Origins on the PS4, but I couldn’t resist taking a gander at how it looks on the PC. Hoo boy! What a difference a GTX 1080 makes! “So much for playing on the PS4,” I decided, hunkering down to catch up with where I’d gotten on the PS4. But then three things happened in the 37 minutes I’ve logged on Steam: 1) Bayek doesn’t actually whistle when he whistles for his camel. I just press a key and the camel shows up, as if we have some sort of mind link. I’m uncomfortable with a camel inside my head. Plus, as someone who can’t do that cool pet-summoning whistle in real life, I want my power fantasy avatars to be able to do it. 2) I slew a leopard. Then it’s body melted about a foot into the ground. Which would be no big deal except that the twinkly loot point was also a foot under the ground. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the loot prompt to appear. The upper twinkly bits of the “loot here!” effect danced tantalizingly on the ground, like the leaves of a half-sprouted tuber. But the leopard pelt that I hunted fair and square was beyond my reach. 3) Bayek walks and runs in complete and utter silence. He even swims in silence. There is not so much as a gentle plash. While I concede this is a useful trait for an assassin, I kind of prefer the ambient shuffle of feet as Bayek’s boots pad across the sand. Visual immersion is all good and well, but it sort of falls apart when the sound is messed up.
So it’s back to the PS4, begrudgingly, where none of these three things happens. But now I’m having second thoughts because it’s so much easier to get headshots with a mouse. What’s more, the Destiny inspired inventory and quest screens aren’t so clunky when you’re driving with a mouse. And did I mention how much better it looks? I just have to accept the sad fact that no matter what platform you decide to play on, it’s always going to be an imperfect choice.
That’s The Hard Way, a real honest-to-gosh KFC virtual reality game created by W+K Lodge. According to John Minori, the design lead on the project, the studio wanted to create an experience that made the fictional Colonel Sanders “obsessive and borderline menacing.” What better way to do that than ape Andrew Ryan’s kindly instruction?
A section of Highway 1 in Big Sur, California was closed due to a landslide that occurred on May 20th. If you’re not cruising down the historic Pacific Coast Highway this summer, you may not think this would have an impact on your activities, but if you play American Truck Simulator, think again. SCS Software has implemented an update of the game that includes this 13-acre addition to California’s coastline and closure of the in-game route.
Its reopening in our American Truck Simulator will depend entirely on real world events.
It appears SCS Software may have its first test of their software-as-service approach. As of a few hours ago, the California Department of Transportation has issued an alert that the previously closed route is now partially open. If only American Truck Simulator modeled mud-slogging and dirt traversal!
One of the big mysteries for Sony PlayStation gamers is the platform’s lack of cross-network play with Xbox. When Microsoft announced the cross-network play initiative earlier in the year, Sony only confirmed that they already had that ability since Final Fantasy 11 on the PlayStation 2 and PC. A cryptic but possibly hopeful answer to Microsoft’s invitation. Those hopes were dashed when Sony confirmed at E3 that Rocket League and Minecraft on PlayStation 4 would not be participating in the effort despite Nintendo pledging to make their versions of the games cross-network compatible. Eurogamer sat down with Sony PlayStation’s global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan and put the question directly to him.
We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft – the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it’s all ages but it’s also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.
When pressed for clarification since Nintendo, a company famously protective of their young audience, is willing to cooperate, Ryan offered, “Everybody has to take their own decisions.”
Alan Wake may be disappearing soon. According to Remedy Entertainment, the 2010 horror game is being removed from sale on digital outlets, including the Xbox, Steam, and Windows stores on the 15th of May. The developer noted that music rights issues are the reason for the removal, and while they are looking into solutions such as relicensing, they cannot guarantee that a deal will be worked out. While the game will be removed from sale, if you already have it in your library by that date, you should be able to re-download it at any time.
While Alan Wake’s original score was created by Petri Alanko, the game did feature a few songs from other artists such as David Bowie, Roy Orbison, Nick Cave, and Depeche Mode which could be problematic for renewing the music licenses. Alan Wake will go on sale on the 13th at a 90% discount to allow for last-minute buyers to grab it. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the 2012 standalone sequel, is not being impacted by this music licensing issue and will remain available for purchase.
…games have got [sic] immeasurably better. They are often beautiful, narratively interesting, enriching and social. Indeed, it is possible that they are too good. Today’s games seem to be displacing careers, friendships and families, and thus stopping young people (particularly men) from starting real, adult lives.
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Oh, what? You have some data?
Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.
And what’s that got to do with videogames?
Economists typically (and reasonably) assume that people tend to buy more things as they earn more money. But as they grow richer, they buy proportionately more of some things and less of others. Spending on necessities, as a share of all consumption, declines as incomes rise. Economists label “luxuries” the things that account for an increased share of spending as income goes up. There is a similar logic to leisure luxuries. As the amount of time people spend at leisure (as opposed to work) rises, some activities (like bathing or sleep) account for a shrinking share of total leisure time. Others the leisure luxuries account for more.
(What does it say about me that as I read that article, I imagined how that model would fit into The Sims?)
Among those predisposed to the leisure-luxury life, better games mean people are quicker to swap working hours for gaming hours; given nes-era [sic] gaming technology, a twenty-something might decline an opportunity for overtime work to have a little longer with Mario and Luigi. Now, a part-time job might be all they are willing to do, so good are the worlds and characters waiting at home. For those with the means, any hour on the job is an hour too much.
A lot of writer Ryan Avent’s anecdotes smack of videogaming guilt, a unique phenomena which doesn’t exist to the same degree for other forms of entertainment. His attempt to draw a parallel between life and game design is cringe-worthy, particularly his conclusion that the real world needs better dynamic difficulty adjustment. But his basic premise isn’t the usual mainstream alarmism. While I believe videogames belong alongside other forms of leisure and entertainment, their capacity to suck up time is unique. The long-term and widespread effects can’t be negligible.