PC Archives - Page 3
February 7, 2008
Upper Deck can't seem to get enough of the World of Warcraft gaming franchise (and who can blame them). Last year they released the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, and now they are planning to release the tabletop miniatures game World of Warcraft Minis.
"Each premium pre-painted miniature will showcase a detailed version of an iconic World of Warcraft character and be mounted on a uniquely engineered removable base, allowing each figure to serve as both a game piece and a collectible. In the spirit of the action and adventure of the MMO, the World of Warcraft Miniatures Game will offer standalone raid and dungeon scenarios, letting players battle either individually or cooperatively against other teams of players or the game itself.
Of course this really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with the recent success of the Halo ActionClix game from WizKids that WoW would go this route.
The game is to launch in "Fall 2008", so expect to hear about this game ad nauseam until it's finally released. The official site WoWMinis.com has very little information about the game (they promise constant updates), but the four minis on display look to be very detailed a definitely have that "Wow-feel" to them.
Ah hell, they could probably take a piece of coal at this point, paint it green, call it an orc and I'm sure it would sell a million copies! Let me at this game! Need more WoW!
February 7, 2008
In perhaps the largest rebuttal for the whispers of the death of PC gaming since World of Warcraft reached 10 Million users, Steam today announced that they have surpassed 15 million users of their digital distribution and community driven PC gaming platform. Straight from the mouth of Gabe Newell (President of Valve):
PC gaming is thriving, and has evolved into an era of constant connectivity. That connectivity gives us the ability to have a much better relationship with customers, not just for delivering our games, but across all aspects of our business - including the design, development, and support of our games. Features like Guest Passes, Free Weekends, Gifting, and the Steam Community have been very well received both by customers and the developers who are using Steam.
2007 was definitely been a good year for Steam, with the release of Xbox Live like community features including Friends, in game messaging, and even clans as well as the recent release of Steamworks, a set of completely free development tools including encryption, in game voice chat, and multiplayer matchmaking. More and more game studios have also joined Valve in selling their games over Steam, including both Take Two and Activision.
I gave up on PC gaming for a few months after getting my Xbox 360. The community features and ease of use (no installs, free demos, and automatic patches) was such a pleasant upgrade from the hassles of PC gaming I just didn't think I'd ever go back. That all changed when Steam turned itself from just a store to a platform, a platform that works so well, I have no idea how Microsoft is going to keep trying to sell Windows Live for $50. With the recent release of Steamworks, I know it won't be long before Steam is the De facto platform for PC gaming. The last piece of the puzzle would be the ability to launch World of Warcraft from Steam, something that may no longer be such a ridiculous proposition.
February 2, 2008
I've already expressed my personal anticipation for Stardock and Ironclad's upcoming game, Sins of Solar Empire, but here's another reason to give it a look: it has the simplest copy protection I've seen in a PC game. And how do they do that? By having none at all!
In a dramatic difference from the terrible copy protection implemented into BioShock over the past summer, publisher Stardock is continuing their incredibly simple approach to avoiding piracy: by making it worth your while to actually buy the game. In their blog on ign.com, Stardock writes:
Any system out there will get cracked and distributed. But if you provide reasonable after-release support in the form of free updates that add new content and features that are painless for customers to get, you create a real incentive to be a customer.
Stardock included this system on their previous game, Galactic Civilizations II, and never having to worry about the CD, and being able to let my friend try out the game (sans any new updates or patches), was great. He liked the game so much, he bought the gold edition of game himself once it was released, something that couldn't have happened with most any other PC game. I was already excited for this games excellent looking combination of 4X strategy, real time combat, and epic space theme, but this is just icing on the cake. Check out this great interview to learn more.
January 30, 2008
With gaming being such an expensive hobby, it's nice to see some high quality mods to enhance our existing games and innovative indie games for our enjoyment. Website Mod DB has announced the winners of it's Mod and Indie game awards for 2007, all chosen through a popular vote.
A bounty of excellent games can be found here, especially if you own Half Life 2 or Battlefield 2. The Half Life 2 mod Insurgency won the award for best released Mod of 2007. The game is a highly refined multiplayer modern combat game set in the Middle East.
Zombie Panic: Source won the prize for best Unreleased Mod of 2007. Zombie Panic has actually been released since the voting started taking place, so be sure to give this unsettlingly eerie zombie/survival horror mod for Half Life 2 a try.
My highly anticipated game, Beyond the Red Line, won first place in the Indie Games category and shows excellent production values usually not seen in an indie game. None of the indie games require other games to play, so be sure to give them a try.
I myself would of course recommend Beyond the Red Line to any Battlestar Galactica fan, but I'd also like to give a shout out to 5th place winner Minerva . This mod is so ridiculously impressive, that employees from Valve actually got involved in its development. Any gamer who loves Half Life 2 owes it to themselves to pay this mod. The game is phenomenally good, you'll swear Valve made the levels for the real game and just forgot to put them in.
It's also nice to try out these indie games and show their developers support. They make these games and mods out of pure passion without any expectations of pay. Mods are also an excellent jumping point into the gaming industry, so I wouldn't be surprised if Valve and EA were looking at these developers too. Counter Strike and Team Fortress both started off as mods (the originals are still popular today) and led to fully produced sequels, so hopefully we will see some great work from these developers in the future.
January 22, 2008
Some may have doubted it, thought it had reached a plateau, but today Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft has officially hit 10 Million subscribers. With 2 million in Europe, 2.5 million in North America, and 5.5 million subscribers in China, Azeroth now has the 80th highest population of the 221 countries in the world.
Blizzard was also happy to remind us that the Burning Crusade was the highest selling PC game in North America in 2007, as well as the record for the fastest selling PC game ever, at 2.4 million copies sold in one day. Because they so totally earned it, here's a quote of Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime "gloating" over the news:
"It's very gratifying to see gamers around the world continuing to show such enthusiasm and support for World of Warcraft. We're always pleased to welcome new players to the game, and we're looking forward to sharing the next major content update with the entire community in the months ahead."
Blizzard also clarified that this subscriber number counts only those who have paid a subscription fee in the last month, use a prepaid card in the last month, or are using the free 1 month trial that comes in the box. Those using free trials or promotional codes, as well as expired subscriptions and prepaid cards, are not counted in this total.
I think it's appropriate to use the phrase here: Wow. 10 Million people all playing the same relatively hardcore game, all at the same time is really quite mind boggling. I myself have played World of Warcraft as much as possible for as little as possible (2 free trials and the 1 month that comes in the box), though I have always considering going back in if any of my friends would be willing to join me. The game really does have an addicting quality to it, one that I would probably have continued if I hadn't got my Xbox 360 just as the trial was ending. How many Gaming Steve readers and listeners count towards this incredible number?
January 21, 2008
The next chapter in the Battlefield series was announced today, Battlefield Heroes, and it seems that EA and DICE are taking a page from Chinese MMOs and Team Fortress 2. Battlefield Heroes is scheduled for release this Summer, will online-only, and completely free to download and play – could this "casual" FPS that is immune to piracy be the new direction of multiplayer PC games?
Although free to download ads will display within sections of the game, but will not appear within the game itself. According to Ben Cousins, senior producer at DICE, the ads "wouldn't work inside the fictional world".
Battlefield: Heroes will also allow people to purchase new items and content within the game. Cousins also promises that these micro-transactions will not include weapons and be mostly cosmetic, although both these comments sound contrary to other reports about the game.
As long as Ben Cousins is the one with the correct information (and I don't see why not), this sounds great. Leaving the ads out of the gameplay and making the micro-transactions only cosmetic is the best way to implement these features. I know some gamers have a problem with ads in games, but I've always been of the mind that as long as they are actually make the game cheaper (or in this case free) and don't impede gameplay that they are completely welcome. Micro-transactions also seem to be handled well since they won't allow a wealthier player to simply buy better a better character.
The exaggerated graphics are also a nice touch. The game will reportedly run on "grandma's laptop", meaning just about anyone with a computer can play, plus stylized graphics also don't get outdated as quickly as games that try to look as "realistic" as possible. Team Fortress 2 proved that having exaggerated characters also helps to identify characters, which is a perfect combination for cosmetic micro-transactions. I can also see how EA is interested in this model because it both prevents piracy while also lowering the barrier of entry.
January 16, 2008
2007 was a fantastic year of gaming, one filled with games I still have yet to play. But 2008 is already looking like a another great year for gaming, one filled with many potential triple-A titles. I was prepared to write up a list of my 10 most anticipated games of the whole year but I quickly found 10 coming out before April that I'm dying to play.
10. Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360, Wii)
I missed Bully back on the PS2, so I'm happy for its re-release on the Xbox 360 and Wii, with added content and updated graphics. Mostly known for its media backlash before even being released, the original game focused on tough kid Jimmy Hopkins, who's been sent to Bullsworth Academy after being expelled from seven other schools.
Consisting of the sandbox style gameplay known from the GTA games, Bully takes you through high school culture using a wide variety of gameplay including schoolyard combat, bicycle riding, childhood crushes, and school pranks to name just a few. Jimmy interacts with five groups at the school, ranging from preps to jocks to nerds, while teachers and adults outside the school also give Jimmy missions to complete. While the gameplay looks varied, what I'm really looking forward too is the excellent voice acting, story, and interesting characters, something I wish more developers would spend time on.
Release Date: March 4, 2008
9. Devil May Cry 4 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Devil May Cry 4 promises to continue the story of the series (Devil May Cry 3 was a prequel), and at least on the PS3, the game allow players to watch a summary of the series story so far, while the game installs a cache onto the hard drive to eliminate all loading during game. Perhaps my favorite new feature is the addition of both a more balanced difficulty level and an actual tutorial to teach you the combat. With this and Ninja Gaiden 2, 2008 looks like a good year for action games.
Release Date: February 5, 2008
8. Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (PC, Xbox 360)
In addition to their new regular units, each side will be getting unique hero-type “Epic Units”. The idea of hulking monstrosities that can single handedly “turn the tide of a battle”, from the Scrin's Eradicator to NOD's Redeemer, just fills me with joy. Of course, it also helps that the original Command & Conquer 3 was a fantastic game in it's own right, but with new units, abilities, and a Risk style “Conquer the World” campaign, where can you go wrong? And don't worry, there will be plenty more of the fantastic cut-scenes featuring Joseph Kucan as NODs messiah, Kane.
Release Date: March 13, 2008
7. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)
An entire new cast of characters and therefore new CO powers means a fresh new set of strategies to try. CO powers have also been toned down and tag team powers eliminated so that the game can't be won in a single turn, something that greatly annoyed me during Dual Strike's campaign. The units have been rebalanced and some new ones have been added, but the biggest improvement is the Wi-Fi multiplayer. Players will be able to play games over Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service, complete with voice chat and map sharing. Another added multiplayer feature that is conversely low tech is the ability to simply pass the DS each turn for local multiplayer, something every turn based game on a portable should have.
Release Date: January 21, 2008
6. Rez HD (Xbox 360 Live Arcade)
Perhaps I am looking at this game too pretentiously, but since I loved Lumines, a game also created by Rez's creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, I know that there is some real creative talent behind the game. Whether I like it or not, it's one of those games I feel I need to play for myself. Updated HD graphics and an 800 MS Point (10$) price tag only sweetens the deal. You'll also be able to use your extra Xbox 360 controllers as “Trance Vibrators” to... well... “enhance the experience”.
Release Date: January 2008
5. Burnout: Paradise (Xbox 360, PS3)
What do I mean by an improved “free roaming city”? How about absolutely no front end. As in no menu screens or server lobbies to navigate through in order to find races or jump online. Just pull up to any stop light in the game and press accelerate and reverse at the same time to start an event. The game also allows players to join their friends in their own version of Paradise City to crash and compete all without stopping their driving, an impressive technical achievement in its own right. Gorgeous graphics and an extensive collection of super destructible cars will make this the racing game to beat in 2008. A demo is available on both consoles, and I highly recommend playing it online to see what makes that game so great.
Release Date: January 22, 2008
4. Condemned 2: Blood Shot (Xbox 360, PS3)
Release Date: March 11, 2008
3. Culdcept: Saga (Xbox 360)
Consisting of a game board made up of four distinct elements where you summon monsters to protect you territory, and a deck of magic, monster, and weapon cards you get to build, the gameplay is unlike anything else you might have seen on the console. You win the game by obtaining a set amount of gold, which you have to gain by moving around the board, capturing territory, and forcing your opponents to pay a toll when they land on your territory. However, instead of hotels and motels you collect rent using demons and dragons.
When one player lands on another's territory, battle commences where you use monsters and additional armor, weapon, and magic cards to avoid paying the toll (and steal their territory). With the added randomness of dice rolls, the gameplay takes on a very unique feel, where a game can be completely turned around by a lucky roll. And nothing is more satisfying that having you opponent land on your thrice upgraded territory and beaten down by your ax-wielding minotaur. Always wished you could do that in Monopoly, don't you?
Release Date: February 5, 2008
2. Sins of a Solar Empire (PC)
With research trees, colony improvements, and diplomacy, everything you expect from turn based strategy games is to be found here, but lets not forget the giant spaceships are so awesome: the epic, cinematic, and explosive battles. Combat takes a page out of Homeworld 2's book and presents some interesting ideas, including Capitol ships that gain experience, battles taking place within the gravity wells of planets, and helpful AI that knows which ship to attack and which it has no chance against. This game has the chance to replace Homeworld 2 on my laptop hard drive.
Release date: February 4, 2008
1. Beyond the Red Line (PC, Mac)
While it doesn't have the exacting Newtonian physics from the show, it does have a pretty good alternative that allows you conserve your inertia for some tricky maneuvers. Oozing quality, from its excellent graphics, spoken dialog, and a soundtrack both from the show and originally composed, it's amazing that this game is just being given away. A demo is available with three single player missions and multiplayer mode and I've found it works really well with an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your PC.
Release Date: Pray to the Gods it is soon!
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – I never got into the previous games as much as my friends, and their being so much better than me makes it a pretty unfair (and unfun) fight. Maybe with Brawl I can concentrate my time into one character (Solid Snake!) and at least have a fighting chance.
Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) – I originally had this game in the list at number 3, since it had a tenuous Q1 2008 release date. I thought it was funny to point out how notorious Valve is for delaying games and I guess I just tempted fate: the game was pushed back to the summer before I finished my article.
Castle Crashers (Xbox Live Arcade) – A beautiful looking arcade games that has been delayed multiple times now, I just hope we can play it before the end of the year. Awesome looking multiplayer action from the people that brought you Alien Hominid, Rez HD faces stiff competition for my Microsoft Points.
January 15, 2008
Their will always be those predicting the coming death of "hardcore" PC gaming. While we all know it's not coming anytime soon, one serious problem the platform does face is rampant piracy. Fourzerotwo, the Community Relations Manager for Infinity Ward, wrote this on his blog:
"We pulled some disturbing numbers this past week about the amount of PC players currently playing Multiplayer (which was fantastic). What wasn't fantastic was the percentage of those numbers who were playing on stolen copies of the game on stolen / cracked CD keys of pirated copies (and that was only people playing online). It blows me away at the amount of people willing to steal games (or anything) simply because it's not physical or it's on the safety of the internet to do."
Lucky for Call of Duty 4, the game sold well on both Xbox 360, PS3, and to a degree, the PC. A less fortunate developer, Crytek, suffered relatively low sales last year of their critically acclaimed game Crysis. A quick look at a few unscrupulous websites shows over a thousand seeders available for just one of many torrents of Crysis.
I'm estimating here, but I think it's possible that Crysis may have missed out on more than 10% of its sales due to piracy, and realistically much more. On the 1up Yours podcast, John Davidson mentioned talking to EA about their being over 14,000 illegal downloads of Crysis on day one alone. Considering Crysis' last reported sales were only 86,633 copies sold that is a terribly high number of illegal downloads.
Many gamers were outraged at BioShock publisher 2K Games using some extreme methods of anti-piracy last summer, but with this kind of rampant piracy, is it not reasonable?
Then again, Galactic Civilizations II managed to sell 50,000 in it's first week, despite having no piracy protection and being a relatively unknown series. Is this piracy problem going to continue to hurt PC gaming, or will new subscription based models or anti-piracy features stop it?
January 14, 2008
Is your wallet still hurting from the frenetic holiday season? Already played all the biggest hits and overlooked games? Then look no further than 1up.com's excellent list of 101 Free Games, the third in an annual series of free game features.
From shooters, puzzles games, RPGs, and strategy games, their's something here to fit everyone's taste. It's also a chance to try out some really innovative ideas that would never find their way into a retail game . And if you have any interest in making games yourself, maybe you can find some inspiration in this massive list of games, or just see what other small developers are doing.
There's even a couple of previously purchasable games (TrackMania Nations and Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die) now free to play and a couple great mods for Half Life 2 and Battlefield 2. I haven't had a chance to play many yet, but Crayon Physics is great (especially if you have a Walcom Tablet ) and so is the Geometry Wars like Echoes.
January 12, 2008
Valve has confirmed that within the next two months, the PC version of Team Fortress 2 will be getting two new maps. Also coming before those maps is a Medic-centric achievement pack. Valve intends to add an achievement pack for every class at some point, and using these achievements they intend to make a "large scale" change to the gameplay. Valve's Robin Walker said this in Shacknews' scoop:
"It's a large scale modification to the core of the game. It'll debut in a limited fashion through the Medic first, but it'll be affecting all classes eventually. We're really looking forward to the community reaction. We're really excited about where TF2 will be going over the next year."
One of the new maps is a remake of Badlands from Team Fortress Classic. The map will focus on more vertically-oriented battles because it's control points are located at the top of spires. The other map has yet to be announced and unfortunately for console owners, neither of these maps has been confirmed to be coming to either the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360.
Knowing Valve, I doubt these maps will be anything but free, though I'm basing that on the fact that Valve is so good at giving stuff away. The "friends" service added to Steam is many times more competent than Microsoft's Windows Live, and comparable to Xbox Live all without costing users a dime. Team Fortress 2 is easily my favorite online multiplayer shooter, it's only problem being the limited amount of maps. I can't wait to prance about these maps with my head full of eyeballs, how about you?