March 5th, 2010

Valve by Flickr user Tim DorrI’ve been trying to write some thoughts about Infinity Ward’s decapitation, but the sensationalist tone of the enthusiast press has distracted me. West and Zampella were kidnapped? Snuffed out? Those are the logical conclusions to why two people were escorted from their workplace? Activision may have released 9 Hero games last year, and Bobby Kotick probably wears socks weaved from baby hair, but they aren’t an organized crime syndicate. Is the extra traffic really worth exploiting a developing story?

My apathy may be due to my preoccupation with Valve this week. I usually think about Valve and Steam a lot anyway, and not always good thoughts. Sometimes I envision a future where Valve goes public and starts making Actiavellian decisions, such as developing Counter-Strike 2 as an Xbox 360 lead, charging $10 for the Engineer update, or releasing Half-Life 2: Episode 3 as three separate games. All of these belong to a future I don’t want to live in.
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February 27th, 2010

My words about it are over here.

Does game design work best when it’s analogous to film making, or to music composition? Neither, and I don’t think it’s important to make the distinction. Games shouldn’t imitate a specific art form, they should express the qualities of them all. Because they can. Video games are the culmination of art as technology, and technology as art. They’re amazing. We shouldn’t limit such a medium by trying to make sense of it in the context of less capable mediums.

Games as we know them today owe a lot to Carmack’s work. I can’t think of a person more deserving of this award.

This week also marks the first year anniversary of Quake Live, as well as the 14th year anniversary of QTest. In celebration, Quake Live received an update and event, and id employees past and present have reflected on QTest on the Bethesda blog.

Of course it is.

EA/DICE restricting dedicated server files to certain “partners” is leaving me conflicted about wanting Bad Company 2. They’re keeping dedicated servers on a leash, just out of reach of total freedom. But whether I like it or not, the market is changing, and we players seem incapable of shifting it in our favor. If EA’s restriction really is just to maintain statistic and rank integrity, and to sell maps (which seems benign in comparison to Activision’s or Ubisoft’s), I can be okay with it. Or I could, if it weren’t for EA’s history of shutting down online games.

But I’m probably overreacting. EA appears to deactivate games based on how many people still play. There’d be greater cause for concern if Battlefield 1942, despite its persisting popularity, had its master servers taken offline in light of a sequel being released. Besides, the Bad Company 2 beta was a heck of a lot of fun, and we haven’t had a successful non-Call of Duty, non-Valve shooter on PC in a long time. I’ll probably give in to temptation and buy it.

This is an hour-long “Quick Look” where every cut scene from Amped 3 is shown. I had no idea the game was so surreal.

February 24th, 2010

In January I posted a series of suggestions for how Valve could improve Steam. Since they’ve just announced and launched a beta version of the most significant update Steam has had since its 2003 launch, I’m comparing what I proposed before with what they’ve actually changed or added. I’ll omit the items which don’t apply.


This took a while.My suggestion: Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists.

What they did: Half of this suggestion was implemented; we can now create and add games to “categories” in our games library. It works like a tag system on a blog in that games can belong to multiple categories.

Follow-up: Allow users to filter by “installed” and “uninstalled” regardless of which category they’re viewing. Also add an extra context menu item with a sub-menu where users can add games to existing categories.


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February 20th, 2010

This is the worst that PC game DRM has ever been. I shouldn’t be as jarred as I am, considering Ubisoft’s history with StarForce. At the same time, I’d also think they’d have learned from how customers responded to those practices and not gone on to worse ones. Read as they try to justify it, and give major respect to PC Gamer for grilling them. They expect me to pay $60 for a game that was released on consoles 5 months ago in addition to being treated like a criminal? No. Fuck that.

These are better reasons (half-truths, as opposed to total lies), but it’s probably best for everyone if Remedy and Microsoft just stopped talking about the PC version of Alan Wake until they’re ready to announce it.

This is just wonderful. I’ve been worried that the console, hand-held, mobile, and social versions of Civilization were indicative of the future of the franchise. Civ IV has aged so extraordinarily well that it almost made sense. But Firaxis is simply colonizing every platform; I’ll consider all of those as practice games for this, a new, proper Civilization game. With hexagons.

This is Stardock using known gaming personalities to show games to customers. I love the concept, but I’d prefer if they did second takes (Bob Came In Pieces) and sound checks (Sins of a Solar Empire) for some of the videos.

An indie contest sponsored by Activision? Ah, I see Master Kotick has developed an appetite for the young and uncorrupted.

Yep, yep. Yep.


February 18th, 2010

Sarah ShepardI played the original Mass Effect on Xbox 360 in 2007 as a male Infiltrator who followed the Paragon path. This was characteristic of me because I rarely play females and almost always play “good” characters. I think the only time I’ve defected to the dark side was on my third time playing of Knights of The Old Republic. But for the next two years I’d hear praise for female Shepard’s voice performance, and arguments in favor of the Renegade path.

I resolved that, when I played Mass Effect on PC, I would play as female Shepard, and I’d also play as a Renegade. So I created Sarah Shepard; I expected playing her to be fun, but not superior fun. I also expected to hate her. I didn’t like myself as a Dark Jedi in KoTOR. Force Lightning was fun, but I was a selfish asshole. I didn’t save the galaxy, I took it. My choices on Mass Effect’s Renegade path didn’t all result in such extremes, though; I could save the galaxy without having to mollycoddle everyone. I’d do it efficiently, and by my own rules. Playing Paragon or Renegade is analogous to playing as Superman or Batman would — that is, if either approved of killing.
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February 12th, 2010

Jul. 15th 2009: “Remedy has a deep heritage in PC gaming and would love to see a PC version available to its PC followers, ultimately however this decision lies with our publisher.”

Feb. 12th 2010: “Some games are more suited for the intimacy of the PC, and others are best played from the couch in front of a larger TV screen. We ultimately realised that the most compelling way to experience “Alan Wake” was on the Xbox 360 platform, so we focused on making it an Xbox 360 exclusive.”

What a heap of bovine excrement. By what logic is it not preferable to have a more “intimate” experience with the game Remedy is billing as a “psychological action thriller”?

Hooray. Take a cue, Redlynx, and give us a PC version of Trials HD.

I’m not sure that the first Bioshock had color blind accommodation, but it definitely had gamepad support and (after a patch) proper widescreen scaling. How and why do you remove such functionality in a sequel built on the same technology?

This is a fascinating feature about the best character in Mass Effect 2. For some nice shots (and potential wallpapers) of Thane, check out my Mass Effect 2 screenshot collection.

Still bracing for disaster.

I’ve liked and used SteelSeries mice and mousepads for the last few years because of their quality and customer service; now their chief marketing officer is publicly decrying one of the most effective marketing terms in his industry? SteelSeries, be my Valentine.

Have $5 worth of fun for $0.


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February 3rd, 2010

I’ve just finished Mass Effect 2 after 36 hours of play spread across seven days. At some point during that, I decided to take screenshots. Not for any specific purpose; I didn’t intend to create a narrative or a photojournal, I only wanted to capture the cool moments I was seeing. Using Fraps and numpad forward slash, I had taken almost 3,000 screenshots when the credits rolled. After sorting — viewing, deleting, saving, converting — I have just over 300 moments to share. This is the first time I’ve taken so many screenshots of a game, and the process was surprisingly noninvasive. I just pressed the capture key whenever I liked something that was happening. You could say I used Fraps to applaud.

Thane and Shepard
If Shepard and Garrus were a band Doing what he does
Posing for a wallpaper

Click here to view a slideshow, or click here for a thumbnail gallery and to download full-size 1680×1050 versions.