Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Black Ops II And Gratuitous Space Battles Can Be Played For Free This Weekend

So gratuitous…

Maybe you’d like to play some games this weekend? Maybe you’d like them to be completely free? Maybe you’d also like them to be games you don’t own; games that will stop letting you play them on Sunday unless you pay a reduced price to secure their continued use? That’s a bizarre set of conditions, but whatever, Steam’s got you covered. BothCall of Duty: Black Ops 2andGratuitous Space Battlesare holding Free Weekend trials, giving you unpaid access to two completely different ends of the gaming spectrum.

Gratuitous Space Battles is a sci-fi strategy in which you design spaceships, construct a space-fleet, issue space-orders and then watch as your space-squadron battles it out against an army of spacejerks. In space. It’s currently 75%, with the generously stocked Complete Pack costing ?3.49.

CoDBlOps 2 is a purgatorial nightmare in which you’re forced to endlessly and repetitively kill aggressors, all while smug and indifferent soldiers babble in an alien language of numbers, Zs and Xs, performing depraved rituals like“Noscope” and… Oh wait, it’s just a relatively fun arcade FPS. It’s 33% off, at ?26.79.

Both trials will end at 9pm GMT on Sunday, at which point you’ll have to start playing games you actually own or something.

Prison Architect’s Alpha7 Update Bangs Up The Backers

The latest Prison Architect update celebrates the incarceration management sim’srecent milestonesby inserting the faces, names and bios of all backers who’ve pledged the required amounts. Players who’ve paid at least $50 can find themselves in the new Name in the Game option, and request to have themselves transferred to their jail.

Which means you can now watch helplessly as you’re shanked in your own prison. Weird.

Other additions in this new update include upgraded door unlocking, which stops prisoners from freely wandering about of their own accord, and a brand new feature called“changing the game’s resolution.” Sounds resolutionary.

It’s not too late to get your name and face added to the list of Prison Architect’s wrongdoers. Introversion have set up a newUpgrades pageto let people increase their pledge amount. Or, if you just want to buy the game, you can do thathere. At least, you can when the website comes back online. It seems to have escaped right now.

What We Want To See From Avalanche’s Rumoured Mad Max Game

Article by Nathan Ditum

Last year filming finally wrapped on a fourth Mad Max movie, subtitled Fury Road, after decades of stop-start development. We've known for some time that a tie-in game was also in the making, with God Of War 2 director Cory Barlog mentioning the project as early as 2008.

Since then Barlog has moved on but the screenshot above,tweetedby Avalanche Studios founder Christofer Sundberg, seems to give weight to persistent rumours that the Just Cause developer is now making the game. This would be a good thing, Just Cause having a blend of open-world freedom, vehicle-heavy mayhem and attaching people to exploding objects that scream "YES, THIS" to anyone familiar with Mel Gibson's pre-sugar titted big screen heyday. Here are some other things we think would make for an excellent Road Warrior game.

Customisable Cars

This is really stating the obvious on a level comparable to suggesting upcoming shooters should remember to have guns. But there are customisable cars and there are customisable cars - the post-civilisation modification of recognisable twentieth century road vehicles in the Mad Max films results in a fleet of ragged industrial hulks copied liberally by any number of existing videogames, and which comes with its own cult following (includingfabulously dated, in-depth websites). The look of the new film will obviously have an impact here, but it's hard to imagine playing a Mad Max game with vehicles that don't match this specific, influential style, and don't incorporate a junkyard approach to upgrading and personalising. Basically what we're saying is, make the vehicles look worn, real and dangerous, and if the supercharged Ford Falcon XB coupe isn't on board, then neither are we.

Driving combat

The first Mad Max film defied its tiny budget to make a lasting impression on the vocabulary of action cinema, creating chase sequences that weren't just fast but loud, muscular and traumatic. Should Avalanche indeed be involved we can take heart from the occasional magic of Just Cause's improvisational, toyboxy vehicle play (as seen above), but Mad Max will need something heavier and more grounded too, a weighty sense of mortality hanging over every grinding sideswipe and last-ditch game of chicken. Let there be jagged zooms and nitro boosts, let there be steel harpoons and flamethrowers, let there be a feeling of consequence and thoroughgoing murder.

An open world

This is crucial for two reasons. The fiction of Mad Max is founded fundamentally on the character of Australia. Being a big-ass desert, fuel and the ability to drive are key if you're to move any distance that registers on its colossal size. This is why Mad Max is about the battle for the roads, and why an ability to explore and survive on an open network of these roads is a must-have feature of any game. An open world is also important to Max himself. He's a husk, not a hero, a wanderer with a keen sense of survival and a reluctant moral streak - he shouldn't have a mission, as such, his story should come from the people he encounters on his endless, automatic journey. A bit like Codemasters' Fuel– pictured above– only loads better.


Related to this sense of the story coming from the people Max meets - all three of the existing films are defined by the survivors they feature. Each one creates fascinating "what ifs" of post-civilisation existence - the almost 2000 AD-like pursuit cops and frenzied road gangs of the first film, the peaceful refiners and even more feral raiders of the second, and most thoughtfully, the third film's rigid society of Bartertown ("break a deal, face the wheel") and haunting oasis of plane crash orphans with their hope of salvation and tales of Tomorrow-morrow Land. Extend (rather than copy) this approach and a Mad Max open world could be filled with tantalising myths, ideas and remnants.

Barter economy

Interaction with different clutches of survivors will mean trade, exchange, and the necessary grunt work of restocking game items. But it doesn't have to mean the same old currency transactions - to really capture a sense of Max's world, we'd like to see an economy designed around the principles of bartering and the primacy of fuel, which is now the most valuable commodity in the world. Does this mean Max learns carpentry to make high-end spoons which he then swaps for engine parts and ammunition? To quote a favouriteweb comic, that's not our fucking job (also - we really hope not) but the important thing is that some thought be given to the film's imaginative treatment of functional economies.

Those are our must-have features. Get down to the comments section and let us know what’s on your wish-list.

Dreamfall Chapters Gameplay Trailer Travels To The Neon-lit Streets Of Cyberpunk Europolis

Red Thread’s Dreamfall ChaptersKickstarter campaignhas done an impressive job stirring up anticipation for the next tale in The Longest Journey’s saga, passing the $1 million mark to achieve promised stretch goals for added lore, Mac and Linux support, andsolemn-looking monkeys. With more support needed to drum up an additional $1 million inextra funding, Director Ragnar T?rnquist and Writer Dag Scheve host a brief in-game tour of the brooding cyberpunk city in a new gameplay trailer.

“Europolis is the dark heart of Europe,” T?rnquist says.“Gone are the days of economic growth and prosperity. Europe has become a dystopian, urban-industrial wasteland. Europolis is a cyberpunk vision of the future--dark, crime-ridden alleys, neon signs, seedy nightclubs, and opium-den-like dream factories where people go to escape their dreary realities.” Well, there goes my summer vacation plans.

The city spans the former countries of Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and the Netherlands as part of Stark, an alternate depiction of near-future, techno-dense Earth and the counterpart to Arcadia, a fantasy plane of magic and nature.

It’s as cyberpunk as a city gets--boulevards of neon jungles, sheets of rain, and gloomy pedestrians huddled beneath umbrellas for a strong Blade Runner vibe. A Vangelis synth track would feel right at home in Europolis’ metro-noir, but the warbles of the trailer’s ambiance suggests Red Thread has the city’s atmosphere well in hand leading to Dreamfall Chapter’s planned November 2014 release.

Will Wright And Ocean Quigley Talk About SimCity’s “guilt-driven Experience”

The newest video forSimCityfeatures franchise creator Will Wright sitting down with Designer Ocean Quigley to discuss how citizens react to player’s benevolent and malicious actions. Quigley tells the sim legend that he wants the player’s emotional investment with a populace to stay high throughout his or her mayoral career.

“One of the things I wanted to do with SimCity was to make you feel more responsibility for the the little people that lived there, because you can do all these horrible things to them,” explains Quigley.“You can poison them, burn down their houses, and because of your crappy economic decisions, they go homeless.

“So when that happened to them, you would have this guilt, you would feel this twinge of emotion about your responsibility for the life opportunities for these people in this world that you created.”

Like its predecessors, SimCity eschews a moral compass in favor for greater player control to fashion blissfully happy settlements or disaster-wracked hives of hell. Quigley’s comments echo what Lead Designer Stone Librande told us on thetopic of torture:“It's less like torture in The Sims, and more like messing with an anthill. So you can tell a story like,‘I'm the mean mayor, I killed them all,’ or you can tell the story like,‘I evicted them all and they left.’”

Back to the video discussion, Wright jokingly suggests Quigley’s intention is to“make SimCity a guilt-driven experience,” but Quigley fires back with his belief that“guilt is an underxploited emotion in videogames.” I might feel some guilt-pangs after letting my city become a sewage-flooded mess, so maybe I’ll keep that within the sanctuary of SimCity’ssandbox mode.

The Curious Case Of StarCraft’s Harvester Pathfinding Hack

StarCraft 2

Even the most mundane game mechanics sometimes boast extraordinary origins. In the StarCraft series, resource collectors ignore collisions whenever traveling to or returning with minerals. It’s a type of unit behavior universally experienced by every commander, but its beginnings tell a far more interesting story: ArenaNet co-founder and former Blizzard senior programmer Patrick Wyatt writes in aretrospective articlehow the simplified pathfinding arose from a quick and dirty hack to meet a looming release deadline for the original 1998 RTS.

“Because the project was always two months from launch, it was inconceivable that there was enough time to re-engineer the terrain engine to make pathfinding easier, so the pathfinding code just had to be made to work,” Wyatt recalls.“To handle all the tricky edge cases, the pathing code exploded into a gigantic state-machine which encoded all sorts of specialized‘get me out of here’ hacks.”

The trickiest problem for StarCraft’s programmers involved harvesters clogging up the area around mineral nodes as they jostled for free grid space on the terrain. The issue snowballed at that point--cash-flow screeched to a halt because of the traffic jam, and the player’s bases and armies would fall apart as a result.

StarCraft Brood War

Wyatt’s solution forsook elegance for expediency, but it worked:“Whenever harvesters are on their way to get minerals, or when they're on the way back carrying those minerals, they ignore collisions with other units. By eliminating the inter-unit collision code for the harvesters, there is never a rush-hour commute to get jammed up, and harvesters operate efficiently.”

What’s more interesting is that Blizzard never removed the hack. Because of its effectiveness, it remained in subsequent releases in the franchise--yes, even StarCraft 2--and ingrained itself deeply into basic harvester strategy. Savvy eSport athletes even leveraged the hack as an unconventional tactic during tournaments--the2008 Brood War OSL matchupbetween July and Best is perhaps the most famous demonstration of using harvesters to sail through a blockade.

Wyatt goes into further detail on StarCraft’s grid design similarities with the WarCraft games and how pathfinding was affected during development. It’sa truly fascinating read.

The Night Of The Rabbit, A New Adventure Game From Daedalic, Coming May 29

Earlier this week, German studio Daedalic Entertainment announced thatThe Night of the Rabbit(formerly known as“The Rabbit’s Apprentice”) will release internationally on May 29, and called the game its“biggest adventure game so far.”

The puzzle-adventure stars a 12-year-old boy who dreams of being a wizard (didn’t we all?), and borrows at least a little from the likes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia--the premise has the boy meet a magic, scheming,“elegantly dressed” rabbit who whisks him into a fantastic world. Rabbits man, they’re often magic, usually scheming, andalwaysdapper.

We expect to see The Night of the Rabbit on Steam and GOG, where you can find other Daedalic adventures, such asChaos on Deponia. Below are a few more screens--you can really see the power of Daedalic’s integrated high-speed charm generation engine.